There are self-evident truths in foreign relations: a) wars are a recurring occurrence, b) no weapon, no matter how lethal for the civil population, has ever been disregarded for use in a war situation, c) peace is a process which rests on confidence-building mechanisms, d) arms limitation treaties are such a process, e) withdrawing from the ABM and INF treaties reignites the arms race they were meant to limit, and f) increases the chances that a war will occur anew in a not too distant future. In view of this, it comes to reason that weapons of mass destruction be limited in their production and deployment. Yet, it is the reverse we are observing with the likely non-renewal of New START in 2021, the last remaining arms limitation treaty.
We have been forewarned of the danger of a nuclear war. Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock of the Atomic Scientists has been telling us how close we are to Midnight. In January 2018, the scientists brought the needle from two and a half to two minutes to Midnight, the closest it has ever been since the 1950s. In 1964, movie director Stanley Kubrick made a remarkably well documented film named: "Doctor Strangelove" to inform the general public of the frailty of men handling these weapons. In 2014, Chatham Housed published a report, "Too close for comfort", in which it details the thirteen instances in which a nuclear war nearly broke out due a technical deficiency or a human error. In 2015, William Perry, Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense, published a book titled: "My journey at the nuclear brinks". In 2017, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Rand Corporation executive who became famous for revealing the Pentagon Papers to the American public, published a book whose title leaves little to the imagination: "The Doomsday Machine: Confession of a Nuclear War Planner". How many more warnings do we need?
The subject of the day is the environment. Clearly, it is a serious problem which must be addressed. But in terms of urgency, it ranks second to the Doomsday Machine. Scott Ritter who served in the On-Site Inspection Agency, is one of the last ones to talk about it with Daniel Ellsberg. The title of his latest article ("The death of arms control") is self-explanatory. The American public must demand that arms limitation be a major issue in the 2020 Presidential election. Peace is a fragile interlude.