Countdown – 7 Seminal Moments in Global Security History – #4 (A-Bomb Explosion)

We continue our countdown of the 7 Seminal Moments in Global Security History with #4 – the A-Bomb Explosion. 

Previous posts covered #7, #6, and the #5 events.

The use of two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945 still stirs intense debate. 

What is not debatable and never to be forgotten is the human horror and shock resulting from the atomic bomb explosions and yet how significant a role these events would play on global security history in the years afterward.

TO END A WAR

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were defeated in Europe, but Imperial Japan lingered on in the Pacific Theater in August 1945. 

The Allies were war-weary yet faced an uphill climb and untold cost of treasure and lives to island hop across the Pacific Ocean to force Tokyo’s surrender.

So was the context of US President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use the A-bombs against Japan. 

The United States thus became the only country in human history to use nuclear weapons against a civilian population when the Enola Gay first dropped the a-bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and then Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. 

The Japanese Emperor Hirohito finally accepted the Potsdam Declaration and unconditionally surrendered after a last-ditch army coup attempt in Tokyo. The peace treaty was formally signed on September 2 aboard the US battleship USS Missouri

The titanic struggle between the Allies and Axis Powers only ended with sufficient will and force to overwhelm the determined enemy when the costs were raised astronomically by a weapon yet unused in human history. 

However, humanity had passed a threshold and there was no turning back. Pandora’s box was never to be closed again. The nuclear genie was set free to haunt the earth. The ending of World War II, already abuzz with sharpening differences between Moscow and Washington at the post-war conferences, laid the foundation for a possible nuclear nightmare in the ensuing Cold War. 

TO BRINK OF WAR

Miraculously, the nuclear nightmare never occurred during the nearly 45-year stalemate between the Soviet Union and the United States in the Cold War. 

The nuclear arms race was central to the Cold War. The massive buildup of weapons by both sides worried many of even an accidental nuclear exchange between Moscow and Washington. The counter-intuitive Mutually Assured Doctrine (MAD) – was just that – crazy! 

Ironically, argue observers of global security affairs, the nuclear missiles for launch by air, land and sea of the two aforementioned superpowers never were fired in anger at each other kept the Soviet Union and United States out of war. As the late Kenneth Waltz noted, nuclear weapons actually contribute to a (relative) stable peace.

The ideological, technological, military, and spy competitions carried on between Moscow and Washington, but in only two salient moments did the nuclear genie cause sparks to fly without igniting war.

First, the Cuban Missile Crisis perhaps was the closet the two superpower came to all-out war. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a secret meeting with his stooge, Fidel Castro, decided to counter recent US intermediate missiles in Turkey with Soviet ones in Cuba. The so-called October Crisis of 1962 did involve a naval standoff with the Soviets after US President John F. Kennedy imposed a “quarantine” around the communist island to thwart arms shipments. However, deft negotiations averted a nuclear exchange between the two powers. The known Soviet intermediate and medium-range missiles were withdrawn like the US ones in Turkey and only later the tactical nuclear weapons unbeknownst to Washington were recalled as well.

Second, nearly a decade later, the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab states threatened to involve the two superpowers. Again, a Moscow-backed third party sprang the tripwire of nuclear escalation. This time it was Egypt. After the “camouflage” of strained Moscow-Cairo relations confused an already distracted US mired in the Watergate scandal, Egypt and Syria united to attack Israel on two fronts on October 6, 1973. When Israel had the Egyptian First Army surrounded for assured destruction, the Soviets threatened “unilateral steps” if Washington did not call off Israel. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger reacted (without Nixon’s explicit instructions) to activate Defcon 3 which placed US nuclear forces worldwide “on the highest state of peacetime alert.” Moscow deferred. 

The two affairs demonstrated the nervy toe-to-toe dance Moscow and Washington endured during the Cold War. The high-stakes competition was punctuated by the Cuban and Yom Kippur Crises which brought the two superpowers to the brink of an unthinkable nuclear holocaust. Nuclear weapons were stabilizers in tumultuous times between 1945 and 1989 and thus defeating the central claim of anti-nuclear activists that the mere existence of nuclear weapons undercuts peace and makes war more certain.  

