March 1993 (vol. 9, #3)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1992
Physicians for Civil Defense
Many signs manifest that the specter of warfare has been banished at least from our consciousness. Whether a specter can be killed is, of course, a separate question.
The Secretary of Energy decided that we no longer need tritium (half-life=12.5 years) and ordered a shutdown of the K reactor at the Savannah River Site. Employees of 20 years were told not to bother to come to work the next day. An American general was ordered not to wear his uniform into the White House. Activists in Denver protest the funding of the Residue Elimination Program at Rocky Flats, which would recover plutonium, because ``we don't need the plutonium'' and should therefore waste it (CANDID Comments, Jan 1993). Boeing has laid off some 20,000 workers, since we don't need new airplanes, exacerbating the budgetary crisis in the State of Washington. On January 15, the United States and 124 other nations signed a pact banning the production, storage, and use of chemical weapons. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency is ``a patient in triage,'' according to Senator Barbara Mikulski (Jerry Strope, J Civil Defense, Spring 1993).
There are a few storm clouds on the horizon. Other nations are acquiring a nuclear-fueled navy. China has nuclear-fueled submarines and aspires to possess a nuclear-fueled aircraft carrier, along with laser weapons and neutron bombs (Intel Dig 3/5/93). Perhaps they will sell us tritium, or possibly we can retrofit to diesel fuel, assuming the risk of oil spills is eliminated.
North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, preferring increased economic hardship to an inspection of a nuclear research complex believed to contain enough plutonium to make a bomb (Wall St J 2/25/93, 3/17/93).
The chemical weapons ban has a few problems, according to Intelligence Digest (17 Rodney Rd, Cheltenham, Glos, GL50 1HX, United Kingdom). One is that only four Arab countries (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania) have signed it. Many of the non-signatories (Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Syria) already have chemical weapons, and they will probably find it easier than the treaty assumes to acquire raw materials on the black market. Libya is reportedly building a new chemical weapons site near Tarhuna. Construction of the facility, which consists of two tunnels bored into a remote hillside, is expected to be complete in 1994.
As Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin said: ``A chemical weapons convention not including the Middle East might as well be considered born dead.''
Even if the treaty prevented actual use of chemical weapons to produce casualties, the mere existence of a plausible threat to wage chemical warfare can have a significant effect on a military campaign. Protective gear is so cumbersome that even ``the most ill-equipped or undersophisticated aggressor can greatly reduce the military potential of a much larger and better-equipped armed opponent simply by taking a few relatively simple steps to arm itself with the most basic of chemical weapons'' (Intel Digest 1/22/93).
The threat is still more potent in the absence of the ability to retaliate in kind. During World War II, American experiments demonstrated the ineffectiveness of protective gear in a jungle environment. American soldiers did not carry gas masks. But one or more freighters carrying chemical weapons, gas masks, and the medical supplies needed to treat gas casualties accompanied each invasion fleet, according to jungle warfare authority Cresson Kearny.
Even as the ``world's only superpower'' continues to vanquish itself, the potential for conflict has not evaporated. World forces are becoming realigned.
Despite its internal strife, Russia is ``rediscovering its traditional assertiveness on foreign-policy issues and is once again moving boldly, some might say forcefully, to seize the lion's share of the world's arms market'' (Intel Digest 2/5/93). In recent diplomatic statements, Russia has attempted to distance itself from US military action in Iraq. These statements appeared to be directed to Islamic listeners. For example, when asked whether Russia would contest US action in Iraq that was contrary to Moscow's interests, the Russian ambassador to Turkey said: ``Trust us that we have the power to contest. I am not saying that we will take up arms immediately but we have the power to do so'' (Intel Dig 1/29/93).
On the European scene, Germany is gaining increasing dominance within the European Community. In 1990, Germany and Russia signed a secret agreement concerning their respective responses to the dismemberment of various Eastern European nations. A Czechoslovak report of the agreement was dismissed as Eastern European post-communist paranoia (Intel Digest 1/29/93).
The UN has recently lent legitimacy to US military actions. But Moscow is attempting to recruit Third World support to restrict American dominance, through institutional changes in the UN (Intel Digest 2/26/93).
The bombing at the World Trade Center (which could have toppled the 110-story building had the demolition team been more expert, according to a law enforcement official) may be the opening salvo in a new rash of terrorism. Reportedly, there are 15 terrorist training camps now operating with Iranian backing in Sudan (Intel Digest 2/12/93). Within 10 days, four attempts were reported to bypass airport security to get unaccompanied baggage aboard; two of the bags had started their travels in Tehran (Intel Digest 3/5/93).
In President Clinton's budget, cuts in defense spending account for 22% of the savings. The US battleground has been shifted from the world scene to domestic issues. The President faces a tougher confrontation with Oregon loggers than with Boris Yeltsin. Expenditures for ``defending'' the environment have risen from a few tenths of a percent of the GDP in the early 1960s to 2 percent in the early 1990s (Issues in Sci Technol, Fall, 1992). The current US territorial dispute concerns whether 40% of the usable land in California and 75% of the usable land in Alaska will be ceded to the Wetlands authority (EPA Watch 2/15/93).