Jack Oughton - Science Challenges The Nation State.doc


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Jack Oughton - Science Challenges The Nation State.doc

  1. 1. Introduction, definitions Politics.. In a time when nation states where clearly defined by the boundaries of the Polis, and wars where not fought with atomic fire, but in the phalanx, shield-wall to shield-wall, Aristotle writes in his work that Politics are the ‘affairs of state’ (Hammerton 1936). The codification of his writings and of his philosophical contemporaries arguably form the foundation to the politics which modern Western countries are built upon. In this essay I shall define politics by the simplified term social relations [on either a macro or micro scale; between individuals, or between nations], and political processes as the metaphorical cogs in the machine that makes these social relations work. Nation State… In this essay I define a nation-state as a recognised political entity, that has defined national borders, territory and a population. (McLean 2003). I will use this term to refer to both countries and collections of nations arranged within alliance structures. The Scientific community; A collective struggle to overcome subjective truth and rise above human shortcomings. It is somewhat harder to define a scientific community. There is not and never has been a singular body which represents all professional scientists. Science is not so much a sociological identification but an activity, which ties its practitioners together outside of more organized social structures.
  2. 2. Theoretically the Community should show continuity and solidarity through the scientific method, which is the closest thing to a systematized search for objective truth that humanity has. Unlike political theory we do not hold scientific truths to be self evident, we continually challenge them with measurements. For example, if a persuasive enough individual, one can make a convincing argument citing ethics and reasons favouring one political stance, however one cannot argue against the existence of gravity in the same way. In science, one must provide physical evidence of the challenging theory that specifically undermines Newton. One must be able to defend this evidence against scrutiny. This is the scientific method, and our empirical safeguard. Surely then, science should by default be nonpartisan as empirical truth cannot be obtained through politics. And if apolitical, science must be international, ignoring political boundaries. Science should be separate from politics. A snag though; obviously, scientists are people, and a science divorced from politics will continue to be fundamentally impossible as long as humans have emotions and are part of the society in which they live. Science IS a trans-national Community. Though not formal in structure, scientists can converse across imposed national boundaries, even in times of war. International conferences bring thought leaders of many nationalities together. Science is a message, communicated internationally in the physical data, academic publications and theories of its practitioners. An example of a more organized scientific community is the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). In 1981, physician Bernard Lown and a Soviet colleague, Evgeni Chazov, launched a USA-USSR medical antinuclear movement: bringing more than 150,000 Soviet and American doctors together against nuclear proliferation. Over the next four years Lown and Chazov met with numerous world leaders, and were at the forefront of organized nuclear pressure groups. In 1985 they both accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on
  3. 3. behalf of IPPNW. Their actions are a case study that the scientific community can directly influence political changes and challenge the nation state. (Castillo 1990) The Bomb; science’s second challenge to the nation state’s power Science gave us the bomb, the bomb disrupted political balance; and by extension; threatened the nation state, which had developed on the pre atomic paradigm. Following this simple logic I would state that the scientific commonwealth threatened the nation state. It had created a monster which although was beyond science’s control, could not have come about without science. Furthermore I argue that nuclear weapons caused increased fear in both governments and civilians. Decision making was influenced by politicians trying to appease a population and a political system driven by fear of nuclear annihilation. In the 20th century this fear of nuclear war affected policy. In the 21st century the source of this emotion has now shifted further to nuclear terrorism, although war has never gone away. This is the core of my argument. Science gave us the bomb. The bomb gave us the fear. In the Cold War, military treaties such as NATO and Warsaw pact saw nation states once again banding together for mutual protection. Like previous world wars this was driven by an ‘us and them’ perspective and an all pervasive fear mentality. Division into ‘camps’ is the symptom of an underlying large cultural/political difference. In the Cold War Communism and capitalism became more than differing political systems, but also polarising ideological divisions, drawing a line across the world. With the Axis destroyed, Communism was perceived as the primo threat to Western way of life. Communism opposed free trade and suppressed freedom of expression. It was a fast growing weed, to be uprooted wherever found! “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.” Dwight D. Eisenhower Nuclear weapons were an integral part of this divide. They greatly increased perceived distance by becoming a metaphorical wedge, exacerbating a level of mistrust and fear and pushing the opposing ideologies further and further apart. For example, The Cuban Missile
  4. 4. crisis saw a fearful and defensive USA almost instigate a direct attack on the USSR, which would likely triggered global war. Nuclear weapons became a vital part of competing ideologies, and were ingrained into the culture of the times. The threat of annihilation was everpresent, and atomic weapons made that threat tangible. This post atomic world demanded political change. Internal Strife In 1950s America, the country was racked by socio-political purges and what is now termed McCarthyism, which in hindsight seems little more than an out of hand Communist witch-hunt. This period saw paper thin (or nonexistent) evidence of ‘Un-American activities’ destroying careers, reputations and lives. One casualty was the formerly respected physicist Robert Oppenheimer, responsible for organizing the Manhattan project, yet an outspoken critic of the hydrogen bomb. He was publically accused of anti American activities, and stripped of his security clearance during the McCarthy trials. The reason? A ’defect of character.’(Schweber 2008, p.223). This period saw many, many other promising political careers ruined. Indirectly, fear driven by the bomb had created a climate of mass hysteria and subsequent internal political strife within America.
