Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: M.A.D. about W.M.D.

At the end of World War II, perhaps fearing what would follow if the Soviet Union were allowed to invade Japan by land, the United States opted to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While this action brought about the swift end to fighting in the Pacific Theater it was meant to, it also started the nuclear arms race that would strain U.S./Soviet relations for decades to come. As each strove to gain advantage weapons were positioned with allies in striking distance of their adversary’s positions. This ultimately led both nations to develop the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) they hoped would prevent nuclear war.

We generally refer to this posturing and the conflicts that broke out between proxy nations armed by it as the Cold War and leave it at that. Seldom are we asked to consider how decisions made during that period have influenced events following the fall of the Soviet Union. The truth is those weapons positioned and allegiances established have continued to influence our decisions. For instance, it is fear of allies formed and weapons positioned with them during the Cold War that sparked a war in the Middle East that has now raged for decades.

To understand this you must first know that biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons (collectively referred to as Weapons of Mass Destruction or W.M.D. today) and the technologies required to manufacture them were frequently traded to establish alliances with nations before they’d willingly agree to oppose the will of either the U.S. or Soviet Union. This is in fact how nations like Iraq and Syria came to possess the weapons capabilities that drove us to invade in the first place. While it may not make sense to place W.M.D. in the hands of such nations today, it did when M.A.D. was our guiding philosophy.

That’s it in a nutshell. The impetus for decades of war in the Middle East was the end of the Cold War and the fading of M.A.D. and fear of it from our collective memories. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 merely elevated fear of W.M.D. and the nations they’d been given to while our greatest fear was nuclear holocaust. In understanding this you can understand why weapons we wouldn’t dream of placing in the hands of unstable leaders today were placed in the hands of potentially unstable leaders during the Cold War and how those decisions have influenced our actions since.

We refer to the sharp rise in fear that caused our government to strike entities that had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11, empowering the radicals who would destabilize and throw the Middle East into a conflict that has lasted nearly 20 years, as Fog of War. We call it this in an attempt to make sense of the fact that decisions not supported by the information at hand are often made during times of war. Of course, those who wish to defend the decisions will always insist that matters were not so clear at the time. In truth, they are recalling the fog that prevented them from seeing things for what they were and are showing us just how debilitating and long lasting the effects of it can be.

The truth is, those who urged the government to strike out at anything resembling the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001 were in a state of panic that prevented them from seeing things for what they were. That is why they insisted that time not be taken to ensure that the response directly impacted those responsible for the attacks and that our attention remain focused there until we were confident that specific threat had been dealt with. Their faith in a blanket response, one not focused because it was meant to prevent anything resembling the attacks from ever happening again, was the best solution their panicked minds could grasp through the Fog of War.

I was studying past conflicts and phenomena like Fog of War that interfered with our attempts to win them shortly before the attacks of 9/11 and the bombing of the USS Cole that caused many of us working the problem to believe that Al Qaeda had increased the tempo and impact of their operations. The study had the desired effect, allowing me to see clearly the threat and how it must be addressed, as it had with so many military and intelligence leaders who advised caution. Our political structure prevented us from actually leading the response. Civilian leaders seeking glory and political support led instead, derailing any chance we had of swiftly dealing with the problem.

Unfortunately, we have come to expect our civilian leaders to interfere with defense as many of us had learned in the years preceding the attacks of 9/11. The political atmosphere compels them to wade into territory they have no expertise in as they seek support to further their political careers. I don't care which party you favor, I've watched both do it for 30 years. I occasionally attempt to speak directly to voters, and have for 20 years, because I don't see a better way to confront this threat to national security. I don't expect things to improve until politicians stop weighing in on such matters and start encouraging Americans to listen to their military and intelligence leaders instead.

Jamie Beaulieu

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13 Responses »

  1. My fraternity is the United States Marine Corps. I am a graduate of formal and informal education programs offered to military leaders of the Marine Corps and Navy by Marine Corps Intelligence Schools and the Naval War College. I trained alongside enlisted Marines in preparation for an invasion of Iraq that did not come on the early 90's and operations in Somalia that did come but were short lived. I have known men who fought in every military engagement from WWI on and have received training from those who took part in every one since the Korean War. My mentors belonged to a variety of military and intelligence disciplines, enabling me to develop a well rounded understanding of our defense structure.

