May 28, 2002
4:40 PM   Subscribe

J. Robert Oppenheimer, watching the first mushroom cloud rise above the American nuclear test heartbreakingly codenamed Trinity, said: "Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds." Today, a half century after the first use of atomic weapons, in the birthland of the sacred text Oppenheimer quoted, 12 million people could die at once in a nuclear exchange.

Ah, Shiva as each of us...one hand on The Button, the other writing: "The only way to live humanly - still - is in resistance to war. The prevention of war, in the nuclear age, must be a central purpose of every person's life."
posted by fold_and_mutilate (58 comments total)

 
If we're to believe the "reports" we're presented with, neither country's citizens grasp the gravity of what lobbing nukes will wreak upon their soil. Or could it be that they value their lives less than I had thought?

(Never had the luxury of spell check since I joined. Nice...someone please hook FARK up with it!)
posted by sharksandwich at 4:54 PM on May 28, 2002


Betcha $10 that no nuclear devices will be detonated in either India or Pakistan within at least the next 10 years.
posted by davidmsc at 5:05 PM on May 28, 2002


What if the five permanent Security Council members promised that if any other nation used nuclear weapons aggresively, that they would use neutron bombs on the aggresor nation--killing all humans and animals, but leaving buildings unharmed?
The lands, and all properties of that nation would go for reparations to the nation that had been initially victimized.

The ultimate penalty: what value is using a nuclear weapon if it results in the extermination of your nation and all of what you value going to your hated enemies?
posted by kablam at 5:33 PM on May 28, 2002


what value is using a nuclear weapon if it results in the extermination of your nation and all of what you value going to your hated enemies?

Maybe that's already been considered and it is time to call Pakistan's bluff.
posted by bittennails at 5:40 PM on May 28, 2002


India has declared a "no first use policy," thus a nuclear strike can only originate from one side now. A conventional war in PoK, is the immediate retaliatory threat to Pakistan, for acts of state sponsored terrorism. Their response is probably going to be the determining factor in the scale of the war, if one.
posted by bittennails at 5:48 PM on May 28, 2002


Given the current fascination with 9/11 snuff films (golly, Irene, I didn't realize the loss of thousands of lives was so tragic until I saw it on HBO), how long until some poor country gets blown up just for the entertainment value?

We created nuclear weapons with the assumption that no one else would ever get their hands on the secret recipe and that Hitler was the last of his kind.

Whatever happens...whether we get blown to bits or have an era of unprecedented peace...the result will be no less than what we deserve.
posted by troybob at 5:49 PM on May 28, 2002


The ultimate penalty: what value is using a nuclear weapon if it results in the extermination of your nation and all of what you value going to your hated enemies?

The problem with your plan is that it disregards the fact that ALL governments are, in the end, staffed (at least partially) by self-interested liars and murderous potentates. Punishing the populace of a nation for a disastrous act undertaken by that nation's leaders would be brutal and pointless, just like every other act of national violence.
posted by Optamystic at 5:53 PM on May 28, 2002


Yes, good point, optamystic, what's scary is this kind of stuff : "This speech was like waving a red flag at a bull."

Here's a Dictator with his finger on the button!

posted by bittennails at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2002


Troybob-I don't think we built nuclear weapons assuming no one else would ever invent them-indeed we were in a race with the nazis to see who could develop one first.
posted by quercus at 6:16 PM on May 28, 2002


Whatever happens...whether we get blown to bits or have an era of unprecedented peace...the result will be no less than what we deserve.

Huh? Deserve what?

I deserve extra cheese.
posted by Benway at 6:28 PM on May 28, 2002


Nuclear bombs arnt just about the killing!!
They can also light cigarrettes
posted by Iax at 6:30 PM on May 28, 2002


On New Year's eve my wife and I wrote down a list of predictions for 2002. All mine have come true except for a nuclear weapon being used in either India or Pakistan. Here is hoping I don't bat a thousand this year.
posted by thirteen at 6:34 PM on May 28, 2002


Punishing the populace of a nation for a disastrous act undertaken by that nation's leaders would be brutal and pointless, just like every other act of national violence.