  5. 5. International Strife The bomb also changed international politics. An underlying threat of nuclear annihilation rearranges the balance of power. It is no longer a finely tuned balance reliant on calculable tactical weighting such as the quality of country’s armaments or the size and training of it’s military. Now the scales are completely broken. The outcome of any nuclear conflict was the expected to be the same, everyone lost. There was no advantage to be gained from being the first to attack. In any scenario there would be Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD was not an official political doctrine as such, but was a term to describe a number of political and military strategies, which employed nuclear deterrence to prevent nuclear aggression.(Schmitz & Walker 2004) Nuclear weapons were essentially so well defended and dispersed that there would be no chance that one side could ‘first strike’ the other and not face a nuclear retaliation of some magnitude. This is nuclear deterrence, and was a legitimate US policy (Policy Subcommittee of the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) 1995). Even in a hypothetically successful first strike scenario, radioactive fallout would harm the entire planet. Any first strike ‘victor’ would have made his bed with plutonium, and would have to sleep in it. He would also have to deal with the possibility of becoming a pariah state in the international community. Such a county is perceived as acting ‘out of line’ with international law and suffers severe economic and reputational penalties because of this. (Harkavy 2009). The power of nuclear weapons had changed the rules of international politics. Making War Differently
  6. 6. As previously mentioned the nuclear resulted in international relations tainted by fear and paranoia. A symptom of this sickness was the cold war, a complicated, standoffish approach to conflict, unlike any before it. It is arguable that war is a political process, to simplify; it is another scenario by which countries attempt to try and gain advantage. In the past the superpowers did not let fear get in the way of direct military confrontation. Recent terrible examples included both world wars. Weapons technology advancements such as mechanised warfare and automatic weapons had increased the efficiency of killing past anything the world knew. Now; nuclear advancements promised to take this efficiency to truly obscene effectiveness. In nuclear scenario predictions, the death toll was now more conveniently quantified in megadeaths – 1,000,000 lives extinguished at a time. War could not be the same. Atomic energy had changed the rules of war as well. The usage of the A-Bomb by the USA on Japan in 1945 was important for two reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated the horrific power of the weapon, including cataclysmic humanitarian and environmental destruction. Secondly, it showed how unbalanced conventional war became when one side had the weapon, and the other didn’t.
  7. 7. This gruesome ‘case study’ of one sided war resulted in a frantic arms race. For effective nuclear deterrence, countries needed a bomb, and a means of delivering it. Not having nuclear weapons was a impermissible weakness; it left a country open to nuclear blackmail from a country that did have them. The Race For The Bomb The need to acquire nuclear weapons created an arms race between the USSR the USA, and their respective allies. This dated back to World War II with USA’s Manhattan Project and the USSR’s Nuclear Project. Over the four decades to follow this would see countries spending extraordinary amounts upgrading the technology and quantity of nuclear armaments that they hoped to never use, but couldn’t do without. How To Win A Cold War The cold war as a larger event is an example of how the nuclear threat changes the victory conditions for a war. After World War II the division of countries into communist and capitalist camps had established the geopolitical framework for a nuclear “World War III”. Both sides wanted to ‘win’ – and to do this they could not face open thermonuclear (‘hot’) war. They had to try new tactics. Win Via Proxy: Throughout the world there were many regions, which had internal political friction between capitalist and communist elements. Superpowers found that they could help promote their political system by aiding their favoured country either through providing arms and training, or directly intervening, such as in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
  8. 8. Win Via Detente: After losing the bloody and extremely unpopular Vietnam , America looked for more non violent methods to contain the spread of Communism. Broadly speaking; it tried to do this by spreading capitalism as a form of economic evangelism. The dollar was a powerful weapon, and was used well. In the end the US won the cold war through superior economics, they prospered. The USSR collapsed. How To Win Armageddon (Hint: You can’t) “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.“ – Mao Now that all sides were armed, they had to find a use for this nuclear firepower. The practical uses, dare I say it, of the bomb, were limited. Too powerful to be deployed en masse, it’s application in warfare like bringing an assault rifle to a paintball game. However, its proven effective use is as a political tool. In simple terms nuclear armaments were a powerful threat. Regardless of what happens, any country that possesses them can use them as an ace in the hole; a kind of suicidal tiebreaker. A country losing a conventional war can always instigate a nuclear one, with the vindictive logic of “If I’m going I’m taking you with me.” ‘Tactical’ Recent developments in nuclear weapon technology have lead to the creation of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. These are weapons with a smaller nuclear yield that would be deployed in hypothetical ‘limited’ nuclear conflicts. Could we wage a limited Nuclear War? Recent evidence suggests not. You don’t grow crops in Nuclear Winter