UNTO THE BREACH

Shakespeare’s King Henry V states:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;

The world now stands in the breach after surviving the Cold War and facing a frightening future of less rational state actors.

The bipolar world of a managed power struggle with nuclear stabilizers between Moscow and Washington is forever gone.

Today the multipolar world brings new challenges as great as humanity faced during the Cold War standoff. The lethalness of weapons continues to double and treble with the pace of technology. The rise of rogue nations like North Korea (nuclear), Iran (almost if not nuclear), and Syria (nuclear aspirant) and non-state actors like Al Quayda can easily cause mass destruction of human life driven by disparate but deadly ideologies. 

In sum, the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki opened a new chapter in human history, its pages still being written. 

Ukraine on a String

The Cheshire cat sitting in the Kremlin paws Ukraine like a toy at the end of a string. 

Because no “Western power” has made the costs of mischief and mayhem  in Crimea costly at all, the ex-KGB colonel is on the verge of gobbling up his prey. The end game is not in doubt in Ukraine.

The refusal by freedom-loving leaders to heed the top 3 Truisms of Global Security means the eventual end of Ukraine as a sovereign nation. Let’s review them from #3 to #1. 

Global Security Truism #3: Diplomacy is doomed without credible threat of force

Russian leader Vladimir Putin sees a prone European Union addicted to his gas exports. 

Even worse, as evident for many years now, the ill-prepared US president, Barak Obama, the titular head of the world’s presumably only superpower, is not even a mere thought in Kremlin calculations.

Right from the beginning, when President Obama ditched the anti-missile shield in Europe and  kicked allies the Czech Republic and Poland in the teeth at the same time – all in a bid to curry favor with Putin – the Russian leader knew the US was under new management. 

The deliberate and sustained abandonment of US obligations on the world stage without any strategic rationale and deep cuts in the defense budget (while America’s rival arm up) can only delight an iron-willed dictator plotting mischief and mayhem in Ukraine. 

The West does not represent a credible countervailing force to Russia because its leaders are deficient and making colossal global security errors at a time of growing challenges from states who do not cherish freedom.

Thus, Putin pushes for maximum gain in Ukraine without even token push back.

Global Security Truism #2: Weakness begets challenges

Violation of Global Security Truism #3 leads directly to Global Security Truism #2. 

The time to stop Putin in Ukraine was many years ago, not today. Why would the Kremlin contemplate naked aggression against a sovereign nation if it knew the West had serious (and credible) leaders?

Had Putin known the consequences of an invasion, he would not have ordered the mischief and mayhem. When stooges in Kiev were no longer able to do his bidding, he understood rightly that Western weakness would continue in face of Russian defiance. 

However, a pattern of weakness emanating from Washington and EU capitals over the years overwhelming convinced Putin that a freedom-loving country could be swallowed up in chunks without any meaningful resistance. 

Western interests in the standoff with the Kremlin are beyond the survival of Ukraine. Its fate is sealed. A renascent Russia rears its ugly head and presents a clear, and present challenge in Europe.

Continued Western diffidence before a confident Kremlin promises more mischief and mayhem in the future.

Global Security Truism #1: Aggressors set the agenda

Vladimir Putin is in full control of the Ukraine campaign in concert with Truism #1.

An estimated 40,000 regular troops are poised on the Ukraine border for the denouement after Putin’s thugs and intelligence officers complete their rampages in eastern Ukraine cities, all to create a pretext for the looming invasion

The West is reactive and rudderless. The United States summarily rejected shipping arms to Ukraine making Putin’s job even easier.

The hapless European Union (in name only) is less than a paper tiger – where is the roar? Brussels dare not even chide the Kremlin because of big money investments in Russia

West European diplomacy vis-a-vis dictators swallowing up smaller states is not a strong suit. European history is replete with examples.  

While the Cheshire chat dangles Ukraine on a wire, so does he the Western liberal democracies who are impotent in face of naked aggression toward another freedom-loving country.