This is the definition of modern warfare, unfortunately. It's no longer enough to simply wipe out the other team's players.
posted by swift at 6:55 PM on May 28, 2002


Peace Pilgrim said we all have some part to play in the larger peace picture.

"The following dialogue guides were developed in response to the events of September 11 and their aftermath. However, they can be easily adapted to help facilitate dialogues about other contentious issues."

This is an unspeakably bad situation, and ignoring it might not make it go away.

Perhaps someone here is well informed enough to call their Asian relatives or post a few messages at sites like Dialogue Now about alternatives for easing tensions. Given the ripple effect of public sentiment and the gravity of the situation, convincing even one more person to consider non-military alternatives would not be a waste of time.
posted by sheauga at 7:09 PM on May 28, 2002


What if the five permanent Security Council members promised that if any other nation used nuclear weapons aggresively, that they would use neutron bombs on the aggresor nation--killing all humans and animals, but leaving buildings unharmed?

some people argue that this logic was implicit during the Cold War and that's why deterrence worked. if anyone used a nuke, they'd immediately get taken out by a superpower on one side of the bipolar divide; the superpower on the other side would predictably retaliate; and we'd bomb the human race into extinction. everyone was so terrified of the domino effect that the more powerful players went to great lengths to ensure that the proverbial red button never got pushed by *anyone.*

as morbid as that is, i find that logic far less disturbing than the apparent present attitude that nuclear war is a sustainable mode of conflict and can be actually be fought in a *limited* manner, despite the fact that no one, including the U.S., has ever been able develop a tactical nuke for limited theater operations. it's like people are suddenly telling themselves that nuclear weapons are just conventional weapons on steroids that offer more countervalue bang-for-the-buck. there's a reason why weapons of mass destruction have never been extensively used (the A-bomb excepting). nuclear, chemical, and biological WMDs don't discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, have lingering aftereffects for survivors that can lead to slow torturous deaths, and leave in their wake severe ecological damage, which makes them far less moral than conventional weapons.

i'm guessing that a pacifist like foldy would probably argue that all war is bad and people are dead either way, so it's all the same. it's not. if you study military history you see very defined and longstanding patterns of restraint when it comes to using doomsday weapons. if india or pakistan pushes the button, it's a whole new game and an important line will have been crossed. those restraints may be dropped altogether.
posted by lizs at 7:16 PM on May 28, 2002


ive posted this before... a look into the mind set in that region... very scary.
posted by specialk420 at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2002


[trolling]

Ah, hell, it'll be no worse than Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

[/trolling]
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on May 28, 2002


<biting>

Yeah, it would - because at the time of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Harry Truman was 100% sure that he was the only person on the earth who could order the dropping of atomic weapons. That was the last time that particular situation ever existed.

As bad as N and H were, any launch would be worse now, because there will be a response to any strike.

</biting>
posted by yhbc at 8:03 PM on May 28, 2002


"The only way to live humanly - still - is in resistance to war. The prevention of war [...] must be a central purpose of every person's life."

Agreed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:15 PM on May 28, 2002


The escalation of this conflict has not occurred in a vacuum. Two things have made it possible: a broad international climate of moral approbation in favor of war, and widespread indifference to the threat still posed by nuclear weapons. The real and immediate prospect of a nuclear war must generate changes on both these fronts.

Oops, badly flawed premise. Neither India or Pakistan, in this situation, gives a flying shit about the "international climate", or the indifference - or lack of it - to the threat posed by nuclear weapons. These people have got to figure it out by themselves ... the entire damn world could instantly enter a la-la land of total peace and harmony, and overwhelmingly condemn war and nuclear weapons, and these guys would barely notice. In fact, the last time they approached the brink, a lot of nations did harshly condemn what they were doing (and offer incentives to act differently) ... and it did little other than confirm the resolve of both of them. Unfortunately, playground peer pressure not only doesn't always work in practice, but quite often produces an effect diametrically opposed to the one intended.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:04 PM on May 28, 2002


thirteen, you and your wife must've had a damn depressing new years. That's all I can add to this discussion.
posted by ook at 9:15 PM on May 28, 2002


this is really grim: and relates in mindset to my previous post -.. i did hear at a local mid-american tavern this eve - spoken only half in jest - about the potential of nuclear conflict in india & pakistan and corresponding millions of casualities:

"maybe its time to thin the herd over there a little"
posted by specialk420 at 10:29 PM on May 28, 2002


I was talking to an Indian-American colleague of mine the other day about the situation and he said that he hoped that there'd be a war. I said, "But that'd kill a hundred million people. New Delhi would be gone." He said, "But we must stop them from funding the terrorists that are killing people in India."

I said, "They kill, what, maybe a hundred people a month? It'll take, what, 85000 years for them to kill as many people as a war might." He gave me that peculiar Indian head-wobbling shrug and a grin.

I'm still wierded out by the feeling that left me with: this combination of "What the fuck?" and "Hey, was this what everybody else was thinking about me last October when I was ranting and raving about Afghanistan?" It's uncomfortable to see yourself reflected in someone else's obvious stupidity.
posted by hob at 11:07 PM on May 28, 2002


This very interesting article, points out the nuclear misperceptions and miscalculations behind the (imminent?) doomsday scenario...
And here's Roy, commenting on the atrocities committed recently by both sides, viewing both sides' religious extremists as apostles of the same murderous god.
posted by talos at 3:09 AM on May 29, 2002


Another interesting article by Henry Porter posits some interesting points. Most interestingly, what the hell is Kofi Annan for?
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:41 AM on May 29, 2002


davidmsc: Betcha $10 that no nuclear devices will be detonated in either India or Pakistan within at least the next 10 years.

I see your $10 and raise you a two month stay in Islamabad. You going to go or what?
posted by vbfg at 5:50 AM on May 29, 2002


Great links on this page.
posted by xowie at 6:35 AM on May 29, 2002


vbfg: No can do; I've made other plans. :-)

thirteen: what were the other predictions you & the missus made that have since come true? Geo-political predictions, or along the lines of "Madonna has Crowe's baby!"?
posted by davidmsc at 6:41 AM on May 29, 2002


sheauga: Here are some snippets of conversations with my relatives in India:

Pakis are no great soldiers,remember 92,000 of them put up their hands in 71 war-they simply refused to fight so it will be foolish to over-rate them though that is what worries some the observers.They did not want to fight for East Pakistan,but it be the same story for the west.Anyone's guess but I don't think they have the guts to fight us all the way. America is playing a strange game-they have the clout to shut him up but still playing from the sidelines.How is the media reacting to it there.They have promised many things to Pakis,but precious little in return-no OBL,no Mullah Omar and world terrorism is reuniting in Pakistan,not disappearing from the face of earth as Bush and Cheney are fond of saying.Indeed the Pakis are saying that Yankees have not paid enough to them for their support.So it is a little confused. We got to go our own way and I hope it won't take too long.Western nations were always soft on Pakis so it is no surprise to us.We are fully mobilised and don't be surprised if something happens soon.

Musharref seems to be playing to the gallery and justifying his existence to the nation.But he is on a dangerous path because India will react at a time and place of their own choosing.His speech is full of lies and bravado and we are keeping quiet because everyone is asking us to restrain and act as a mature democracy.The Yanks,Brits ,Russians and French are all singing the same tune and we have to consider their approach before throwing in the towel.The nation is totally behind the Govt. and itching for something to happen and so are the armed forces.Let us see what comes next.If there is another incident of cross-border terrorism then there will be a swift reaction. Musharref's talk of nuclear response and testing of borrowed missiles has complicated the situation somewhat but it does not seem to frighten our people who say that if he uses them so will we so why worry.

I feel opinion has hardened now, this will play out. How, is the terrible question for me.