  9. 9. Even if the cause of the war were local, the entire globe would feel the repercussions of a hundred nuclear detonations; a small fraction of the U.S. stockpile. A regional nuclear war in South Asia would deplete up to 40% of the ozone layer in the mid latitudes and up to 70% in the high northern latitudes. (Mills et al. 2008). This would be combined with the climatic impact of a regional nuclear war; which would reduce crop yields and starve hundreds of millions in a Nuclear Famine. Since it was well established that nobody could really win.. Political changes brought about in the form of treaties, aimed at limiting the usage and number of nuclear weapons. Broadly speaking there are 4 types; i. Nonproliferation: Signatories agreed not to proliferate the spread of nuclear weapons, not ii. Test bans: Signatories of these treaties agreed to cease or limit nuclear weapon tests. A worldwide monitoring system including 170 seismic stations ensured compliance. iii. Arms Reduction: Signatories agree to reduce quantity of warheads in the arsenal iv. Arms Limitation: These ban or restrict quantities of certain sorts of weapons systems, these have included Multiple Re-entry warheads (MIRVs) and subterranean silos(state.gov n.d.). Since the cold war there have been many such treaties. Although we are making progress (at least in terms of decreasing the amount of warheads amongst certain states), not everyone in the ‘nuclear club’ has signed them. For example, India has not signed the test ban treaty. In 1998 it conducted subterranean H Bomb Test, which it did not choose to forewarn the international community about. Overall, progress has been slow and international compliance elusive. New Millenium – New Enemies In the 21st century, the nuclear threat continues to be a major arbiter of political change.
  10. 10. "The next generation of terrorists, rather than going for little dramas, will go for the big one...something so horrific that it gets into the Guinness Book of Records for terrorism.” Richard Holbrooke, former US ambassador to the UN, November 2001" Nuclear terrorism, Dirty bombs, Rogue states The new millennium has seen the rules of the game change again. Though not directly related to nuclear weapons, the control of radioactive substances is an important part post atomic policy. In the West, terrorists and rogue states are now seen as the main threat, but cannot be dealt with in the same way as communism was. Mutually assured destruction may not function in a world where more and more nations have access to nuclear weapons. This is made worse, if these states have widely varying political goals and philosophies, which could be the case if a large number of countries from different political backgrounds possess nukes. Terrorists, for instance, are outside the bounds of old deterrence strategies. They are often driven by unusual motivations. Many cannot be threatened by conventional force, and are driven by a fanatical disregard for life. They often hold agendas that cannot reasonably be satisfied by negotiation. Pariah status or not, rogue states empowered by nuclear weapons (and disregard for international law) have the capability to attack and decimate
  11. 11. a superpower, even if the counterstrike would decimate them also. The 2009 Report Of The International Committee on Disarmament was pessimistic. It found that new nuclear states may not have well-developed safeguards and controls to prevent nuclear accidents or unauthorized launches. It stated “That the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has not so far been repeated owes far more to luck than to good policy management.” (Evans & Kawaguchi 2009) Saddam Hussein’s former chief physicist Obeidi described “How easy it was for him, backed by an open chequebook, to acquire blueprints and components on the open market”(Obeidi 2004) Worse, multiple undercover studies have shown how well the black market organizes the sale and distribution of fissile material, especially obtained from former Soviet Union sources (Belyaninov 1994) (Shelley 2006). All of this suggests that the nuclear threat from terrorists and well-funded rogue states is certainly legitimate. Newly nuclear countries like Pakistan and India now have the opportunity to settle their individual differences with mushroom clouds. A question that now requires answering, how similar will their behaviour be to the older members of the nuclear club? Pt IV. Conclusion: Keep your hands away from that red button! “I don’t know whether war is an interlude during peace, or peace an interlude during war.” - Georges Clemenceau I believe that the threat of nuclear annihilation acts as a catalyst for political change. The slew of soviet bloc economic meltdowns (driven in part by excessive Soviet defence spending, including on nuclear weapons), nuclear non proliferation treaties, 20th century proxy wars and anti nuclear pressure groups are clear examples of this. Even into the 21st century the threat of the bomb has not gone away, with the nuclear threat now shifting to rogue states and terrorist groups. The imperatives of U.S. nuclear security policy are ultimately inseparable from the imperatives of the global war on terrorism. (R. Lee 2006) Regardless of an individual nation’s hunger for political gain, most rational leaders understand that the laws of international relations, war
