Additionally, there are bureaucratic walls between various agencies involved in the design, implementation or oversight of the weapons. Schlosser describes the occasion when he provided a copy of a document listing "broken arrows" or accidents and less serious nuclear incidents to a famous weapons safety expert, Bob Peurifoy:
He was stunned and very depressed by it, because it was clear that there were many incidents that were not being shared with him. There was an enormous amount of compartmentalized secrecy, and that was to prevent secrets from being too widely shared and potentially leaked. But what that meant was people in different parts of the system didn't have an overall view of how the system was operating -- and that can be very dangerous. The people designing the weapons literally didn't know how they were being handled in the field by the Air Force -- and a lot of people in the Air Force didn't understand some of the dangers. There's a very strong element of madness in this.
The Hawks and the Merchants of Death
Perry points to another disturbing aspect of the Cuban Missile Crisis that is still with us today. Military and national security advisers who wanted to escalate the crisis. As Brown writes: "[There were] advisers on both the Soviet and U.S. sides who wanted to rush into war."
As I detailed in my review of JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass, Kennedy was stunned at what he was hearing from some of his advisers early in his administration, including proposals to do a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union, with figures of hundreds of millions of Soviet casualties and tens of millions of American retaliatory casualties tossed around as an acceptable cost-benefit analysis on behalf of vanquishing the "evil empire." Kennedy described some of these advisers as having a "collective death wish" for humanity.
Perry also notes the insidious role played by the media which "treated the crisis as 'a drama of winning and losing.'"
As an article in Foreign Affairs in 2006 revealed, a nuclear first strike on Russia is still a dream cherished by certain fanatics in Washington. Moreover, with neocons and advocates of Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard still having huge influence on foreign policy in both major parties and the corporate media, regardless of the dangerous crises their interventions and cheerleading have unleashed, one cannot say we've left this aberrant mentality behind.
Another pernicious factor recognized by Perry is the profit motive of the military-industrial complex. Perry admitted that his previous work in trying to figure out and counter the Soviet missile and space systems was "exhilarating and highly profitable." The development of new technology ensured the increased outsourcing of such work to the private sector:
Historically, the interpretation of intelligence had been exclusively reserved to government agencies, but several of the most critical targets of intelligence had become highly technical. They included ICBMs, nuclear bombs, ballistic missile defense systems, and supersonic aircraft. To collect data on these sophisticated weapons systems, Perry explains, required technical reconnaissance equally as complex. The federal government began to contract with private companies possessing the requisite knowledge and skills.
Hence, a gaggle of corporations entered or flourished in a market with a profit motive in favor of military conflict. This, combined with incentives built into the system over the years to overcharge taxpayers -- such as cost-plus contracting and no-bidding -- the odds of policies favoring disarmament and diplomacy have been at an increasing disadvantage.
According to journalist Andrew Cockburn, this dynamic explains the latest policy out of Washington to spend $1 trillion to completely update our nuclear arsenal, coming from an administration headed by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has periodically invoked a desire toward nuclear disarmament no less:
Ongoing and dramatic programs to invest vast sums in meaningless, useless or superfluous weapons systems are the norm. There is no more striking example of this than current plans to rebuild the entire American arsenal of nuclear weapons in the coming decades, Obama's staggering bequest to the budgets of his successors... They serve no useful purpose beyond deterring putative opponents from using them, for which an extremely limited number would suffice... In the Cold War as today, the idea of "nuclear war fighting" could not survive scrutiny in a real world context. Despite this self-evident truth, the U.S. military has long been the pioneer in devising rationales for fighting such a war via ever more "modernized" weapons systems... The drive to develop and build such systems on the irrational pretense that nuclear war fighting is a practical proposition persists today.
Perry sees this thinking as outdated and dangerous, one that inevitably leads to escalation. He confirms that nuclear weapons cannot actually be used due to "the risk of uncontrollable and catastrophic escalation" being far too high.
One component of the current "modernization" plan is the proposed development of a new "dial-a-yield" version of the venerable B-61 nuclear bomb. Supposedly capable of delivering explosives of varying strength according to demand, this device will, at least theoretically, be guidable to its target with high degrees of accuracy and will also be able to burrow down into the earth to destroy buried bunkers. The estimated bill -- $11 billion -- is a welcome boost for the fortunes of the Sandia and Los Alamos weapons laboratories that are developing it.
Cockburn goes on to explain that the cost will likely be far more than the government or the weapons makers estimate as historical studies of the estimated cost versus the actual bill on previous weapons systems reveal, including the F-35 boondoggle -- estimated at $35 million each and coming in at actual cost of more than $200 million. It should be mentioned that the F-35 is in many ways inferior to previous military planes.