Here is an older article, with some interesting observations, vis a vis wargame scenarios, for example; In our scenarios, the only way for Pakistan to do that is by using nuclear weapons on India's forces inside Pakistan. Strange as that sounds, using nuclear weapons on your own territory has some political advantages, and bears some similarities to NATO strategic options in place during the Cold War. The world would see it as a defensive measure. India would be seen as the aggressor.
posted by bittennails at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2002


Got nuke pills?
posted by xowie at 9:07 AM on May 29, 2002


fold_and_mutilate, let me thank you for moderating your posting style. You've expressed your position, however stubbornly-held, without an implied insult of those who would disagree, and in return you've sparked a worthwhile thread.

As it happens, we certainly agree on the prevention of war as a goal, though we may not agree at all on the means.

lizs is disturbed by the attitude that nuclear war is a sustainable mode of conflict and can be be fought in a *limited* manner

Limited is as limited does. If you have 4000 nukes, limited sounds ludicrously unrealistic. If you have 400 at most, and fewer strategic delivery options, you're going to be more careful. But I don't think that the subcontinentals are actually thinking in terms of one here, another there, and everybody sues for peace. They're actually thinking that all-out strikes using the majority of their arsenals, on both sides, will itself be sustainable.

Morbid though this thought may be, I suspect they may be right, given the parameters of that thinking. The infamous remarks of the retired Pak general that of his country's 150+ millions, most lived poor and worthless lives, so how much worse would they be post-holocaust? should give anyone pause.

I disagree with the common notion of nukes, radiation, etc. being too terrible to contemplate. They would be horrible to have to survive, but they would be survivable. Nevertheless I would not recommend following this course to any nation.

But I can't guarantee that everyone thinks like me.

despite the fact that no one, including the U.S., has ever been able develop a tactical nuke for limited theater operations.

That's a bizarre statement. Of course we have -- and the Russians went even farther, and may yet have many more tactical nukes laying around the country (nuke mines, nuke artillery, even so-called 'suitcase' nukes) than have ever been considered under the strategic weaponry treaties. They would certainly work. They would have bad side-effects, but they were developed and they would work.

it's like people are suddenly telling themselves that nuclear weapons are just conventional weapons on steroids that offer more countervalue bang-for-the-buck. there's a reason why weapons of mass destruction have never been extensively used (the A-bomb excepting).

I don't think two strikes is 'extensive' except by the standards of the previous generation of weaponry. Unfortunately, for a generation steeped in the philosophy of conflict marking the present one, they may well think of nukes as just big bombs on steroids. I'm deeply concerned this is attributable to cultural value differences as much as it is to what might be called the societal defensive value -- the sense that what you have is too valuable to consider the risk of losing it. (Maybe there's a term for this already.) The US and Russians, as well as most of the later acquirers of nukes (Britain, France), seem to have high values in that box. The way the talk is running in this conflict, I wouldn't take that $10 bet that it's as high for too many people in both establishments. This has a logic that has gone far beyond the terrorism problem or the ostensible value of Kashmir as a region of people or even resources.

As a different take on the causes, I think the US and Soviets avoided war by playing at proxy wars, but the Pakistanis and Indians share a border and do not have the same luxury.
posted by dhartung at 10:03 AM on May 29, 2002


neither country's citizens grasp the gravity of what lobbing nukes will wreak upon their soil. Or could it be that they value their lives less than I had thought?
a look into the mind set in that region... very scary.
the entire damn world could instantly enter a la-la land of total peace and harmony... and these guys would barely notice.
"maybe its time to thin the herd over there a little"

I find it intriguing that all of these comments see the participants in this conflict as so "other", so "foreign", so just plain nuts that they'd have a nuclear war because, god bless 'em, they just don't understand the implications, the poor brown feeble-minded folk.

While we all sit safely in the land of the only country that's ever used nuclear weapons to kill tens of thousands of people. Every bit of head-scratching, chin-wagging, "i'll be damned" wonderment that you express about the conflict in the subcontinent applies to every neighbor or wo-worker you have who was alive in the 1940s.

