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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/2/19

Right-Wing Populism and Law and Order

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Message Jason Sibert

President Donald Trump ran as the law-and-order candidate in the 2016 election.

However, the form of politics he represents is currently bringing about a world defined by a lawlessness that radically increases insecurity in our country and around the globe. Trump retreated from the idea of international law-and-order in leaving the Paris Climate Accords and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He also led the country out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and said he's open to letting the New START Treaty expire.

Since the Cold War, the United States and Russia (in its Soviet and post-Soviet forms) have worked together to eliminate much of the world's nuclear arsenal. The law-and-order approach to nuclear weapons started in the 1960's when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This treaty committed the signing nations to work for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The trend toward using law to control nuclear weapons continued in 1972 under President Richard Nixon with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which limited the number of ABM systems each country could possess. The INF treaty, which eliminated all nuclear and non-nuclear weapons within the range of 500 to 1,000 kilometers, was a 1987 treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan. Other presidents added to our nuclear security: the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (President George H.W. Bush), Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (George W. Bush), and the New START and Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Treaties (Barack Obama).

Trump's attitude toward a world governed by law should come as no surprise. He represents a form of nationalism sometimes called right-wing populism that locates and demonizes threats to the nation-state internally and externally. In his speeches, Trump has demonized domestic Muslims and Latinos, but he also feels other nation-states have unfairly taken advantage of the United States. This is witnessed in the president's trade policy and his hostility to treaties. A similar sort of politics is practiced in Hungry by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, President Jaroslow Kaczyuinski in Poland, and Marine LePen in France.

This form of politics must be defeated. In nuclear weapons, we developed a technology capable of killing on a mass scale and it takes cooperation between nation-states to reduce and abolish them. International relations theorist Hedley Bull talked about the creation of a "society of states," a society that works together to establish international law based on the self-interest of the nations making the law. Despite the geopolitical struggle of the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Russia found a way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Neither side wanted the mass destruction that a nuclear war would bring, and so we found an issue to unite around that was in our and Russia's self-interest.

The means of producing mass death extends beyond the developing of nuclear weapons. Writer Michael T. Klare outlined these new technologies in his story "The Challenges of Emerging Technologies." The future of warfare means using artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons systems, hypersonic weapons, and cyberattack. Artificial intelligence can be embedded in machines with the ability to respond to stimuli. Some worry that that machines will incorrectly respond to stimuli and take actions that escalate hostilities. Autonomous weapons systems are robotic weapons systems that operate without human intervention. Such machines aren't capable of distinguishing between combatants and civilians and this threatens international humanitarian law which requires armed personnel distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Hypersonic weapons travel close to the speed of sound and this also presents challenges to arms control. Anti-missile systems that work against conventional missiles won't work against hyperonsic versions. This would give anyone who possesses them an advantage in a first attack situation. Though cyberattacks, a country could disable another countries command and and control systems and give that country an advantage in a first attack.

The existing and emerging technologies are too dangerous to exist in the lawless and anarchical world currently emerging. They present challenges for arms control professionals, but arms control must be employed to secure the peace - tough in a world where right-wing populists create an environment adverse to the establishment and maintenance of arms control. For the sake of our country and our world, let's defeat Trumpian-style politics and move to a world defined by peace and law!

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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