    I was prepared to assess the battlefield and to offer advice leading to victory. I've too often found myself warning that the path chosen might be endless instead, as it has most certainly expanded the territory and number of those extremists who carried out terrorist attacks in an effort to draw us into battle with the intention of exhausting our resolve and resources as they once did the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The fact that one super power was brought to its knees as it became overextended in the Middle East should not be lost on anyone weighing in on this topic, for while we do not face another super power any longer our adversaries and allies may yet see benefit in our folly. I urge you to consider your options carefully as the upcoming election season nears.

  2. This is important.
    Who is the Presidential Candidate with the most level head about this?
    Is Tulsi Gabbard for real?
    I'm very much on the conservative side so her Party bothers me,(I'm pro-life.period).
    But on this WMD issue, I like her "rhetoric".


  3. Candidate she seems sincere about bringing home our troops and ending these forever wars. Although I like her stance on this I can not vote for her because of her 2A stance. Not only that she will have to be a write in because her party will never allow her to be the candidate she is far too moderate for todays democrat party.

  4. This is the issue that will likely determine where America directs the majority of its deficit spending. I like to think of debt as an opportunity for investment and judge its use in that manner. If the credit extended by tax payers produces increased tax revenues, or serves some vital purpose for Americans, then it can be a good use of debt.

    This is an interesting topic from my perspective because I saw Congress refuse to spend to snuff out the terrorist threat before 9/11 before it spent lavishly in an attempt to eliminate every group or nation resembling such a threat after 9/11. As far as I can tell, both approaches played into extremists hands. The overambitious response to 9/11 cost at least 6.5 trillion dollars in debt spending, and focused primarily on limiting the power of nation states that had nothing to do with the attacks.

    Debt spending was also used to fund tax cuts for corporations and the ultra wealthy beginning in 2001. While passed on the promise of delivering increased tax revenues these cuts instead contributed to conditions leading to economic downturn. Some of the accounting I've seen on this, typically based on figures provided by the Congressional Budget Office, suggest that the top ten percent of earners have reaped about 80% of the benefit. That's allowed them to grow buying power as the rest of America lost it. Some estimates place the cost of these cuts at 4 trillion dollars in debt spending.

    The last big ticket spending item that did not exist prior to 9/11, when we last ran a balanced budget, were the bailouts put through in response to the recession that impacted most of the world beginning in 2007. That's one we might argue was beneficial because it prevented some major economic drivers from collapse, preserving those sources of tax revenue for decades to come. I know the cost of these spending measures was placed lower than the cost of the tax cuts and war spending that made them necessary, perhaps at 2 trillion dollars.

    I didn't make mention of it above, but every period of war has an impact on the health of the nation. We experience the cost of treatment conditions resulting from the increased stress the population endures during these periods in a variety of ways. Businesses bare some burden in lost productivity, government contributes some debt spending to address the impact on vulnerable groups, and medical institutions see increased expenditures which they pass on to insurers and consumers.

    I don't know which candidate will best address these matters, but I know I'm looking for one who isn't afraid to talk about recouping tax dollars that have allowed one group to profit through the wars that have hurt most of us. Speaking of talking, I'd really like to see a politician who isn't afraid to talk their way to a solution with our adversaries on the podium. Our military and intelligence communities are more than capable of making things hard on those who won't work with our political leaders, so there is zero need for them to posture by refusing to negotiate.

  5. I don't expect things to improve until politicians stop weighing in on such matters and start encouraging Americans to listen to their military and intelligence leaders instead.

    The Constitution gives to politicians the authority to weigh in on such matters, at the top of the command structure. Do you advocate amendments to change that? If not, aren’t you encouraging elected politicians to abandon their duty? Congress seems to have done that long since, so you want POTUS to leave it to the generals? (I think I’ll watch 7 Days in May again.)

    When they encourage Americans (me?) to listen to those leaders, then what? Who’s running the show? Do we hold a national referendum on every military decision?

