Thursday, Apr 09th, 2020 - 08:28:39


The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger

'Jonathan Schell was just 24 years old when he watched American soldiers and their South Vietnamese allies raze the village of Ben Suc to the ground. Schell’s account of the attack, published in its 32,000-word entirety in a July 1967 issue of The New Yorker, immediately became a seminal document of the Vietnam War, revealing to many for the first time the absurdity of the misguided or disingenuous attempt of the U.S. government to win the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people. The day after Schell’s death from cancer last week, “by an underlying blood condition that just might have been caused by Agent Orange, the poisonous defoliant chemical so widely used by U.S. forces in Vietnam,” TomDispatch editor Tom Engelhardt wrote, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker—where Schell wrote for 20 years after publishing “Ben Suc”—evoked the “quiet force” of Schell’s prose by quoting the conclusion of that piece in his remembrance of the writer:

"Faithful to the initial design, Air Force jets sent their bombs down on the deserted ruins, scorching again the burned foundations of the houses and pulverizing for a second time the heaps of rubble, in the hope of collapsing tunnels too deep and well hidden for the bulldozers to crush—as though, having decided to destroy it, we were now bent on annihilating every possible indication that the village of Ben Suc had ever existed."

Readers young enough to know only a United States responsible for Middle East invasions and secretive drone wars will find nothing exceptional about the attribution of such actions to their government. But to generations of Americans who saw themselves primarily as proud citizens of a nation that helped clear a snarling fascism from the globe just decades before, the calculated aggression reported to have been committed in their name must have sent chills to their cores. Readings of over half a dozen commemorations of Schell and a handful of his works in the days after his death suggest that a firm orientation toward basic moral concerns was one of the invaluable gifts he gave to readers caught in a society losing faith in its own decency. His writings in The Nation magazine, which in 1987 became his journalistic home after he was passed up for the editorship of The New Yorker, speak unequivocally to the compassion and conscience of the reader. An editorial published two days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, spoke of a “hole” that had been punched in “our world. A patch of blue sky that should not have been there.” A year and a half later, the Bush administration’s decision to respond to the attacks by invading and overturning Iraq left “an unbroken record of waste, futility and shame”—yet another horrific legacy for Americans of goodwill to lie awake and despair over. In addition to his depiction of Ben Suc, it seems Schell will be remembered chiefly as a critic of the insanity of nuclear weapons. His major 1982 best-selling book, “The Fate of the Earth,” is cited everywhere the danger is seriously discussed. Had politicians and the media continued to take the ongoing risks of a nuclear war or accident seriously after the fall of the Soviet Union, Schell’s coverage of the issue no doubt would have made him better known to the American public. He went on to treat the subject with the books “The Gift of Time: The Case of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now” and “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.”'
+ Truthdigger of the Week: Jonathan Schell:

“Up to a few months ago, Ben Suc was a prosperous village of some thirty-five hundred people.” That is the initial line of The Village of Ben Suc, his first book, a copy of which I recently reread on a plane trip, knowing that he was soon to die. That book, that specific copy, had a history of its own. It was a Knopf first edition, published in 1967 in the midst of the Vietnam War, after the then-shocking text had appeared in the New Yorker magazine. An on-the-spot account of an American operation, the largest of the Vietnam War to that moment, it followed American troops as they helicoptered into a village controlled by the enemy about 30 miles from the capital, Saigon. All its inhabitants, other than those killed in the process, were removed from their homes and sent to a makeshift refugee camp elsewhere. The U.S. military then set Ben Suc afire, brought in bulldozers to reduce it to rubble, and finally called in the U.S. Air Force to bomb that rubble to smithereens—as though, as the final line of his book put it, “having once decided to destroy it, we were now bent on annihilating every possible indication that the village of Ben Suc had ever existed.”