I don't find any difference in the mindset there than I do here. I hope they don't go to war; I hope they realize that the division between India and Pakistan is a fiction foisted upon them by opportunists and interlopers. But to pretend that it's not present in (civilized, right?) Western countries is more of the same arrogance that gets us in trouble time and time again.
posted by anildash at 10:12 AM on May 29, 2002


but the Pakistanis and Indians share a border and do not have the same luxury.

Indeed, another element to consider here is that the proximity of the two significantly reduces the decision-making window. According to an NPR report I heard yesterday, either side has approximately 30 seconds to make a decision to launch missiles once they think the other side has launched. If you thought SAC kept a hair trigger all those years, this almost guarantees that a nuclear exchange between the two will happen inevitably.
posted by briank at 10:19 AM on May 29, 2002


briank, that comment is the most chilling I've seen yet on this thread--the Fail Safe in super duper fast forward.
posted by trox at 10:29 AM on May 29, 2002


While we all sit safely in the land of the only country that's ever used nuclear weapons to kill tens of thousands of people. Every bit of head-scratching, chin-wagging, "i'll be damned" wonderment that you express about the conflict in the subcontinent applies to every neighbor or wo-worker you have who was alive in the 1940s.

Those weapons were used to end a war which we didn't start, and which probably would have claimed many more lives than it did, had we not finished it off with the two atom bombs...

No, none of what you suggest applies... I'd look to the 1950's instead... the Cold War... and we in this country (and our opposite numbers in the Soviet Union)*resisted* going to nuclear war. Whether India and Pakistan can so resist... remains to be seen.

So, the jury's still out on their mindset.

Good luck to them. I hope they can both develop ballistic missile subs... that would take the 30 second pressure off by giving each a viable second-strike option.
posted by dissent at 12:19 PM on May 29, 2002


Actually dissent, the 30 second pressure is not a reality: "India leased a Soviet "Charlie" class submarine in 1988 and by 1992 had their own submarine project under development based on the Soviet design but using an Indian pressurised water reactor. The reactor requires weapons-grade fissile material and thus poses a proliferation risk. To date, every country that has a nuclear powered submarine has developed them into platforms for sea-launched nuclear weapons." Link.
posted by bittennails at 12:45 PM on May 29, 2002


"Those weapons were used to end a war which we didn't start, and which probably would have claimed many more lives than it did, had we not finished it off with the two atom bombs...

I am reasonably sure that the blasts in Hiroshima, Nagasaki destroyed more civilian lives for generations to come than in probably any other conflict (I don't know the numbers for Vietnam ..). I am aware of what Japan did to South East Asia and China and recognize the evil. I don't really have an argument against its use. But let us at least call a spade a spade and say 'may more of our soldiers' lives' rather than make a simplistic statement like that.

No, none of what you suggest applies... I'd look to the 1950's instead... the Cold War... and we in this country (and our opposite numbers in the Soviet Union)*resisted* going to nuclear war. Whether India and Pakistan can so resist... remains to be seen."

Almost all forms of weapons of mass destruction (including biological and atomic) were developed, pioneered, and stockpiled by USA and Russia. It so happens that a nuclear conflict didn't break out. The world is thankful that it didn't. But to take the stance that 'us and the russkies' were oh so cool as to resist the temptation, let's see what 'they' do is ugly.

I hope and pray that no more nuclear explosions take place in my part of the world. It seems surreal even writing a sentence like this.

India has a fairly vocal anti-nuclear lobby. People like Kanti Bajpai, Praful Bidwai, Arundhati Roy et all have long been vocal about it. There are many people out there who subscribe to a no-nuclear test worldview. I am aware that there are at least some people in Pakistan who think the same way. But that concern hasn't spread beyond a section of the urban, educated secularized social elite. Neither do these people have much of a say in defense policy -in the same way that they don't have a say in defense policy in USA.

I talked to a fairly senior Indian Air Force officer right after the Pokhran blast who mentioned in passing he doesn't like the fact that we tested the bomb (he did continue on to say that now that its done, we should just support it and go ahead with life ...).

There is a very large number of people in both India and Pakistan are uneducated about the implications of a nuclear bomb. Many of those who are actually propagating a war are doing so without being aware of the consequences of such a war. Many Indians who you hear speak actively for a nuclear war in USA are conveniently far away from the epicenter of the dispute.