  6. After the Soviet Union fell the W.M.D. positioned with concerning leaders during the Cold War became a topic of conversation among political leaders and the national security community. Plans to contain the threat were drawn up and an attempt was made to convince Americans it was necessary to carry those plans out as Kuwait was being liberated. The first Bush administration smartly decided not to proceed.

    What has taken place since 9/11 closely resembles the above mentioned plans. In my estimation it was those attacks which convinced Americans to view W.M.D. in a way they had not at the close of the Cold War, which ambitious politicians then used to propel those plans and their political careers forward. I honestly feel it is that simple, as prior to 9/11 our concern for W.M.D. ended with a discussion of the ballistic limitations of those nations in possession of them. In other words, we did not fear W.M.D. held by nations who could not fix them to a missile capable of reaching the United States. We worked to keep those nations in possession of them stable to ensure the weapons were not used by extremist groups we could not contain and punish as we could nations.

    It was a good approach, one that served us well throughout the Cold War, which is why military and intelligence professionals continued to support it even after 9/11.

  7. Too many words; earballs hurt....

  8. Capt. P... Couldn't agree more... Reminded me of back in my working days... I worked for a person that had all the degrees etc... also, like to impress people with how knowledgeable he was... The person we work for asked him to write a statement regarding a certain problem...... After a couple of days we went into the supervisors office... he scanned the 4 pages rather quickly..... gave it back and said 'lots of fluff here, put it on one page'....... I see the same thing here... Guess he has lots of spare time.. Now I must go... got a good book to read as I sit at the pool...

  9. Frostproof - No referendum necessary. Simply listen closely to military and intelligence professionals and judge political leaders on their willingness to accept the advice of experts.

    A cumulative learning experience is required to develop expertise in National Security, as is the case in most fields of study. Understanding of the topics involved is advanced slowly through the collective input of those who've developed expertise in them. You should be wary of those who lack such experience and yet claim expertise or use one or two pieces of data collected by the community in an attempt to convince you to do something immediately.

  10. Listen to military and intelligence agencies, I wouldn't put much faith in any of them. They have too many what ifs and oops we were wrong, to carry much weight. Osama, turns out he was chilling in Pakistan following 9/11 and yet it took 16 intelligence agencies 10 years to find him. Every few years somebody claims WMDs are somewhere, in 2001 it was Iraq, none were found, in 2004 it was Cuba, none were found, in 2013 it was Syria, none were found, People using "unethical" munitions is nothing new, The American military claims to not use them, but we still have them and we sold a bunch of them to Israel and Saudi Arabia, who still use them. Trump used a WMD when he dropped a MOAB on a mountain in Afghanistan. All this fear mongering, nobody has even detonated a dirty bomb since Iraq tested one, 30 odd years ago. And as many countries who actually do have WMDs, if somebody did have the inclination to use one, getting one wouldn't be that difficult. Bent spear and broken arrow incidents happen every so often. Even Baby Huey in North Korea wouldn't use one on anybody.

  11. Yes Glen, the only thing worse than the fluff is when people post links to websites biased toward their cause. Of course in their mind they think we will consider it as the gospel truth.

  12. I interviewed for a Defense Contractor job once near Washington DC.
    Developing New Threat Upgrades to be "sold" to the Military.
    Sold "thru" Paid Lobbyists to Influential Politicians who made them happen, despite any objections from the Great People of our Military.

    After a day of on site interviews and gathering info, I was asked if I would have a problem "supporting" a profitable upgrade that I personally might deem unneccessary?
    I did. End of interview.

    Our Great Military Defense is the Biggest Victim in this country of Political Pork.
    This is Dishonest Civilians, Inside our Capital, Fleecing All Of Us.
    Don't blame the Military. They follow orders.
    It's US to blame.

    Damn Lobbyists.

  13. Politicians can speak directly to the public anytime they wish. People in the defense dept. have to be more careful but if they cut down on the number of five hundred dollar hopper seats they accepted people might believe something they said. A long time ago I consistently voted for a man named Cohen, he disappeared and I though had something to do with the military. If so would love to hear what he has to say on the subject.