Conclusion

There is no bold leader in the West to tell Putin “no!”

Despite having the resources and yes, military might (the only language aggressors understand) to stop the full invasion of Ukraine, the West is content to wait for the next crisis the Kremlin provokes when the stakes will be even higher. 

 

Countdown – 7 Seminal Moments in Global Security History – #5 (Iranian Revolution)

Iran’s revolution shook the country, the Mid East region, and the world in February 1979. Its ramifications reverberate till today thus making the Iranian Revolution the #5 Seminal Moment in Global Security History. 

Our previous countdown include the Treaty of Versailles at #7 and the Russian Revolution at #6. 

Impact: Iran

A broad nationalistic movement for democracy and relief from the acute economic crisis at the time against Western-supported, corrupt, and repressive Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi first resulted in a secular provisional government. 

However, the Iranian Revolution was hijacked by the mullahs at the behest of the political and spiritual leader, the former exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The mass of Iranian people used by the mullahs were betrayed as a radical, strictly fundamentalist regime emerged in Tehran.

One dictatorship was overthrown just to install another one as political repression resumed, but from the Islamic angle. 

Iran today supports international terrorism in a bid for regional hegemony (see below) and pursues nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them to forever institutionalize the Shia  regime on the world stage. Already the West is frightened by any direct measures to challenge Tehran on the nuclear front.

Impact: Mid East Region

Revolutions often have consequences beyond a state’s border. Iran has acted to make sure its radical brand of Islam is exported. 

The 1979 revolution fundamentally changed the course of Iran’s foreign policy and created lingering instability throughout the Mid East region. It inspired both Sunni and Shiite Islamists alike who seethe and suffer from the social, economic, and political troubles across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The Revolution has offered them hope to overturn the existing order and impose their own radical vision on the state.

Iran is heavily involved in protecting the Assad Regime in Syria. Through terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran wields considerable influence in a region split into roughly two camps: axis of resistance and axis of accommodationIsrael recently raided an Iranian freighter in the Red Sea carrying rockets and other munitions to the Gaza Strip. Tehran’s blind drive for nuclear status may even encourage Saudi Arabia to adopt nuclear weapons for deterrent value. The threat from Iran to the Saudi Kingdom is so acute, Riyadh even contemplates cooperation with Israel. Iran exercises the most influence in Iraq through its proxies than ever before.

Like an octopus, Tehran’s tentacles have spread throughout the Mid East region and totally with nefarious outcomes. 

Impact: World

Iran is a player on the global stage because of three important issues to the international community: oil, terrorism, and nuclear weapons. That is a potent mix for freedom lovers around the world to contemplate. 

The ill-prepared US Administration has opened the flood gates of goodies to Tehran in exchange for smiles from the new president and negligible nods of cooperation on Iran’s nuclear drive. Iran will become a nuclear state (most likely already is) with the full cooperation of the US, the so-called “Great Satan.” Even a gadfly in global security knows Washington has not carefully calculated the costs of releasing Iran from the international sanctions regime without any meaningful concessions from Tehran

 

Now, increased oil exports flow freer from Iran to its worldwide clients. Now Tehran has even more hard currency to fund its nuclear program, ballistic missile program, and terrorism program. That is just what the world needs. 

Conclusion

If possible, the Middle East is more dangerous with a radical Islamic revolutionary regime in Tehran. 

The threat is even more dire with the world’s lone superpower (in name only) assenting to and facilitating cheerfully Iran’s breakout from the international sanctions regime. For next to nothing, Iran is showered with economic rewards for its defiance of the international community over decades in its blind pursuit of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Where does Iran want to deliver its nukes? The mind wonders. 

The Iranian Revolution of February 1979 lives on today in a mutated state. The dictatorship in Tehran remains just like during the Shah, but even more severe toward its people while smiling at the world powers and plotting their destruction at the same time.The global community blissfully ignores the lessons of history by pampering the regime in Tehran.

Thus, the Iranian Revolution rightly lands at #5 in our countdown of the Most Seminal Moments in Global Security History.