Thursday, September 16, 2004

hegemony or survival?

In his introduction to Noam Chomsky's essay, "The Resort to Force" Tom Engelhardt writes:
In Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky suggested that our leaders, facing the choice in the book's title, might well opt for hegemony over survival. "There is ample historical precedent," he wrote, "for the willingness of leaders to threaten or resort to violence in the face of significant risk of catastrophe. But the stakes are far higher today. The choice between hegemony and survival has rarely, if ever, been so starkly posed."

Thanks to the declassification and release (by The National Security Archive) of documents related to America's first Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), developed in 1960, we now know just how true this was over four decades ago. What we know, in fact, is that our military high command had laid out, and our top civilian leadership approved, a plan for the possible launching of a first strike meant to deliver over 3,200 nuclear weapons to 1,060 targets in the then-Communist world. Had all gone well, at least 130 cities would have simply ceased to exist. Official (classified) estimates of casualties from such an attack ran to 285 million dead and 40 million injured -- and some military men feared that the lethal effects of fallout on the United States itself from such an apocalyptic attack might be devastating. Given the underestimation of those fallout effects at the time, such an attack might indeed have meant, in a world of bizarre imperial conundrums, hegemony rather than survival. As it happens, we've had a SIOP ever since and still have one today. But what kind of an instrument of overkill it may be remains highly classified.

From the introduction to Slow Learner:
"Our common nightmare The Bomb is in there too. It was bad enough in '59 and is much worse now (1984), as the level of danger has continued to grow. There was never anything subliminal about it, then or now. Except for the succession of the criminally insane who have enjoyed power since 1945, including the power to do something about it, the rest of us poor sheep have always been stuck with simple, standard fear.