About a decade back when I was in Delhi, I and a friend of mine spent a full hour staring uneasily from our window at a scooter parked in the middle of nowhere, wondering if there is a bomb in it and should we call the police. There are now places in India where the population is living like that day in and day out. Where innocents die every day. Where people now are so desensitized that they don't react anymore to the daily headlines. The conflict is no longer about Kashmir. the Islamic terrorists/militants/whatever from Kashmir/Pakistan have successfully extended the theatre and you can work towards containment for only so long.

Vajpayee (the current PM in India) tried to engage both Nawaz Shariff and Musharraf in dialogues (at the risk of alienating his core support base).He made a trip to Pakistan on his own steam. He invited Musharraf over. Sharif got thrown out by the military there. The second one rebuffed him. Unfortunately for India, the Pakistani society has invested too much of their emotional selves on the conflict with India.

We happen to have a rogue nation right next door. Taliban wouldn't have been in power in Afghanistan if it were not for Pakistan.. Before 9/11 US state department used to say the same thing. Thankfully, their website STILL say the same thing.

The escalation at the border is simply to try to force Pakistan towards reining in their support of terrorism in Kashmir. It is about trying to let your people sleep peacefully at night. Its bleeding the Indian economy, but it is bleeding the Pakistani economy a lot more.

I pray that playing brinkmanship doesn't end up in a bigger tragedy.
posted by justlooking at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2002


oops..sorry about the REALLY long post. didnt realize it developed into such a long rant
posted by justlooking at 2:20 PM on May 29, 2002


The kinds of words I hear coming out of India and Pakistan about limited nuclear war sound very familiar....

The 1950s saw many "respectable" Americans advocating limited nuclear war as a way of ending our problems with The Rooskies once and for all. Many of those doing such advocating had some power within the government. And yet somehow we managed not to. Maybe it was calculated; there's a theory of deterrence that says you should convince your opponent that you're crazy enough to actually use the weapons even if you have no intention of doing so.

I believe that when push comes to shove, the same kind of common sense that convinced America not to use its weapons in the 1950s will convince Pakistan and India not to use theirs today. I hope I'm right.
posted by geneablogy at 2:28 PM on May 29, 2002


I am reasonably sure that the blasts in Hiroshima, Nagasaki destroyed more civilian lives for generations to come than in probably any other conflict (I don't know the numbers for Vietnam ..). I am aware of what Japan did to South East Asia and China and recognize the evil. I don't really have an argument against its use. But let us at least call a spade a spade and say 'may more of our soldiers' lives' rather than make a simplistic statement like that.


I stand by my statement, as is.

If Operation Olympic had gone through, Japan would have become a battleground. Given that, and given Japan's propensity to use suicide tactics (which would have employed individuals who were "civilian" until the US landed troops), I think it's entirely reasonable to argue that the US atom bombing *saved* Japanese lives as a net result.

Of course, I'd argue that saving the soldier's lives was sufficient justification.
posted by dissent at 3:53 PM on May 29, 2002


I am reasonably sure that the blasts in Hiroshima, Nagasaki destroyed more civilian lives for generations to come than in probably any other conflict (I don't know the numbers for Vietnam ..).

according to this guy, Japan's infrastructure sucked so bad that our actual alternative to Olympic was to simply bomb their railroads and let everyone starve. And it probably would have worked. Interesting read.

As for the "more civilian lives..." this page says that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs killed 66,000 and 39,000 respectively. Now, I'm not even going to bring up the whole Holocaust thing, but the firebombings of Tokyo, Berlin, Dresden etc. killed more that that.

And for the record the Viet Namese government puts the total civilian casualties at roughly 2,000,000 each, North and South.
posted by hob at 6:58 PM on May 29, 2002


hrm, on that last link you have to scroll down to the bottom and ignore the rant, which is poorly differentiated from the "translation," which is in fact pretty damned loose. sorry.
posted by hob at 7:06 PM on May 29, 2002


Of course, I'd argue that saving the soldier's lives was sufficient justification.
Avoiding the war would have saved more.
posted by thirteen at 7:48 PM on May 29, 2002


Avoiding world war two would've saved lives?

