Letter to America

By Thakur, Ramesh | The Nation, March 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

Letter to America


Thakur, Ramesh, The Nation


In order to provide international perspective in the debate over US foreign policy, The Nation asked foreign intellectuals to share their reflections. This is the sixth in that series.--The Editors

The tragedy of 9/11 inflicted on the American body politic a pain that will not ease and aroused an anger not easily appeased. The world grieved with America, understood its pain, shared its anger and generally supported the ensuing "war on terrorism." The sympathy and goodwill is in danger of being dissipated. Outsiders had hoped that the tragedy of 9/11 would lead America to rediscover the virtues of multilateralism. The opposite happened instead: Washington felt liberated from the need to make any concessions to multilateralism.

This produced a mini-crisis last July with regard to the International Criminal Court. The tension and contradiction between unilateralism and multilateralism have come to a head again over Iraq. The Bush address to the General Assembly in September was less an American concession to UN multilateralism than a demand for international capitulation in the face of the US threat to go to war.

This is justified by the charge of Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons. How do we justify the paradox of the state with the most powerful arsenal of one type of WMD (nuclear weapons) threatening to use force to stop others from acquiring any one of the three types of WMD?

In addition, Washington is refining the critical roles that nuclear weapons play in its military doctrines and strategies. Under the proposed new targeting system of "adaptive planning" based on "offensive deterrence," it proclaimed the option of launching a pre-emptive strike in future contingencies with precision-guided conventional bombs or "special purpose" nuclear weapons against hostile countries that pose a threat, either imminent or apprehended, of a WMD attack on the United States. Nuclear weapons are thus stealthily advancing up the ladder of escalation from the weapon of last resort to a weapon of choice, matching the shift from wars of self-defense to wars of choice.

But can the threshold of nuclear weapons use be lowered without thereby also lowering the threshold of proliferation? Does contemplating and preparing for the use of nuclear weapons with lower yield and reduced fallout against an anticipated WMD threat constitute a preparatory step too far? Mission creep for such weapons--extending their role from deterrence solely against nuclear weapons to countering all WMD--has two consequences: It lumps together biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in one conceptually fuzzy category, and it weakens the nuclear taboo. Why should Iran, which has suffered from missile-launched chemical attacks, not have the same right to nuclear defense?

Moreover, the proclamation of an essentially imperial doctrine of unchallengeable military supremacy and "full-spectrum dominance" will greatly magnify the allure of nuclear weapons as weapons of defense-cum-deterrence for poor/weak countries. Accepting the permanent dominance of any one group is contrary to human nature. The combination of US high-tech superiority, reliance on long-distance, over-the-horizon warfare and casualty aversion adds value to nuclear weapons as leveraging tools that can affect the calculus of US military decisions. No one is likely to challenge Washington as such in the foreseeable future, but some will want to acquire the means to make the United States pause before attacking them, and there is no better means to do this than deliverable nuclear weapons.

It defies history, common sense and logic to believe that a group of countries can keep a permanent monopoly on any class of weaponry. It is difficult to convince others of the futility of nuclear weapons when some demonstrate their utility by the very fact of possession and doctrines of usability. If the United States, whose military expenditures will equal those of all other countries in the world combined after the increases recently announced have taken effect, can make a persuasive case to retain nuclear weapons, then such an argument should be even easier for those countries that live in insecure neighborhoods and lack the panoply of conventional military tools.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Letter to America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.