'I had read the piece in the New Yorker when that magazine devoted a single issue to it, something it had not done since it published John Hersey’s "Hiroshima" in a similar fashion in 1946. I never forgot it. I was then 23 years old and just launched on a life as an anti-Vietnam War activist. I would not meet the author, 24-year-old neophyte reporter Jonathan Schell, for years... The year after "Ben Suc" was published, he wrote "The Military Half," his second great book on that horrific American war, in which he widened his lens from a single devastated village to two provinces where almost every hamlet had been destroyed, largely by American air power. To report it, he rode in tiny forward observation planes that were calling down destruction on the Vietnamese countryside. He then went to work as a staff writer for the New Yorker and in 1975 widened his lens further in his book "The Time of Illusion," taking in the history and fate of a single administration in Washington as it waged “limited war” abroad in a nuclear age and created constitutional mayhem at home, bringing yet more violence to Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, as well as to the American political system. In 1982, with his globally bestselling book "The Fate of the Earth," whose first chapter, looking directly into a future of annihilation, was memorably entitled “A Republic of Insects and Grass,” he trained his lens on the threat of violence against all humanity. He memorably explored what was then known as “the nuclear predicament,” the way we had fully taken over a role previously occupied by God and, in the midst of the Cold War, were threatening the extinction not of a village, a couple of provinces in a distant land, or a political system, but the planet itself. I was by then working at Pantheon Books, where in 1988 I re-read his two Vietnam reports and republished them in a single volume as "The Real War". It’s cover copy read: “The classic reporting on the Vietnam War,” which couldn’t have been more accurate... As it happened, at another publishing house in 2003, in an even grimmer century, I put out his book "The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People". His lens by then couldn’t have been wider. In it, he appropriated a hollowed-out term from the war in Vietnam, the hopeless American effort to “win hearts and minds,” celebrating instead the untamed “rebellious hearts and minds” across the planet that might find new sources of people power and alter a world headed for destruction. '
+ Tomgram: "In Memoriam: Jonathan Schell" (1943-2014):

'I learned yesterday that Schell had died on March 25 – according to the Washington Post, he succumbed to leukemia and skin cancer, possibly, according to some sources, caused by long-ago exposure to Agent Orange, the poisonous defoliant chemical so widely used by U.S. forces in Vietnam. David Remnick of the New Yorker wrote, “Schell was an invaluable voice in this country—as an observer, as a writer, as a moralist.” Schell had written for the New Yorker for two decades. His many books include The Village of Ben Suc (1967), The Time of Illusion (1976), The Fate of the Earth (1982), The Real War (1988), The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now (1998), The Unfinished Twentieth Century (2001), The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People (2003), A Hole in the World (2004), and The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (2007), among others.'
+ Farewell, Jonathan Schell (1943-2014), our remarkable “observer, writer, moralist”:
+ Jonathan Schell reads Vaclav Havel (Feb 26 2012) @ [Occupy Town Sq., #Occupy Wall St.]:

'In a two-decade career as a New Yorker staff writer that started in the late 1960s, Jonathan Schell was regarded as an observant, circumspect war correspondent and political journalist. His tone was one of polished skepticism but at times bled into more-impassioned analysis.

“No doubt people have a natural tendency to try to forget about wars the minute they are over,” he commented wryly of the Vietnam War in 1971, “but we may be the first country to try to forget about a war while it is still going on.”

The war was transformative for Mr. Schell, in his private life and his career. He had left Harvard in 1965 with a degree in Far Eastern history and, after studying Japanese at the International Christian University in Tokyo, stopped in Vietnam in January 1967 while on his way home. American involvement in the war was at its peak, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers deployed. Mr. Schell saw them as unprepared for the task and growing wantonly resentful against a population “they were supposed to be saving but who didn’t want to be saved.” With credentials as a journalist for the Harvard Crimson newspaper, he managed to board a helicopter that participated in an assault on an area considered a Communist redoubt. The village of Ben Suc was destroyed in the process. Mr. Schell’s account of the mission was relentlessly grim, with descriptions of the killing of villagers and even farm animals. Back in the United States, Mr. Schell submitted a story about Ben Suc to New Yorker editor William Shawn, whose son Wallace had been a friend since boarding school. “The Village of Ben Suc” also appeared in book form in 1967, earning praise as one of the most disturbing works about the war... In subsequent visits to Vietnam, Mr. Schell wrote scalding critiques of U.S. military strategy.