::sputter:: ::choke::
posted by ook at 8:33 PM on May 29, 2002


Avoiding the war would have saved more.

I don't jump in these very often, but that has to be called out. That is WWII you are talking about - not India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, or anything in Africa or the Balkans. MAYBE those wars - or genocides - could have and can be avoided. Avoiding WWII would have required a lot more complete passive resistance than two-thirds (maybe more) of the world was willing to do at the time, and would have involved giving at least two totalitarian regimes free reign to do whatever they wanted to anyone on the planet who wasn't one of "them".

And on preview, what Ook sputtered.
posted by yhbc at 8:43 PM on May 29, 2002


I'm not even going to bring up the whole Holocaust thing

Holocaust was a case of systematic genocide; Evil on a scale hopefully not to be witnessed ever again. Comparing holocaust with war deads elsewhere is probably not appropriate (I did think of Holocaust even as I was typing that statement).

Dresden casualty estimates seem to range between 35000 to 200,000.

This place pegs the number of civilian dead in Vietnam at close to 600,000 as an estimate and US soldiers dead at around 57,000.

A similar number apparently were killed during Stalin's collectivization .

I, unfortunately made a poorly researched, badly articulated statement. What I was trying to get across is simply that sparing the lives of civilians or resisting the impulse to wreck wide spread havoc were not exactly a very high priority with either the US or the Russian governments. If anything, the mention of Dresden bombing reinforces my point. That bombing probably wrecked as much disaster as the western world was capable of unleashing at that time.

I wasnt saying that the use of the bomb in Hirosima Nagasaki was wrong.

Neither was I claiming that other countries behaved more responsibly. War is always a disaster for the civilian populations. With time, the world has been getting more and more sensitized to the prospect of innocents dieing and the countries that care have been getting more and more careful.

My problem was with (what I felt) was a streak of revisionism in that post and a tone of moral superiority in a few others which (IMHO) in matters of war are undeserved by the Western civilizations. Unfortunately, I don't appear to have made my point very well.
posted by justlooking at 9:37 PM on May 29, 2002


Safire raises a good question: where is China, who made Pakistan a nuclear power, in all this? I've been wondering about this too. I would think it's not in their interest to have a nuclear war next door, despite their rivalry with India.

Rushdie also weighs in.
posted by homunculus at 10:15 PM on May 29, 2002


That's a bizarre statement. Of course we have -- and the Russians went even farther, and may yet have many more tactical nukes laying around the country

yeah, you're right. I guess I worded it badly - I'm not saying we don't have anything that's *designed* for tactical purposes; I'm saying that actual tactical use is pretty much impossible (not literally, but fails to meet jus in bello requirements) because we've never been able to develop a weapon, the effects of which could be contained. mentor of mine in college was director of defense & arms control under clinton and he used to refer to "limited nuclear warfare" as an oxymoron. (he could be wrong, but i thnk that was/is the conventional wisdom.)
posted by lizs at 11:52 PM on May 29, 2002


I was refering to American lives, and avoiding WWII would have saved those lives.
posted by thirteen at 12:04 AM on May 30, 2002


Really, thirteen?

If the US had opted out of WWII, I think more American lives would have been lost, ultimately, as Japan and Gemany destroyed their enemies piecemeal and consolidated their resources.

Maybe you're saying we should have taken a more aggressive stance in preventing the war? That we should have preemptively attacked Nazi Germany, and Japan? Or would you say diplomatic efforts could have averted WWII (heh. yeah. right. suuuuuuuure.)

Please spell out exactly what you mean.
posted by dissent at 5:52 AM on May 30, 2002


In recent news:
Indian Premier's Poems Ponder Horrors of Nuclear War .
And Benazir Bhutto advises: Don't Bet on Musharraf to Avert War .
Meanwhile: "on his second day on the job, Pakistan's U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday that ruling out his country's use of nuclear arms against a conventional attack would give India a "license to kill" Pakistanis."
posted by talos at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2002


I was refering to American lives, and avoiding WWII would have saved those lives.

