work? Or of a President who seeks to allay Russian fears of a first strike, so that he can proceed with deployment of an anti-missile system without violating the A.B.M. treaty, by encouraging the Russians to put their missiles on Launch-on-Warning? \(Remember that experimental missile launched from the W bile an unfounded faith in the continued controllability and efficacy of technology plays a role in the missile defense saga now playing itself out \(i.e., “Let’s get something up, we can get it working later with enough Lethal Arrogance is any analysis of the class interests of the peo ple who make the decisions about the devel opment and deployment of new technolo gies. It is not arrogance alone that moves U.S. policies, but also greed and the will to dominate. Profits in the military-industrial complex are much higher than in the rest of the economy. \(When I last checked, profits on invested capital were running at 22 per cent a year, although I’m told that things have worsened for Boeing, making them while completely unable to prevent a suici dal attack with a bomb in a suitcase, would credible first strike capacity against China, and perhaps against Russia should its forces continue to deteriorate a military fist use ful in all sorts of negotiations, presuming that Russian and China wish to wait politely while we unilaterally deploy such a threatening system. Such a system would also allow the U.S. to continue to intimidate with impunity those smaller nations that might develop a nuclear capacity to defend themselves. An unlikely motive? Consider the Air Force Space Commands stated purpose: “Protecting U.S. interests and investments through command of space.” Lethal Arrogance is written from the conventional presumption that the United States reflexively seeks democracy and peace in the world, a presumption necessary to any writer who wishes to be taken seriously by The New York Times \(and I don’t know that Dumas dence that what the U.S. seeks, in fact, is military and economic domination. He accepts, for instance, the State Department’s \(re”countries threatening the peace,” hence becoming proper targets for sanctions by a benevolent world order. But there is no discussion of the actual effects of the brutally grinding economic sanctions against Cuba and Iraq, that might belie this presumption of U.S. benevolence. Dumas writes, “Poverty and frustration can be a fertile breeding ground for conflict,” when he might just cluded, “Conflict is an inevitable result of the domination and exploitation of Third World countries, and poverty is sustained by that exploitation.” Sometimes this limited perspective leads to seemingly minor but annoying misinterpretations. It was not, as Dumas asserts, “groupthink” and bumbling that led to the pre-World War II Munich Agreement. As shown convincingly by Clement Leibovitz, Alvin Finkel, and Christopher Hitchens in In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Agreement, the consistent support of Hitler by the British ruling class \(who saw him as him to violate agreements and to develop the power to launch World War II. The Munich Agreement did not intend “peace in our time” but instead that Hitler would strike to the East, against Russia, and leave the West alone. Sometimes this misapprehension is more egregious. To discuss, as Dumas does, “state terrorism,” yet omit any mention of the U.S. role in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Somalia \(to name only a few obvious intorted melodrama about terrorism, for which the main actor is not on the stage. But of course, since the thrust of that melodrama is designed to raise fears about U.S. safety from what Edward Herman calls “retail terrorism” \(as opposed to the “wholesale” verno point in bringing it up, at least to American readers. That gets to the heart of what I see as the main limitation of Lethal Arrogance. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to use fear to foster any sustained progressive movement of the sort that Dumas indeed recognizes is necessary to achieve nuclear disarmament. Yet by attempting to make real the dangers of terrorism in order to pursue his larger argument, Dumas winds up proclaiming with the same scary messages \(perhaps updated a bit with a fashionable fear of biological ganauts: messages inevitably employed to promote Fortress America as well as attacks on civil liberties. Progressives can never outdo the Establishment politicians and media at that game, nor should they attempt to do so. Enough people already know that our safety doesn’t lie in nuclear weapons, and there are sizeable majorities in favor of abolishing them. What is needed now are positive visions that can pull together the diverse movements of people who sense that we are living in an irrational and decaying society, and organizational initiatives to knit together the fabric of a new social system. Despite the limitations in its analysis of the social forces sustaining our nuclear establishment, Lethal Arrogance with its well-researched compendium of accidents, tragedies, and farces provides a useful service. The book is a sobering reminder that as a nation and a species we are living on the razor’s edge, and need to attend to that perilous condition if we are to have a future at all. George Reiter is a professor in the physics department at the University of Houston. JULY 21, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 33
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