As American troops were slowly withdrawn in the early 1970s, the U.S. armed forces continued massive bombing runs by air in Vietnam and Cambodia. “Never has a nation unleashed so much violence with so little risk to itself,” Mr. Schell wrote. “It is the government’s way of waging war without the support of its own people, and involves us all in the dishonor of killing in a cause we are no longer willing to die for.”

As an outgrowth of his war writing, Mr. Schell published essays on the Nixon administration and the fallout of the Watergate scandal, which led to the president’s resignation in 1974. Mr. Schell won the prestigious George Polk Award in 1976 for his essays about a betrayal of trust he saw prevalent at all levels in society, filtering down from the Oval Office. After the publication of “The Time of Illusion,” his 1976 book about the Nixon era, Mr. Schell spent five years researching and writing what would become his best-known and most controversial work, “The Fate of the Earth.” The book, excerpts of which first ran in the New Yorker, described the consequences of a full-scale nuclear exchange. In addition to the annihilation of humans as a species, “The Fate of the Earth” also ruminated on the metaphysical dimensions of extinction — the end of love, politics and art. The book concluded with the view that the Cold War rationale behind deterrence — massive retaliation by the Americans or the Soviets — was not a necessary evil but a “monumental logical mistake.”... The cause of ending the nuclear arms race defined much of Mr. Schell’s later writings, in such books as “The Abolition” (1984) and “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger” (2007). He also lectured at Yale University on nonviolence and nuclear issues and, in recent years, was working on a book about climate change.'
+ Obituary - Jonathan Schell (March 25, 2014):
+ Jonathan Schell, thinker on peace, dies:

'Much of Schell’s best work at The New Yorker was unsigned. Working closely with William Shawn, the magazine’s editor, he wrote hundreds of Notes and Comment pieces, particularly in opposition to the war in Vietnam (“a bloody playground for our idealism and our cruelty”) and to the Nixon Administration, especially during the Watergate scandals. Those unsigned pieces, which included a long and rigorous examination of American policy in the wake of the My Lai massacre, were not always received happily by readers or advertisers or, in some cases, colleagues. Just as the Second World War changed the magazine’s tone, Schell pushed its politics. His articles from that era are collected in “The Time of Illusion.” In the mid-seventies, William Shawn, in a drama that lasted for a decade, began to speak of Schell as his successor. “I know what his judgment and taste are, and I have found them faultless,” Shawn told the staff in a memorandum. “He is an excellent judge of talent, and of people. As for the range of his interests, it is extraordinary. As for his character, his mind, his temperament, I think he has the qualities we have been, or should be, looking for (and I use the following words with precision): warmth and good will, truthfulness, fair-mindedness, self-forgetfulness, humor, imagination, vision, conscience, inner strength, intellectual and emotional depth.” The succession drama, which has been written about endlessly, was unnerving at times for the magazine, but Schell went on writing prose of remarkable conviction. His greatest political obsession was the argument for the abolition of nuclear weapons. “The Fate of the Earth,” which ran in 1982 as a four-part series in the magazine and was then published as a book, was criticized by some (an “overheated stew of the obvious,” Michael Kinsley wrote), but it quickly became an important text in the anti-nuclear and nuclear-freeze movements. It was notable less for its strategic importance than as a simple yet powerful reawakening of the American public to the sheer danger of nuclear weapons. When the pieces came out in the magazine, Senator Alan Cranston, of California, came to New York to talk with Schell. Afterward, he said, “I accept his thesis that all-out nuclear war could mean the end of the human race. It’s an unprovable thesis, but we can’t afford the experiment.” Schell followed with three more books on the subject: “The Abolition” (1984), “The Gift of Time” (1998), and “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger” (2007). When, in 1987, S. I. Newhouse, Jr., the owner of The New Yorker, replaced Shawn with Robert Gottlieb, the staff protested, but very few left the magazine. Jonathan Schell, who was so close to Shawn, was one who did. He moved on, joining The Nation. Even years later, invited to write again for The New Yorker, he politely demurred, saying, “You can’t always come home.” At The Nation, Schell continued to write with his accustomed intelligence and honesty, publishing fierce editorials and articles about the war on terror, the Bush Administration, and the war in Iraq, which he described just last year as “an unbroken record of waste, futility, and shame.”'
+ Postscript: Jonathan Schell, 1943-2014:
+ Jonathan Schell (Harvard, 1965):