Oh, great. Of course it's just a given that only American lives matter; the rest of the world is just swarthy dirty people, so who cares about them? Lovely worldview you've got there.
posted by ook at 6:37 AM on May 30, 2002


My problem was with (what I felt) was a streak of revisionism in that post and a tone of moral superiority in a few others which (IMHO) in matters of war are undeserved by the Western civilizations. Unfortunately, I don't appear to have made my point very well.

Hmmm. I don't think I'm being revisionist. We killed a great many Japanese civilians in those atom bombings, and it was done with an eye to what would save *American* lives... BUT it's not revisionist to say we didn't start the war (um, it's *TRUE*) and it's not revisionist to say the net result of forcing a surrender without invasion was to save Japanese lives (also true).

I'll plead guilty to a tone of moral superiority, if you wish... especially since I have no interest in moral superiority. War's nasty, ugly, and brutish... and once it's entered into, all else becomes secondary to survival.

And I really hope India and Pakistan get to enjoy a nice, long, bloodless *cold*war... with end results as happy as that of the Soviet Union and the US... or better. (Say no economic collapse on either side)

Heh. The world had to be nervous while the US and the Soviets glowered at each other... only fair the US should take a turn being vicariously nervous I'd say... and only fair we should have to trust in the sanity of others, just as they had to trust in ours.
posted by dissent at 6:52 AM on May 30, 2002


That statement by Pakistan's UN ambassador was scary! May be that's what they mean by simulated madness.

Meanwhile, US denied plans to airlift Americans from India and Pakistan, Indian stock market crashed on anticipation of the US airlift and only the Pakistanis on the streets seem confident that war will not happen.
posted by justlooking at 8:53 AM on May 30, 2002


Oh, great. Of course it's just a given that only American lives matter; the rest of the world is just swarthy dirty people, so who cares about them? Lovely worldview you've got there.

Even if you were correct regarding my worldview, which you are not, I believe I hold the high ground. I made no value judgment regarding the world, only the part I live in. It was not our war, and there was no reason for our citizens to die. Europe and Asia should have handled their own mistakes. Every American solder who died was murdered by our government by failing to maintain the neutral course the American people overwhelmingly wanted. 60 years later, the world might be a different place if Europe had not ceeded all power to the states to take care of a problem that never could have survived in the long run.

Dissent: I don't think Germany could have ever permanently conqured any land beyond their borders. They certainly never would have been able to occupy England effectively, and Russia would have slipped away from them forever. There just were not enough of them to keep an unwilling empire. The states were perfectly safe, and really why would they even come here? How would they land an invasion force on the shores of a well prepared America? American solders should not have died for the mistakes of Europe.
posted by thirteen at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2002


When I say "our" I am speaking as an American. I realize the forum is International. Please forgive my mistake.
posted by thirteen at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2002


Heh. Actually, thirteen, I'd argue that the true mistake lay in our intervention in WWI, and *that's* the true error that was made. I can't see where a nut like Hitler and a menace such as WWII-era Japan can be given free reign- and, oh, by the way, Germany declared war on US, not the reverse- and not confronted. I *can* see where the grounds for US intervention in WWI were weak, and where it did us much more harm than good.

A WWI that stalemated, I think, would have had much better results for the world.
posted by dissent at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2002


oh, by the way, Germany declared war on US
As a result of our declaring war on Japan, because of Pearl Harbor, which could have been avoided by a policy of neutrality. Germany did not want a fight with the US, they wanted Japan display some recioprocity and attack Russia's eastern shore to divide their forces. WWI was total garbage as well, and the large reason why most American's felt no desire to go fight for an ungrateful Europe. I am no fan of the warmakers, and obviously am not rooting for Hitler. I am however supporting the most basic rights of my fellow citizens.
posted by thirteen at 10:16 AM on May 30, 2002


« Older No Carnivore? No Osama evidence...  |  Idiots on Unicycles.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments