By Jim Miles
I have lived my whole life under the notifications of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and their Doomsday Clock. It is currently set a two minutes to midnight after many years of variance, some as far away as seventeen minutes. After reading Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, it would probably be more appropriate to move it forward to ten seconds before midnight. A combination of two main factors – global climate change and nuclear weapons launch on warning risks – puts not only humanity but virtually all species under threat of extinction.
Admittedly it is just a metaphor. Obviously if you are reading this at least a several midnight’s worth of ten seconds has gone by without destruction. In consideration of global climate change however it is already past midnight for those killed by the various episodes of storms, droughts, floods, and food shortages accompanying this phenomenon. While global warming is assured by humanities output of carbon dioxide, the chance that some form of humanity will survive into another era does exist.
That chance drops to zero for nuclear war. Unlike global warming, nuclear war for most people, safely cocooned within their fuzzy entertainment distractions and/or the toil of daily life, has no daily impact or reminders. Arguably the vast majority of humanity does not truly understand the ultimate impact of a war anywhere going nuclear, a frame of mind the established powers in the west are quite content to see continue.
Turnabout, the same applies to global climate change. The more distraction and obfuscation and dissimulation (lying, concealing, ignoring) on climate change, the better it is for the corporate-military sector to continue on its wealth harvesting ways. These events will have smaller effects on my lifetime, with increasing problems for all successive generations, a slow turning up of the heat so that every new generation sees it as the new normal. That is, unless somewhere along the line, sooner or later, a tipping point is reached that flips what we now consider a rather benign climate into a threat to most of humanity.
The two are seriously linked together.
Climate change increases the chance of strife between different groups, of mass migrations, mass starvations, devastation of the resources that mankind needs to survive on. With the loss of oxygen producing capabilities and the toxic factor of too much carbon dioxide survival will be difficult. It could result in more wars, arguably already having an influence especially in the Middle East and the Sahel, more wars leading to the possibility of more aggressive wars pitting nuclear nations against other nations nuclear or not.
Nuclear war’s factors for the survival of humanity include the obvious initial destruction, the secondary and lingering radiation effects, and the predicted nuclear winter. This does not include the inevitable melt down of the four hundred plus nuclear plants scattered around the world, four hundred possible Chernobyls, Three Mile Islands and Fukishimas. War planning is such that the U.S. has first strike options ready ‘on the table’, at the same time that Russia has signalled that it has a new generation of both offensive and defensive weapons – created mostly after the U.S.’ abrogation of the 1972 Anti-ballistic missile treaty. China is calculated into U.S. plans, somewhat casually as China is unrealistically still considered to be much less advanced technologically. Initially U.S. war planners understood that hundreds of millions could die in a nuclear war without knowing about the consequences of nuclear winter. Once the latter idea was discussed and considered almost inevitable after such a war, that toll rises to include most of life on earth. Nuclear winter is global climate change writ large and sudden across the face of the earth.
Geopolitics dooms us….?
The dominant factor in all this is the U.S. geopolitical view of global domination – hegemony – under the guise of a neoliberal economic outlook and a neoconservative political perspective. It is a society based on consumer consumption promoted through a lifetime of advertising propaganda in the material sense, the pretentious and unrealistic “rugged individualism” of Reagan and Rand, and in the emotive ideas of being the world’s indispensable nation. To support the material side, the corporate world – ranging from the military industries, the financial corporations, through the large media outlets – supports the ongoing wars and subversions around the world in order to harvest the resources and use the cheap labour required to keep the domestic economy going.
This is aided and abetted by their many sycophantic allies. Europe has essentially been occupied and subordinated since WW II, for sure after NATO was created and even more so with its eastward expansion. Canada is essentially the 51st state of the union. Australia copies and parrots the U.S. line especially across south and east Asia. Japan and South Korea are similar to the European countries having been rebuilt through autocratic dictatorship or subordinate business class governments, along with large remaining contingents of U.S. military personnel. Other countries, many of them theocratic dictatorships (Saudi Arabia and the members of the Gulf Council), have worked out a plan of support with the U.S. in order not to be attacked as others who have rejected U.S. dominance have suffered subversion and direct attack (Iraq, Libya, and Syria as prime examples).
The U.S. is not immune to certain forms of blowback. Israel is the tail that frequently wags the U.S. dog and has a powerful lobbying position inside Congress. Similarly the Saudis have a large lobby, looking for means to ensure their security but foremost to ensure the circulation of the dollars they earn. If they needed to, both countries would ditch the dog in order to turn to another benefactor that suits their circumstances and desires.
The dollar dooms us….?
Without the power of the dollar, the U.S. would collapse geopolitically. It is not the fact of the dollar’s ubiquitous use, its power to bribe and coerce, but its use as the global reserve currency. In order to trade globally, the institutions of the Washington consensus (i.e. those institutions supposedly functioning independently around the world – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, SWIFT, BIS) have created a financial environment in which the US$ reigns supreme. Only the U.S. can ‘print’ its money, only the U.S. can carry a trade imbalance because of the dollar’s global necessity, and only the U.S. can carry such a whopping debt load without collapsing. Only the U.S. can run such a large military budget (trillions of dollars if all aspects such as the nuclear sites and security measures are added in). All this since the U.S. took itself off the gold standard and its limitations.
The real threat to the dollar would be its lack of use, something Russia has indicated it wishes, but even more strongly China has outright stated that the era of the US$ as the sole global fiat currency is drawing to a close. While China has been noted as a trade competitor/challenger, it is Russia that has become the neocon ‘other’, the country that is to be maligned and discredited regardless of evidence and truths. Russia has large resource wealth, a strong agricultural sector, a renewed manufacturing/technology sector, a relatively stable economy (in spite of sanctions and regardless of U.S. media reports otherwise), and a large nuclear arsenal – and now a tested and experienced military force used in an asymmetric war. Having overcome the depredations of the Yeltsin U.S. shock doctrine era, Russia has rebounded to become once again a major power on the geopolitical stage. Russia and China have been pushed together as a result of U.S. actions threatening both economically and militarily.
Moral and intellectual cretins doom us….?
The philosophical meanderings of geopolitics, its hubris, arrogance, wilful ignorance, combine with the power of the dollar and the power of the military to create our existence on the edge of midnight. What has saved us in the past has been the few individuals with enough intelligence and enough moral certitude while being in the right place at the right time that has prevented any nuclear catastrophe to date. Those kind of people are few and far between in the political military mindset of western leaders as it is almost incumbent upon them to at best be unable to think critically and morally. The vetting process through the western ‘democratic’ systems ensures that only the mentally damaged, the mentally unstable, those easy for the deep state to manipulate, ever get to be in leadership roles.
It does not matter a whole lot if a Canada’s blowhard government with its sycophantic support of U.S. foreign policy and its carefully crafted Russophobia rising from Chrystia Freeland’s warped mind calls for actions against Russia or China. However the current turnstile residents of Washington’s cuckoo nest – while simply continuing and aggravating all previous U.S. government’s war mongering – should chill anyone to the marrow. As of today, the military is well ensconced in the major positions of unelected power, while the likes of chicken-hawk neocon John Bolton circle around looking for carrion.
Trump himself is an arrogant, narcissistic, ignorant and readily manipulated leader. His unscripted speaking only demonstrates the inability to put coherent thoughts together in order to formulate a plan, at the same time highlighting his lack of any moral sensibilities. Given that, it is the people he has brought into the White House along with those already on the same trajectory as his “fire and fury” comments that are the big concern, the nuclear war concern. I am not sure how they do it, but somehow in their minds a first strike nuclear war is winnable, a small scale tactical nuclear strike is containable, and threats will not create a response.
Solutions and a pessimistic future
The solutions are easy: get rid of nuclear weapons and change our consumptive lifestyles and become highly innovative with energy technology. Simple. Except that the world that wants the simple solution has to deal with the cretins and morons that for whatever reason are able to convince the majority that they should remain in power. Part of that is achieved by providing the warm fuzzy comforts of life as cheaply as possible, blaming others when that cannot be achieved at the personal level, creating the myth of rugged individualism that it is the person’s own fault. and then, ultimately, finding and creating an enemy to redirect that anger and distract the populace from the domestic roots of the problem.
The ‘simple’ solution is blocked by a rather desultory education system, a corporate controlled media, and an ever increasing militarized police state. It is this latter that will prevent change as the current “one percenters” will not relinquish power and control without a fight, a fight that the domestic populations do not seem to have in them, nor is it latently visible. In other words, while the solutions are available to a rationale moral mind, the imperial structure is such that those minds will have little if any effect on outcomes.
The U.S. (thus the ‘western world’) will change only under two related circumstances. First would be the demise of the US$ as global fiat currency. The sudden rush of dollars returning ‘home’ and the unpayable trillions of debt would collapse the economy, and the economies of the rest of the world would suffer significantly – with a caveat that Russia and China already have in place a system of exchange separated from the previously mentioned Washington consensus. Whither then Israel and Saudi Arabia? Europe?
The next consideration then becomes whether the U.S. will go down without initiating a nuclear war and would bring the military home. China and Russia probably prefer this to be a ‘soft’ landing for the U.S. economy, without really disrupting too much of the wealth of the powers that be, allowing them to continue to reside in relative ease over an impoverished third world country and without support for a global military empire. A ‘hard’ landing, a sudden crash of the economy by either a foreseen event (e.g. the coming gold standard oil bourse in China) or some other unforeseen event might trigger a hard response as associated with all U.S. challenges as being wars (on drugs, on crime). The global set of military bases may then be put into action, into global disaster.
The world as such, the natural world, does not require that humans exist. That we do is sort of a miracle, developing from the probabilities of all the interactions that have gone before us. If we cease to exist, the planet will circle our star for billions of years without us. Yet somehow, we care. Call it whatever you want, but people strive for life, strive for fulfillment, strive for the most part to pass on a better world to our children and grandchildren. Humanity as a species is a temporary thing, but while we are here, should we not strive to get rid of that which could kill us, to move into that space that our supposedly well developed minds can create such that all of us can co-exist peacefully? It is a thin possibility, becoming thinner as the clock ticks towards midnight.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.