'In the days after September 11, and in the weeks running up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq, Jonathan was one of the most thoughtful, reflective and independently critical voices to emerge in a media landscape filled with calls for war and vengeance. His column, "Letter from Ground Zero," launched just days after 9/11, was a remarkable chronicle of those charged times. Never losing his bearings, as so many others did, Jonathan used the column to unwaveringly advance the case for sensible and moral non-military actions. In his February 2003 essay, “The Case Against The War,” Jonathan mounted an impassioned and historically informed argument against a war that is now almost universally understood to have been a disaster. And in an unsigned "Open Letter to Congress" (which Jonathan wrote) published on the cover of The Nation in October 2002, just as the fog of war and national security fully enveloped the Congress and media, Jonathan invoked Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A time has come when silence is betrayal…The case against the war is simple, clear and strong.” And in themes that came with his years of reporting on war and violence and military debacle—Vietnam was a journalistic crucible for him—Jonathan sounded the alarm: “As disrespectful of the Constitution as it is of the UN Charter, the Administration has turned away from law in all its manifestations, and placed its reliance on overwhelming force to achieve its ends. In pursuit of empire, it endangers the Republic at home….Members of Congress! Be faithful to your oaths of office and to the traditions of your branch of government. Think of the country, not of your reelection. Defend the Constitution. Affirm the Republic. Preserve the Peace. Vote against the war in Iraq.” They did not heed his counsel.'
+ Remembering Jonathan Schell: 1943-2014:

"When the cold war ended, many Americans believed the nuclear dilemma had ended with it. Instead, the bomb has moved to the dead center of foreign policy and even domestic scandal. From missing WMDs to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, nuclear matters are back on the front page. In this provocative book, Jonathan Schell argues that a revolution in nuclear affairs has occurred under the watch of the Bush administration, including a historic embrace of a first-strike policy to combat proliferation. The administration has also encouraged a nuclear renaissance at home, with the development of new generations of such weaponry. Far from curbing nuclear buildup, Schell contends, our radical policy has provoked proliferation in Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere; exacerbated global trafficking in nuclear weapons; and taken the world into an era of unchecked nuclear terror. Incisive and passionately argued, The Seventh Decade offers essential insight into what may prove the most volatile decade of the nuclear age."
+ THE SEVENTH DECADE - The New Shape of Nuclear Danger:
+ Jonathan Schell dies at 70; author and anti-nuclear activist:

"Now into their seventh decade, nuclear weapons should be thinking about their retirement, but, irritatingly, they seem to be full of life. Instead of expiring with the Cold War, they have found new purposes and new potential owners. Schell has been trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons since his eloquent 'The Fate of the Earth' appeared in 1982. As the disarmament cause has now been taken up by establishment figures who would once have derided Schell's vision as utopian, it is good to have this articulate restatement of the case for abolition, along with Schell's musings on the durability of nuclear arsenals. The book opens with the standard canter through the history of the nuclear age, with a focus on the psychological hold of the weapons on policymakers ("The Bomb in the Mind"). With the Cold War over, policymakers began focusing on proliferation, but unfortunately they saw their countries' nuclear arsenals as part of the solution rather than the problem. (For this the current Bush administration receives much blame.) So the world remains in thrall to the bomb's "terror and allure," and only a determined break with the past will allow it to escape. 'The Seventh Decade' may not be fully convincing as history or as practical politics, but it reinforces the growing sense that humankind is riding its luck -- and that addressing this deadly legacy should be as high up on the international agenda as climate change or pandemic disease"
+ The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (2007):
+ The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (American Empire Project):

AMY GOODMAN: "You begin your book, The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger, by talking about Reykjavik, by talking about the famous summit between Reagan and Gorbachev. Describe what happened there and the quote that you begin with."

JONATHAN SCHELL: Yes. Well, this is one of the most surprising and astonishing episodes of recent history that I know of, because it turned out that Ronald Reagan, of all people, was a fervent nuclear abolitionist. His route to that was a strange one. It was through his advocacy of the Strategic Defense Initiative, otherwise known as Star Wars. And his idea was that first you defend your country, and then you could get rid of your nuclear weapons. Well, he backed off that and decided that you didn’t first have to actually have a foolproof defense, that the defenses would be useful after you mutually got rid of nuclear weapons. Well, it so happened that Gorbachev was another nuclear abolitionist, which was almost as surprising in the context of the Soviet Union, not quite perhaps as Reagan’s abolitionism in the context of the United States. So when they got to Reykjavik, they were both in favor of this, and at a certain point in the negotiations, they actually seemed to have been arriving at the deal. And this is at the moment when Ronald Reagan said, in the quote you mentioned, “Well, Mikhail, we’ll come back in ten years, and we’ll each bring the last missile with us, and we’ll destroy them, and then we’ll throw a tremendous party for the whole world," which I make the title of the third part of this book, yeah."
+ The Seventh Decade – Jonathan Schell on “The New Shape of Nuclear Danger”:
+ Jonathan Schell dies at 70; author of The Fate of the Earth:

"Jonathan Schell's 'The Seventh Decade' lays bare the fearful shape that nuclear danger has unexpectedly assumed in the twenty-first century. Far from disappearing with the cold war, the bomb is today in the midst of a worldwide revival. The invasion of Iraq, the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, the rising danger of nuclear terrorism, and the reinvigoration of the nuclear establishments among the old cold war rivals have all put the nuclear issue back on the world’s front pages and returned it to the center of geopolitical strife. Schell addresses the fundamental questions: How and why has nuclear danger revived? Where are we heading? What can be done? He argues that half measures will no longer suffice, nor will piecemeal solutions that address isolated aspects of the crisis. Offering a comprehensive approach that takes all factors into account, 'The Seventh Decade' calls for a debate, national and global, on the paths away from what still remains the gravest, most urgent of all dangers to humanity."
+ The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (2007):
+ The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (American Empire Project):

'I was about to write that there can be no military solution to the war in Afghanistan, only a political one. But I almost fainted with boredom and had to stop. Who, as President Obama lengthily ponders his decisions regarding the war, wants to repeat a point that's been made 11,000 times before? Is there anyone on earth who doesn't know by now that you can't win a guerrilla war without winning the "hearts and minds" of the people? The American public has known this since the American defeat in Vietnam. The formerly colonized peoples of the Third World, whose hearts and minds were the ones contested, know it. American officialdom knows it. (In a recent New Yorker profile by George Packer of Richard Holbrooke, Obama's envoy to the so-called Af-Pak region, Leslie Gelb, who worked in the Pentagon in the 1960s, recalled, "Changing hearts and minds--all the smart young men thought that.") Today, even the general in charge in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, now asking for 40,000 or more troops, knows it. He can read all about it in the new Army counterinsurgency manual produced by his boss, Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus. There he can learn that "political factors have primacy in COIN [counterinsurgency]" and that "arguably, the decisive battle is for the people's minds." But if one has repeated this point anyway (as I have, by a backdoor route), then one must go on to make the rather newer point that there is no political solution that serves the foreign invader either. The problem is structural and fundamental. Like the imperial powers of the past, the United States wants to impose its will on other countries. Yet it is different from those previous powers in at least one respect: it does not aim to rule the countries it invades indefinitely. Conscious that the American public will not support war without end, it means to leave one day. Therefore the art of victory has to be to try to set up a government that can both survive US withdrawal and serve US interests. The circle to be squared is getting the people of a whole country to want what Washington wants. The trouble is that, left to their own devices, other peoples are likely to want what they want, not what we want. One problem flowing from this dilemma is that the more the United States does to set up such a government, the more the "Afghans themselves" (or the Vietnamese themselves or the Iraqis themselves or the whoevers themselves) are tainted by the association. If the paradox of military engagement in such a conflict is that the more you fight the more you lose, then the paradox of political engagement is that the more you rule the weaker the native component of the government becomes, and the more likely it is to collapse when you leave, as the South Vietnamese government did in 1975. That is scarcely a new point, either.'
+ The Fifty-Year War (2009):
+ The Forgotten Bomb (2010):

'The Seventh Decade also warns that the NPT is under serious political stress because of the failure of the five nuclear-weapon states to comply with Article VI by making deep, verifiable cuts in their offensive arsenals. Upset with the continued discriminatory nature of the nonproliferation regime, several non–nuclear-weapon states that belong to the NPT, such as Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, have begun to reconsider their options. Even Japan, the only country to have experienced the horrors of nuclear warfare, is openly debating whether to acquire nuclear weapons. IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradei warned in October 2006 that the nonproliferation regime may be on the verge of collapse, opening the floodgates to a world with as many as 30 nuclear powers. Despite these real concerns, Schell’s central thesis—that the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to disarm is the chief driver of proliferation—seems overstated. Given the overwhelming U.S. superiority in conventional warfighting capabilities, even if the United States were to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal, Iran might still be motivated to acquire nuclear arms as an asymmetric deterrent to ward off a conventional U.S. military attack, as well as to bolster its ambition of becoming the leading power in the Persian Gulf. Schell also overlooks historical cases that do not fit his thesis. For example, key allies of the United States such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have not acquired nuclear weapons in the face of external threats because of the U.S. nuclear deterrent umbrella. In this case, the possession of nuclear weapons by one state has prevented proliferation by others rather than provoking it. Moreover, some past proliferators, including South Africa and Libya, have voluntarily rolled back their nuclear programs for reasons unrelated to the nuclear double standard.

The Seventh Decade is particularly critical of current U.S. nuclear strategy. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration became preoccupied with the threat that rogue states such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which supported terrorism and had a history of pursuing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMD), might transfer such weapons to terrorists for attacks against the U.S. homeland. This perception of a nexus between WMD and terrorism led to a dramatic change in U.S. national security policy. Bush and his advisers devised an aggressive new approach to nonproliferation in which the United States would use its overwhelming military power to attack and preventively disarm any hostile country seeking WMD. To implement this new strategy, the Pentagon created a capability called Global Strike, which integrates U.S. conventional and nuclear forces in support of a broad range of warfighting options, including nuclear attacks against hardened underground bunkers and buried caches of chemical and biological weapons. For the Bush administration, Schell concludes, “The mission of nuclear weapons is no longer to produce stalemate with a peer; it is to fight and win wars against nations with little or no ability to respond.” The Bush preventive war doctrine saw its first application in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which the administration sold to Congress and the public with frightening assertions that Saddam Hussein was pursuing nuclear weapons and might give them to terrorists to attack the United States. After the war, both claims proved to be false, dealing a severe blow to U.S. credibility. Moreover, by threatening to use nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, even against nonpossessor states, Washington encouraged adversaries such as North Korea and Iran to accelerate their own efforts to acquire a nuclear deterrent. Schell believes that the dramatic failure of Bush’s militarized approach to non-proliferation has created a political opening for the next president to return to the path of negotiated arms control and disarmament. He adds, however, that halting the spread of nuclear weapons by diplomatic means will be possible only if Washington agrees to renounce its own nuclear arsenal.

In making the case for abolition, Schell looks back to the October 1986 superpower summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, when President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev agreed in principle to eliminate their respective nuclear stockpiles, although they differed sharply on how to achieve that goal. Reagan was deeply attached to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a futuristic program to develop space-based ballistic-missile defenses that would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” But Gorbachev, fearing a defensive arms race that would bankrupt the Soviet economy and impede needed reforms, refused to accept deep cuts in offensive nuclear forces unless Washington dropped its plans to test SDI systems in space. Tragically, the conflict over SDI led to the collapse of the Reykjavik summit, yet a workable space-based defense system has yet to materialize despite the investment of billions of dollars in R&D. Meanwhile, the dream of nuclear abolition faded away. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the sole remaining superpower no longer had an incentive to negotiate restraints on its untrammeled military power. Today, however, Schell believes that both elite and public opinion in the United States are on the cusp of a new awareness of the nuclear threat, particularly the risk of nuclear terrorism. He notes in particular that in January 2007, a bipartisan group of distinguished former statesmen (George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn) published an article in the Wall Street Journal that called for reducing and eventually eliminating the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Suddenly it was no longer considered taboo or utopian to talk of nuclear disarmament. In the final chapter of The Seventh Decade, Schell lays out a roadmap to a nuclear-free world. The process would begin with a commitment to abolition by the nuclear powers as a quid pro quo for proliferators to abandon their weapons programs, followed by stepwise nuclear disarmament. In the final stages, a ballistic-missile defense system might be deployed as a safeguard against cheating. Although such defenses are ineffective against large offensive missile forces, in a disarmed world they would face the far easier task of protecting against the small number of nuclear-tipped missiles that a cheater might cobble together in secret.'
+ Book Review: Can the bomb be banned?:
+ Jonathan Schell:

'Ben Suc was a village of possibly 5,500 people located along the Saigon River in Binh Duong Province. Around 30 miles northwest of Saigon, Ben Suc was in the heart of the Iron Triangle and a center of activity for the Vietcong. ARVN, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, soldiers had kept an outpost at Ben Suc between 1955 and 1964 until Vietcong troops ousted them. After that, the Vietcong received the active cooperation of the village people. Between 1965 and 1967, ARVN troops, assisted by substantial American air strikes (phosphorus bombs, napalm, and B-52 assaults), tried unsuccessfully to retake Ben Suc. Late in 1966, American officials launched Operation Cedar Falls to wipe out Vietcong resistance in the Iron Triangle. Although Ben Suc lay just beyond the northwestern tip of the Iron Triangle, it was a critical objective for American troops in Operation Cedar Falls. In the end, the village of Ben Suc became a notorious example of the futility of American military policy in South Vietnam. On January 8, 1967, sixty troop-carrying helicopters took off from the Dau Tieng airstrip and deposited 420 soldiers right in the middle of Ben Suc. Since Ben Suc was reputedly the headquarters for Vietcong control of the Iron Triangle, the American soldiers expected extreme resistance. Instead, they encountered only sporadic small arms fire. The villagers were evacuated from the village and taken to a new refugee camp at Phy Loi near Phu Cuong. The1st Engineer Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division then moved into Ben Suc with Rome plows, tankdozers, and M-48 antimine tanks and leveled the village, destroying every home and building and bulldozing all the mango, jackfruit, and grapefruit fields. Miles of tunnels used by the Vietcong were destroyed at the same time. Two days after the end of Operation Cedar Falls on January 26, Vietcong were back in the area. At home, the American media reacted to the razing of Ben Suc with anger. Less than 30 miles from Saigon, U.S. and ARVN troops, after destroying a village and turning nearly six thousand people into refugees, had not been able to prevent Vietcong control of the area. Although Operation Cedar Falls was a blow to the Vietcong in the area of the Iron Triangle, it also raised grave doubts among the American press and American policymakers about the effectiveness of both pacification and the "search and destroy" strategy.'
+ Ben Suc:
+ The Village Of Ben Suc (1967):

Catalog description: 'Long-term environmental consequences of nuclear conflict, nuclear arms race, the Cuban missile Crisis, Mutual Assured Destruction, nuclear weapons testing and its consequences to human health, “regional” nuclear, nuclear famine and its potential impacts to human society, “a world without nuclear weapons,” current political dialogue on nuclear weapons and nuclear war, Iran, North Korea, nuclear weapons convention.'

Purpose: 'The purpose of this course is to establish and develop students’ basic knowledge of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their development and use, and thereby expand their sociological understandings of the causes and implications of global conflict that center upon the construction and/or use of nuclear arsenals. In order to facilitate this process, students will first review the history of the last century, when aerial bombardment of cities became common during World War II, which led to the development and use of nuclear weapons. The course will then provide a critical examination of the issues and subject matter surrounding the history of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, and the widespread atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, in order to allow students to more fully grasp the environmental, health and societal impacts that nuclear weapons have had upon our political processes and upon our public health. There are three major goals associated with this class; first, to provide a firm factual understanding of the nature of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their use; second, to expose students to the history of the nuclear arms race that leads us to the present day; and third, to provide an understanding of the scientific predictions of the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war. These three goals should provide students enough comprehensive knowledge to allow them to realistically consider, evaluate and participate in the current global dialogue about “a world without nuclear weapons.” Students should expect to interact with others in the class, be open-minded and be intellectually challenged by peers and the course instructor.'
+ PEACE STUDIES 2200: Environmental, Health and Societal Effects of Nuclear Weapons and Materials:
+ Books and Films on Nuclear Issues:
+ Chipotle Pictures: The Nuclear Genie (2009):



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"The Global Zero Action Plan calls for the United States and Russia – who hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons – to negotiate deep cuts in their arsenals, followed by international negotiations to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2030. Support for this goal is widespread among experienced and respected leaders, throughout the world and across the political spectrum, including the hundreds of political, military, diplomatic and national security leaders worldwide who are part of the Global Zero movement. The Action Plan builds on the vision of President Reagan whose goal was “the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth” and who – along with President Gorbachev – began the process of nuclear arms reductions 25 years ago. This will not happen overnight. It will take years of work. We are doing it and we will get there.


After ratifying the New START Treaty, the United States and Russia agree to reduce to 1,000 total warheads each by 2018. Upon ratification of the U.S.-Russian bilateral accord, all other nuclear weapons countries cap the total number of warheads in their arsenals and commit to participate in multilateral negotiations for proportionate reductions of stockpiles. Preparation for multilateral negotiations begin.


Through a multilateral framework, the United States and Russia reduce their nuclear arsenals to 500 total warheads each by 2021 – as other nuclear weapons countries maintain a cap on their stockpiles until 2018 and commit to a proportionate reductions until 2021. A rigorous and comprehensive verification and enforcement system is implemented, including no-notice, on-site inspections, and strengthened safeguards on the civilian nuclear fuel cycle to prevent diversion of materials to build weapons.


The world’s nuclear-capable countries negotiate and sign a Global Zero Accord: a legally binding international agreement for the phased, verified, proportionate reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030.


The phased, verified, proportionate dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads is complete by 2030. The comprehensive verification and enforcement system prohibiting the development and possession of nuclear weapons is in place to ensure that the world is never again threatened by nuclear weapons.

+ The Global Zero Action Plan:

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