  12. 12. and internal policymaking are changed by the release of atomic energy. The need to retain an effective nuclear deterrent, maintain international relations, and appease an increasingly nuclear aware population(Lifton 1984) must all be balanced. Since the first sharpened stick, disruptive technological weapon advances have forced political changes to compensate for shifting military conditions. The ongoing problem is that it is a lot easier to kill a million people with hydrogen bomb than a stick. Maybe the reason why the entire planet is not yet a smoking pile of radioactive ash is a heady mixture of good political commonsense and downright underwear fouling terror. Perhaps the wisdom of our science has been smothered by the collective madness of nations engrossed in political and ideological struggle. Despite what I have said, it is not all doom and gloom, and in some ways, the future is looking brighter. I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons - Barak Obama, End: A new START. The START treaty is the latest step in reducing the quantity of nuclear armaments and was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague by Obama and Medvedev. It will limit the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty (J. Lee 2010). Viewed optimistically this treaty suggests a trend towards further agreements which may continue reducing the warhead total, perhaps one day all the way to zero. Personally, I believe that the continuation of nuclear treaties between the superpowers is a positive sign. If the international community can take the lead of the USA and the USSR, perhaps countries which have recently acquired the bomb can follow their example in responsibly reducing their own arsenal sizes, and overcoming political differences through diplomatic action. Obviously, the largest political change we could hope to see from the release of nuclear energy would be the outright ban on nuclear weapons. However, the release of nuclear energy has been, in some ways like the
  13. 13. opening of Pandora’s Box. Regardless of political action, until we can find an equivalent technology or means to completely regulate the flow of fissile substances in the world, the nuclear threat will remain a challenge to world peace and the stability of the nation state. And suppose, even if we do, how do we deal with rogue elements who refuse to comply with international law? Belyaninov, K., 1994. Nuclear nonsense, black-market bombs, and fissile flim-flam: three undercover Russian journalists break into the black market for nuclear materials. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, v50(n2), p 44(7). Castillo, F., 1990. The international physicians for the prevention of nuclear war: Transnational midwife of world peace. Medicine, Conflict and Survival, 6(4), 250-268. Evans, G. & Kawaguchi, Y., 2009. Eliminating Nuclear Threats - A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers. REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON NUCLEAR NON- PROLIFERATION AND DISARMAMENT. Available at:
  14. 14. http://www.icnnd.org/reference/reports/ent/part-ii-3.html [Accessed April 30, 2010]. Hammerton, J., 1936. Outline of Great Books, New York: Wise & Co. Available at: http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Outline_of_Great _Books_Volume_I/aristotle_bdg.html. Harkavy, R.E., 2009. Pariah states and nuclear proliferation. International Organization, 35(01), 135. Lee, J., 2010. President Obama Announces the New START Treaty | The White House. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/26/president- obama-announces-new-start-treaty [Accessed April 29, 2010]. Lee, R., 2006. Nuclear Smuggling, Rogue States and Terrorists. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Volume 4, 25-32. Lifton, R.J., 1984. Beyond psychic numbing. A call to awareness. Möbius: A Journal for Continuing Education Professionals in Health Sciences, 4(1), 46-55. McLean, I., 2003. The concise Oxford dictionary of politics. 2nd ed., Oxford ;;New York: Oxford University Press. Mills, M.J. et al., 2008. From the Cover: Massive global ozone loss
  15. 15. predicted following regional nuclear conflict. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(14), 5307-5312. Obeidi, M., 2004. The bomb in my garden : the secret of Saddam's nuclear mastermind, Hoboken N.J.: Wiley. Policy Subcommittee of the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG), 1995. The Nautilus Institute Nuclear Strategy Project: US FOIA Documents. The Nautilus Institute - Nuclear Strategy Project. Available at: http://www.nautilus.org/archives/nukestrat/USA/ Advisory/essentials95.html [Accessed April 27, 2010]. Schmitz, D.F. & Walker, V., 2004. Jimmy Carter and the Foreign Policy of Human Rights:. The Development of a Post-Cold War Foreign Policy. Diplomatic History, 28(1), 113-143. Schweber, S., 2008. Einstein and Oppenheimer : the meaning of genius, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press. Shelley, L.I., 2006. Trafficking in Nuclear Materials: Criminals and Terrorists. Global Crime, 7(3-4), 544-560. state.gov, SALT II TREATY. TREATY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS ON THE LIMITATION OF STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE ARMS, TOGETHER WITH AGREED STATEMENTS AND COMMON UNDERSTANDINGS REGARDING THE TREATY*. Available at: http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/salt2-2.html
  16. 16. [Accessed April 29, 2010].