Imagine a World with U.S.-China Cooperation

by Lawrence Wittner

reposted from Z Blogs

On September 10, 2021, during an important diplomatic meeting that occurred by telephone, U.S. President Joseph Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping affirmed the necessity of a better relationship between their two nations.  According to the official Chinese summary, Xi said that “when China and the United States cooperate, the two countries and the world will benefit; when China and the United States are in confrontation, the two countries and the world will suffer.”  He added:  “Getting the relationship right is . . . something we must do and must do well.”

At the moment, however, the governments of the two nations seem far from a cooperative relationship.  Indeed, intensely suspicious of one another, the United States and China are increasing their military spending, developing new nuclear weapons, engaging in heated quarrels over territorial issues, and sharpening their economic competition.  Disputes over the status of Taiwan and the South China Sea are particularly likely flashpoints for war.

But imagine the possibilities if the United States and China did cooperate.  After all, these countries possess the world’s two largest military budgets and the two biggest economies, are the two leading consumers of energy, and have a combined population of nearly 1.8 billion people.  Working together, they could exercise enormous influence in world affairs.

Instead of preparing for a deadly military confrontation—one that appeared perilously close in late 2020 and early 2021—the United States and China could turn over their conflicts to the United Nations or other neutral bodies like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for mediation and resolution.  Aside from averting a potentially devastating war, perhaps even a nuclear war, this policy would facilitate substantial cuts in military spending, with savings that could be devoted to bolstering UN operations and funding their domestic social programs.

Instead of the two countries obstructing UN action to protect international peace and security, they could fully support it—for example, by ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Instead of continuing as the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, these two economic giants could work together to fight the escalating climate catastrophe by reducing their carbon footprint and championing international agreements with other nations to do the same.

Instead of blaming one another for the current pandemic, they could work cooperatively on global public health measures, including massive production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and research on other potentially horrendous diseases.

Instead of engaging in wasteful economic competition and trade wars, they could pool their vast economic resources and skills to provide poorer nations with economic development programs and direct economic assistance.

Instead of denouncing one another for human rights violations, they could admit that they both had oppressed their racial minorities, announce plans for ending this mistreatment, and provide reparations to its victims.

Although it might seem that such a turnabout is impossible, something roughly comparable happened in the 1980s, when the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, long a staple of international affairs, came to a sudden, unexpected end.  In the context of a massive wave of popular protest against the heightening Cold War and, particularly, the growing danger of nuclear war, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had the wisdom to see that the two nations had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by continuing down the path of rising military confrontation.  And he even succeeded in convincing U.S. President Ronald Reagan, long an ardent hawk but beleaguered by popular pressure, of the value of cooperation between their two nations.  In 1988, with the U.S.-Soviet confrontation fast collapsing, Reagan strolled pleasantly with Gorbachev through Moscow’s Red Square, telling curious onlookers:  “We decided to talk to each other instead of about each other.  It’s working just fine.”

Unfortunately, in subsequent decades, new leaders of both nations squandered the enormous opportunities for peace, economic security, and political freedom opened up by the end of the Cold War.  But, at least for a time, the cooperative approach did work just fine.

And it can again.

Given the current frosty state of relations between the governments of the United States and China, it seems that, despite the promising rhetoric at the recent Biden-Xi meeting, they are not yet ready for a cooperative relationship.

But what the future will bring is quite another matter—particularly if, as in the case of the Cold War, the people of the world, daring to imagine a better way, decide that it is necessary to set the governments of the two most powerful nations on a new and more productive course.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Peace & Change Editor Applications Are Due November 1, 2021 — There’s Plenty of Time to Apply!



The Peace History Society (www.peacehistorysociety.org) invites applications for the position of Executive Editor of Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research.  

Peace & Change is published by the Peace History Society (PHS) in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association (IPRA).  Its scholarly and interpretive articles engage with topics related to the achievement of a peaceful, just, and humane society.  The journal, whose medium is English, enjoys a global audience.  We endeavor to build bridges across disciplines and among peace researchers, educators, advocates, and activists.  Peace & Change recognizes the longstanding underrepresentation of scholars from marginalized groups within the fields of peace history and peace studies.  We are committed to inclusive editorial leadership that reflects the growing diversity of our scholarly community.  To this end, we seek applicants from all ethnicities, races, religions, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, dis/abilities, ages, and backgrounds.  Applicants should review the following information about the journal and the position.  Launched in 1972, Peace & Change publishes four digital issues a year.   It is co-owned by the PHS and Wiley (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14680130), with PHS exercising editorial control over the journal content and review process.  The successful applicant must demonstrate an ability to represent Peace & Change in interfacing with the PHS Board, PHS’s IPRA partners, the scholarly community, and various other constituencies.  The applicant must also have institutional support, which traditionally includes a one-course release and a graduate assistantship or the equivalent for the accompanying Managing Editor position.  The time commitment is estimated to be ten hours per week.  The key responsibilities and tasks of the Executive Editor include:  

  1. Receives all new submissions.  Screens all submissions for originality and fit to the journal’s mission.  Reads all valid submissions with the managing editor and determines which articles are sent out for review and which are declined.  
  2. Oversees double-blind peer review.  Identifies appropriate readers and sends out anonymized manuscripts for review.  Tracks due dates for readers’ reports and revised manuscripts for authors and send reminders as needed.  
  3. Keeps a database of reviewers, seeks new reviewers.  
  4. Evaluates readers’ reports and makes decisions about reviewed articles.  Communicates decisions to authors and includes anonymized readers’ reports (unless a reader requests to be identified).  
  5. Works with the authors to revise manuscripts to address reviewers’ and editors’ concerns.    
  6. Schedules articles for publication and forwards final versions to Wiley for Early View publication online.  Articles are submitted to Wiley for individual publication when drafts are in final form.  Wiley assembles the issues from the tables of contents provided by the Executive Editor.  
  7. Prepares articles for publication, from preliminary copyediting for house style and readability to reviewing and approving proofs and verifying the securing of permissions and copyright clearances prior to publication.  The Managing Editor may assist with copyediting and verification of copyright and is responsible for writing the Table of Contents and Notes on Authors for each issue.   
  8. Reviews the final draft of each issue and approves or enters final changes before publication.   
  9. Review final drafts of book reviews (solicited, developed, and edited by the Book Review Editor), assigns them to issues, and submits them to Wiley for production and publication.  
  10. Works with the Peace & Change Editorial Board on significant issues, nominates board members, and uses board members to review manuscripts.  
  11. Serves as the point person for communications between the PHS Board, the IPRA, and Wiley on matters concerning the content, publication process, policies, and production of the journal.  The PHS Board oversees matters related to subscriptions, profit sharing, and contractual matters with Wiley and IPRA.  
  12. Conducts outreach to potential authors, reviewers, and other contributors to the journal at conferences and other events.  The Executive Editor and Managing Editor will attend Peace History Society conferences to identify manuscripts that might be appropriate for submission to the journal.  
  13. Oversees publication of short-form pieces and news items on Peace & Change Blog.  The Managing Editor can review, edit, and post these features.  

    Wiley is migrating Peace & Change to a Scholar One platform, which will automate some parts of the work, including screening for originality and plagiarism and keeping the review process on track (sending reminders, etc.).  This will involve 2-3 meetings with Wiley developers at the start of the Executive Editor’s term to set up the automated workflow to suit their preferences.  

Please submit applications and inquiries to editorsearch@peacehistorysociety.org by November 1, 2021.  The search will continue until the position is filled.  Your application must include a vita and a letter setting forth your interest in the position, your relevant background and experience, and your vision for Peace & Change and the field of peace research.  Please also convey your institution’s commitment to yourself and to the journal.  We are open to applications by potential co-editors.  Please provide a joint letter of application, vitas, and information about support from your institution(s).  

The Fate of Cassandra:  Dire Predictions Go Unheeded

By Lawrence S. Wittner

In ancient Greek mythology, Cassandra was a priestess who was able to predict the future but unable to convince others to act upon her prophecies.

The fate of Cassandra seems particularly relevant today, for there has been ample warning about three developments that threaten continued human existence—preparations for nuclear war, climate change, and disease pandemics—without, however, adequate measures being taken to safeguard human survival.

Ever since the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945, prophetic voices have warned of doom if the world does not ban nuclear weapons.  And yet, the nine nuclear powers are currently engaged in a new nuclear arms race to build ever faster, more devastating weapons that, if used, will annihilate nearly all life on earth.

About three decades ago, climate change also became a major public issue, with scientists, politicians, and environmental organizations issuing prophetic statements about the extreme dangers ahead.  Today, following a remarkable display of inaction, massive wildfires and floods sweep across nations, the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and millions of climate refugees are fleeing for their lives.

More recently, specialists have warned of the outbreak of new, highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases around the globe.  And the result?  Thanks to the failure of governments to implement the necessary public health measures, a Covid-19 pandemic has already produced over 222 million cases and 4.6 million deaths, with no end in sight. 

Curiously, though, there is a major difference between the Cassandra of the Greek myths and her modern counterparts.  In the myths, Cassandra was ineffective because she was simply not believed.  By contrast, most people do believe our modern Cassandras and want action taken to avert catastrophe.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, polls have repeatedly shown that most people favor eliminating them.  A 2008 public opinion survey in 21 nations worldwide found that large majorities in nearly all the nations supported the total abolition of nuclear weapons.  Recently, public opinion surveys in Europe, Japan, and Australia reported similar results. 

Substantial majorities of people polled around the world also feel seriously endangered by climate change.  A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of people in 26 nations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa found that a median of 68 percent regarded climate change as a “major threat,” 20 percent as a “minor threat,” and only 9 percent as “not a threat.”  In early 2021, the UN Development Program announced the results of the “People’s Climate Vote” that covered 50 nations with over half the world’s population.  The program’s administrator declared that they “clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe.”

The Covid-19 disease pandemic also sparked an exceptionally strong demand for remedial action.  In late February 2021, an Ipsos survey of people in 15 nations found overwhelming numbers intending to be vaccinated in a variety of nations,  including Brazil (89 percent), Italy (85 percent), China (82 percent), Spain (82 percent), Mexico (80 percent), South Korea (80 percent), Canada (79 percent), Australia (78 percent), and Japan (74 percent).  Although rightwing politicians in the United States downplayed the seriousness of the epidemic and railed against vaccines and other public health measures, recent polls have found that 64 percent of Americans approve of mandatory vaccinations for everyone in the United States and that same percentage backs mask mandates for all public places.

Even so, governments have not taken adequate action to stave off the catastrophes of nuclear war, climate change, and disease pandemics.  Why?

One key factor is the control of public policy by self-interested economic forces.  Seeking lucrative military contracts from the U.S. government, giant corporations campaign relentlessly for the building of new nuclear weapons.  In 2020, the major nuclear weapons contractors in the United States employed 380 lobbyists and spent $60 million on lobbying, with great success.  This expenditure, of course, does not include their lavish campaign contributions to friendly politicians.   

Nor should we forget the immense role that wealthy fossil fuel corporations have played in sabotaging action to avert climate catastrophe.  Although ExxonMobil and other oil companies knew decades ago about what their products were doing to the environment, they funded a massive misinformation campaign designed to deny the findings of climate science, subvert public opinion, and block international treaties that could curb greenhouse gas emissions.  Thus far, they have been very successful.

As for the giant pharmaceutical companies, they treat the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reap vast profits.  Public health, of course, is dependent upon the worldwide distribution of antiviral vaccines as quickly as possible.  But the corporations manufacturing the vaccines, determined to maximize their income, refuse to waive their patent rights, thus preventing other companies or governments from producing or distributing the vaccine and, thereby, competing with them.  In this situation of scarcity, they sell the vaccines to the highest bidders among governments—overwhelmingly those of the richest nations.  Consequently, as of August 30, 2021, 57 percent of people in high-income countries had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while only 2 percent had received it in low-income nations.

A second key factor behind the inadequate response to these crises is the absence of a system of global governance.  Even when the baneful influence of powerful corporate entities is overcome, on occasion, in individual nations, there is no structure that can take remedial action on a global basis.  The closest the world has come to that structure is the United Nations.  But, if the United Nations is to meet the challenges posed by these existential crises, it needs substantial strengthening of its authority and resources.

Consequently, until corporate influence is curbed and the United Nations strengthened, our modern Cassandras’ warnings seem likely to go unheeded.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Is it possible to build social solidarity beyond the state?

It’s easy to conclude that it’s not.  In 1915, as national governments produced the shocking carnage of World War I, Ralph Chaplin, an activist in the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote his stirring song, “Solidarity Forever.”  Taken up by unions around the globe, it proclaimed that there was “no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” than international working class solidarity.  But, today, despite Chaplin’s dream of bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old,” the world remains sharply divided by national boundaries—boundaries that are usually quite rigid, policed by armed guards, and ultimately enforced through that traditional national standby, war.    

Even so, over the course of modern history, social movements have managed, to a remarkable degree, to form global networks of activists who have transcended nationalism in their ideas and actions.  Starting in the late nineteenth century, there was a remarkable efflorescence of these movements:  the international aid movement; the labor movement; the socialist movement; the peace movement; and the women’s rights movement, among others.  In recent decades, other global movements have emerged, preaching and embodying the same kind of human solidarity—from the environmental movement, to the nuclear disarmament movement, to the campaign against corporate globalization, to the racial justice movement.

Although divided from one another, at times, by their disparate concerns, these transnational humanitarian movements have nevertheless been profoundly subversive of many established ideas and of the established order—an order that has often been devoted to maintenance of special privilege and preservation of the nation state system.  Consequently, these movements have usually found a home on the political Left and have usually triggered a furious backlash on the political Right.

The rise of globally-based social movements appears to have developed out of the growing interconnection of nations, economies, and peoples spawned by increasing world economic, scientific, and technological development, trade, travel, and communications.  This interconnection has meant that war, economic collapse, climate disasters, diseases, corporate exploitation, and other problems are no longer local, but global.  And the solutions, of course, are also global in nature.  Meanwhile, the possibilities for alliances of like-minded people across national boundaries have also grown.

The rise of the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament exemplifies these trends.  Beginning in 1945, in the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, its sense of urgency was driven by breakthroughs in science and technology that revolutionized war and, thereby, threatened the world with unprecedented disaster.  Furthermore, the movement had little choice but to develop across the confines of national boundaries.  After all, nuclear testing, the nuclear arms race, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation represented global problems that could not be tackled on a national basis.  Eventually, a true peoples’ alliance emerged, uniting activists in East and West against the catastrophic nuclear war plans of their governments.

Much the same approach is true of other global social movements.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, play no favorites among nations when they report on human rights abuses around the world.  Individual nations, of course, selectively pick through the findings of these organizations to label their political adversaries (though not their allies) ruthless human rights abusers.  But the underlying reality is that participants in these movements have broken free of allegiances to national governments to uphold a single standard and, thereby, act as genuine world citizens.  The same can be said of activists in climate organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org, anticorporate campaigns, the women’s rights movement, and most other transnational social movements.

Institutions of global governance also foster human solidarity across national borders.  The very existence of such institutions normalizes the idea that people in diverse countries are all part of the human community and, therefore, have a responsibility to one another.  Furthermore, UN Secretaries-General have often served as voices of conscience to the world, deploring warfare, economic inequality, runaway climate disaster, and a host of other global ills.  Conversely, the ability of global institutions to focus public attention upon such matters has deeply disturbed the political Right, which acts whenever it can to undermine the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Health Organization, and other global institutions. 

Social movements and institutions of global governance often have a symbiotic relationship.  The United Nations has provided a very useful locus for discussion and action on issues of concern to organizations dealing with women’s rights, environmental protection, human rights, poverty, and other issues, with frequent conferences devoted to these concerns.  Frustrated with the failure of the nuclear powers to divest themselves of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament organizations deftly used a series of UN conferences to push through the adoption of the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, much to the horror of nuclear-armed states.

Admittedly, the United Nations is a confederation of nations, where the “great powers” often use their disproportionate influence—for example, in the Security Council—to block the adoption of popular global measures that they consider against their “interests.”  But it remains possible to change the rules of the world body, diminishing great power influence and creating a more democratic, effective world federation of nations.  Not surprisingly, there are social movements, such as the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy and Citizens for Global Solutions, working for these reforms.

Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either.  Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). This article is a revised version of a previous article by the author:  “The Inspiring Legacy of Global Movements.”

Call for Applications for Executive Editor of Peace & Change

The Peace History Society (www.peacehistorysociety.org) invites applications for the position of Executive Editor of Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research.  

Peace & Change is published by the Peace History Society (PHS) in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association (IPRA).  Its scholarly and interpretive articles engage with topics related to the achievement of a peaceful, just, and humane society.  The journal, whose medium is English, enjoys a global audience.  We endeavor to build bridges across disciplines and among peace researchers, educators, advocates, and activists.  Peace & Change recognizes the longstanding underrepresentation of scholars from marginalized groups within the fields of peace history and peace studies.  We are committed to inclusive editorial leadership that reflects the growing diversity of our scholarly community.  To this end, we seek applicants from all ethnicities, races, religions, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, dis/abilities, ages, and backgrounds.  Applicants should review the following information about the journal and the position.  Launched in 1972, Peace & Change publishes four digital issues a year.   It is co-owned by the PHS and Wiley (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14680130), with PHS exercising editorial control over the journal content and review process.  The successful applicant must demonstrate an ability to represent Peace & Change in interfacing with the PHS Board, PHS’s IPRA partners, the scholarly community, and various other constituencies.  The applicant must also have institutional support, which traditionally includes a one-course release and a graduate assistantship or the equivalent for the accompanying Managing Editor position.  The time commitment is estimated to be ten hours per week.  The key responsibilities and tasks of the Executive Editor include:  

  1. Receives all new submissions.  Screens all submissions for originality and fit to the journal’s mission.  Reads all valid submissions with the managing editor and determines which articles are sent out for review and which are declined.  
  2. Oversees double-blind peer review.  Identifies appropriate readers and sends out anonymized manuscripts for review.  Tracks due dates for readers’ reports and revised manuscripts for authors and send reminders as needed.  
  3. Keeps a database of reviewers, seeks new reviewers.  
  4. Evaluates readers’ reports and makes decisions about reviewed articles.  Communicates decisions to authors and includes anonymized readers’ reports (unless a reader requests to be identified).  
  5. Works with the authors to revise manuscripts to address reviewers’ and editors’ concerns.    
  6. Schedules articles for publication and forwards final versions to Wiley for Early View publication online.  Articles are submitted to Wiley for individual publication when drafts are in final form.  Wiley assembles the issues from the tables of contents provided by the Executive Editor.  
  7. Prepares articles for publication, from preliminary copyediting for house style and readability to reviewing and approving proofs and verifying the securing of permissions and copyright clearances prior to publication.  The Managing Editor may assist with copyediting and verification of copyright and is responsible for writing the Table of Contents and Notes on Authors for each issue.   
  8. Reviews the final draft of each issue and approves or enters final changes before publication.   
  9. Review final drafts of book reviews (solicited, developed, and edited by the Book Review Editor), assigns them to issues, and submits them to Wiley for production and publication.  
  10. Works with the Peace & Change Editorial Board on significant issues, nominates board members, and uses board members to review manuscripts.  
  11. Serves as the point person for communications between the PHS Board, the IPRA, and Wiley on matters concerning the content, publication process, policies, and production of the journal.  The PHS Board oversees matters related to subscriptions, profit sharing, and contractual matters with Wiley and IPRA.  
  12. Conducts outreach to potential authors, reviewers, and other contributors to the journal at conferences and other events.  The Executive Editor and Managing Editor will attend Peace History Society conferences to identify manuscripts that might be appropriate for submission to the journal.  
  13. Oversees publication of short-form pieces and news items on Peace & Change Blog.  The Managing Editor can review, edit, and post these features.  

    Wiley is migrating Peace & Change to a Scholar One platform, which will automate some parts of the work, including screening for originality and plagiarism and keeping the review process on track (sending reminders, etc.).  This will involve 2-3 meetings with Wiley developers at the start of the Executive Editor’s term to set up the automated workflow to suit their preferences.  

Please submit applications and inquiries to editorsearch@peacehistorysociety.org by November 1, 2021.  The search will continue until the position is filled.  Your application must include a vita and a letter setting forth your interest in the position, your relevant background and experience, and your vision for Peace & Change and the field of peace research.  Please also convey your institution’s commitment to yourself and to the journal.  We are open to applications by potential co-editors.  Please provide a joint letter of application, vitas, and information about support from your institution(s).  

Baby Teeth Collected Six Decades Ago Will Reveal the Damage to Americans’ Health Caused by U.S. Nuclear Weapons Tests

By Lawrence Wittner and Joseph Mangano

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).  Joseph Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.]

Photo: Shutterstock

In 2020, Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health began a five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will examine the connection between early life exposure to toxic metals and later-life risk of neurological disease. A collaborator with Harvard, the Radiation and Public Health Project, will analyze the relationship of strontium-90 (a radioactive element in nuclear weapons explosions) and disease risk in later life. 

The centerpiece of the study is a collection of nearly 100,000 baby teeth, gathered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information.

The collection of these teeth occurred during a time of intense public agitation over the escalating nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet governments that featured the new hydrogen bomb (H-bomb), a weapon more than a thousand times as powerful as the bomb that had annihilated Hiroshima.  To prepare themselves for nuclear war, the two Cold War rivals conducted well-publicized, sometimes televised nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere—434 of them between 1945 and 1963.  These tests sent vast clouds of radioactive debris aloft where, carried along by the winds, it often traveled substantial distances before it fell to earth and was absorbed by the soil, plants, animals, and human beings. 

The hazards of nuclear testing were underscored by the U.S. government’s March 1, 1954 explosion of an H-bomb on Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands.  Although an area the size of New England had been staked out as a danger zone around the test site, a heavy dose of nuclear fallout descended on four inhabited islands of the Marshall grouping and on a Japanese fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon—all substantially outside the danger zone—with disastrous results.

Criticism of the nuclear arms race, and especially nuclear testing, quickly escalated.  Prominent individuals, including Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, and Benjamin Spock, issued spirited warnings.  New mass membership organizations arose, among them the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in the United States, the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Tests (which morphed into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in Britain, and the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. 

The public grew alarmed, particularly by the fact that strontium-90 from nuclear tests was transmitted from the grass, to cattle, to milk, and finally to human bodies—with special concern as it built up in children’s bones and teeth.  By the late 1950s, polls found that most Americans considered fallout a “real danger.”

Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, emerged as one of the most trenchant and effective American critics, circulating anti-testing petitions signed by thousands of U.S. scientists and even larger numbers of scientists abroad.  Pauling charged that the nuclear bomb tests through 1958 would ultimately produce about 1 million seriously defective children and some 2 million embryonic and neonatal deaths.

Determined to maintain its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government was horrified by the popular uproar and anxious to suppress it.  U.S. intelligence agencies and congressional investigations were unleashed against groups like SANE and antinuclear leaders like Pauling, while U.S. information agencies and government officials publicly minimized the dangers of nuclear testing.  In a Life magazine article, Edward Teller, often called “the father of the H-bomb,” insisted that nuclear test radiation “need not necessarily be harmful,” but “may conceivably be helpful.”

Even so, public concern grew.  In August 1958, Herman Kalckar, a biologist at the National Institutes of Health, published an article in the journal Nature, calling on public health agencies in multiple nations to engage in large-scale collection of baby teeth. Kalckar proposed testing teeth for strontium-90 from bomb fallout, as children are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of radioactivity.

Washington University scientists recognized that a tooth study could change public policy. In December 1958, they joined with leaders of the Committee for Nuclear Information, a citizen group opposed to nuclear war and above-ground bomb tests, and adopted a proposal to collect and test teeth for strontium-90 concentrations.

For the next 12 years, the Committee worked furiously, soliciting tooth donations through community-based institutions like schools, churches, scout groups, libraries, and dental offices. A total of 320,000 teeth were collected, and a Washington University lab measured strontium-90.

Results clearly showed a massive increase in strontium-90 as testing continued. Children born in 1963 (the height of bomb tests) had an average of 50 times more than those born in 1951 (when large-scale tests began). Medical journal articles detailed results.  Information on the tooth study was sent to Jerome Wiesner, science advisor to President John F. Kennedy. 

Kennedy, already seeking a test ban treaty, was clearly influenced by the uproar over the fate of children.  In his July 1963 speech announcing the successful conclusion of test ban negotiations by the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, he argued that governments could not be indifferent to the catastrophe of nuclear war or to “children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs.”  The outcome was the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

According to the ongoing tooth study, the average strontium-90 in baby teeth dropped by half in just four years after the test ban. With their goal apparently accomplished, the Committee on Nuclear Information and the University halted tooth collection and testing.  Soon thereafter, the Committee dissolved.

Three decades later, Washington University staff discovered thousands of abandoned baby teeth that had gone untested. The school donated the teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project, which was conducting a study of strontium-90 in teeth of U.S. children near nuclear reactors.

Now, using strontium-90 still present in teeth, the Radiation and Public Health Project will conduct an analysis of health risk, which was not addressed in the original tooth study, and minimally addressed by government agencies.  Based on actual radiation exposure in bodies, the issue of how many Americans suffered from cancer and other diseases from nuclear testing fallout will be clarified.

Conflict or Cooperation in US-China Relations?

by Lawrence Wittner

Cross-posted from LA Progressive

The United States and China, the world’s mightiest military and economic powers, are currently heading toward a Cold War or even a hot one, with disastrous consequences.  But an alternative path is available and could be taken.

Beginning in 2018, U.S. government policy toward China turned sharply hostile, bringing relations between the two nations to their lowest point in the last four decades.  The Trump administration fostered military confrontations with China in the South China Sea, initiated a trade war with the Asian nation, blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic, and sharply denounced its human rights record.  In a July 2020 public address, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for “a new alliance of democracies” to resist China, declaring:  “The free world must triumph over this new tyranny.”

For the most part, the Biden administration has continued this hard-line policy.  Soon after taking office in 2021, U.S. officials stepped up political and military engagement with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken used his first meeting with Chinese officials to publicly berate China.  At the beginning of June, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, explicitly designed to compete with China by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into advanced U.S. technology.  This action followed the release of a proposed Pentagon budget that identified China as “the greatest long-term challenge to the United States.”  Promising to “prioritize China” as the U.S. adversary, the Defense Department called for heightened funding to upgrade U.S. “forces, global posture, and operational concepts” by “investing in cutting edge technologies that will deliver new warfighting advantages to our forces.” 

One of the new U.S. warfighting marvels is the hypersonic missile, which, although still in the development phase, has already attracted billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. government. The missile travels faster than five times the speed of sound, has greater maneuverability than other nuclear-armed missiles, and can strike the Chinese mainland.

The United States and China have developed unprecedented military might, and a conventional war could easily spiral into a catastrophic military conflict.

The Chinese government has not shied away from confrontation, either.  Xi Jinping, taking office in 2012 as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and, in 2013, as President of China, has launched his nation on a more assertive, nationalist course in world affairs.  This has included turning disputed islands in the South China Sea into Chinese military bases and steadily building up Chinese military forces.  The latter have been employed for dangerous confrontations with U.S. warships in the South China Sea and for flights into Taiwan’s airspace.  Thanks to a robust research program, China has successfully tested both medium range and intercontinental hypersonic missiles.  Moreover, ignoring external criticism, Xi’s government has clamped down on dissidentsimprisoned over a million Uyghurs in “reeducation camps,” and crushed the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The dangers of this growing confrontation are enormous.  The United States and China have developed unprecedented military might, and a conventional war could easily spiral into a catastrophic military conflict.  Even if war were averted, their escalating arms race, which already accounts for more than half the world’s military expenditures, would be a colossal waste of resources.  Furthermore, a major conflict between these two nations with the world’s largest economiesinterlocked through investment and trade, could trigger a global economic collapse.

Fortunately, though, there is plenty of opportunity on the world scene for the United States and China to cooperate and, thereby, not only avert disaster, but serve their common interests.

Avoiding climate catastrophe is certainly a key area in which they would be well-served by cooperation.  Not only are the people of China and the United States threatened by climate change, but, as the two nations are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, they can make or break world climate agreements. 

Cooperation is also essential when it comes to prevention of infectious diseases.  The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how easily disease can spread and disrupt the lives of people around the world and, particularly, how no nation is safe until all are safe.  In this area, too, it is vital to mobilize the advanced medical and scientific resources of the United States and China in a cooperative effort to safeguard global health.

Update: New Essays on U.S. Foreign Policy & Resource Guide Website

by Roger Peace

Three new essays have been added to the U.S. Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide website:  “Introduction:  The Fifth Estate” by Roger Peace (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/intro); “The U.S. and World War II” by Jeremy Kuzmarov and Roger Peace (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/ww2); and “Africa and the War on Terror” by Elizabeth Schmidt (http://peacehistory-usfp.org/africa-wot).  The website, now with 13 essays, is an open resource educational website, established in 2016 and sponsored by the Historians for Peace and Democracy and the Peace History Society.     

How is history written?  Why do historians differ in their interpretations?  What are the main differences in writing the history of U.S. foreign relations?  These are questions answered in “Introduction: The Fifth Estate.”  The title conveys the idea that the history profession has a responsibility to the public to question official rationales, search out the truth, and present an accurate and honest accounting of the past – in the interest of democratic accountability.  

The Second World War is popularly remembered as “the good war” in American history, an heroic struggle against fascist totalitarian states.  Typically overlooked is the U.S. policy of appeasement toward fascism during the interwar years, a policy well-documented in U.S. governmental records.  Also overlooked is the role of U.S.-based corporations in Nazi Germany, including General Motors, Ford, Standard Oil Company, IBM, and Chase Manhattan Bank.  Though the war was necessary to stop the genocidal Nazi regime, the U.S. kept a tight lid on immigration of Jews from Europe during the interwar years.  Other features of interest include the predominant role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany, the “race war” in the Pacific, the mass internment of Japanese American citizens and residents during the war, the shift in U.S. policy to mass civilian bombing, and the Truman administration’s decision to use atomic bombs.  Seven out of eight top U.S. military commanders believed that the use of atomic bombs was unnecessary from a strategic-military vantage point.  

“To understand the war on terror in Africa, it must be placed in historical context,” writes Elizabeth Schmidt, author of Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror (2018), and Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2013).  Schmidt offers a cogent analysis of how U.S. leaders mislabeled disparate civil disturbances in African countries as “terrorism,” then emphasized military “solutions.”  Rather than reduce terrorism, U.S. military actions strengthened autocratic regimes, exacerbated human rights abuses, and undermined the goals they purported to promote.  Schmidt also dispels some common misconceptions about Islam, noting that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide condemn terrorism. 

If interested in assisting in the website in research, writing, or outreach, please contact me (rcpeace3@embarqmail.com)

– Roger Peace, website initiator and coordinator

Nationalism on the Decline

by Lawrence Wittner

Cross-posted from Peace & Health Blog https://peaceandhealthblog.com/2021/07/02/nationalism-on-the-decline/#more-5410

Although, beginning in about 2015, nationalist political parties made enormous advances in countries around the world, more recently they have been on the wane.

The nationalist surge was led by a new generation of rightwing populist demagogues who, feeding on public discontent with widespread immigration and economic stagnation, achieved startling political breakthroughs.  Matteo Salvini of Italy, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, and Marine Le Pen of France catapulted their fringe political movements into major party status.  In Britain, Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) startled mainstream parties by winning a referendum calling for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.  Donald Trump, championing an “America First” policy, shocked political pundits by emerging victorious in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.  Two years later, in Brazil, the flamboyant Jair Bolsonaro, campaigning under the slogan “Brazil Above Everything,” was easily elected president of his country.  In May 2019, Narendra Modi’s BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, won a landslide election victory in India.

As the acknowledged leader of the rightwing, nationalist uprising in these and other nations, Trump forged close contacts with his overseas counterparts and pulled the U.S. government out of international treaties, as well as out of global institutions.  “Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first,” he admonished the UN General Assembly in September 2019.  “The future does not belong to globalists.  The future belongs to patriots.”

But, even as he spoke, the nationalist momentum was beginning to falter.  

In Europe, every nationalist political success during 2019 was matched by a defeat. Although, in Spain, the small, anti-immigrant Vox Party gained seats, in Austria, the nationalist Freedom Party experienced major setbacks, while Britain’s once-powerful UKIP and Greece’s rabid Golden Dawn movement virtually disappeared.  Meanwhile, in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nationalist party suffered stinging election defeats in the nation’s three largest cities.

Things went further downhill for the nationalists in 2020.  A loss by Modi’s BJP in Delhi that February added to its string of regional election defeats.  In Italy, Salvini’s Northern League suffered an election rout and the center-left Democratic Party replaced it in the coalition government.  Meanwhile, in France, Le Pen’s National Rally party went down to a resounding defeat in the July 2020 local elections and, in November, Brazil’s Bolsonaro was humiliated when most of the candidates he campaigned for failed to win election.  Perhaps the most significant nationalist defeat occurred that November in the United States, where Trump lost his presidential re-election campaign by 7 million votes and his radicalized Republican Party failed to recapture the House of Representatives, which it had lost in 2018.

This year, the nationalist defeats have turned into a rout.  In January, Trump’s Republicans lost special Senate elections, ending their party’s control of the U.S. Senate.  In March, Erdogan’s political control of Turkey crumbled still further, as polls found support for his nationalist party slipping dramatically.  This May, Modi’s BJP lost another regional election.  

Much the same occurred this June.  In Germany, where the nationalist Alternative for Germany was projected to score an upset victory in a state election, it drew a disappointing 20.8 percent of the vote—not much more than half the percentage garnered by the Christian Democratic victors and considerably less than the total secured by the leftwing parties.  In Brazil, clear signs emerged that the Bolsonaro regime, with record unpopularity, was tottering toward collapse.  Finally, in France, where Marine Le Pen’s party was predicted to have a good chance of triumphing in six of the country’s 13 regional elections, it ended up defeated in every one of them.

As the nationalist tide has receded, governments have turned to reviving the international institutions and agreementsbattered during the previous years.  These include the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accords, and key nuclear disarmament agreements.  In another sign of their willingness to engage in global action, major governments have proposed a global minimum tax on corporations.

How can this change in the fortunes of nationalist parties be explained?

One factor behind the political turnabout is that the style, policies, and behavior of some of the leading nationalist politicians set off alarm bells in the minds of many people and political parties about authoritarianism, and even fascism.  Some of these politicians, in fact, displayed fascist tendencies and, also, encouraged violent, rightwing action by their supporters.  Consequently, uneasy voters and parties, anxious to preserve democracy and political freedom, were willing to make political compromises, such as uniting behind the most electable alternative to the nationalist candidate.

A deeper reason, though, is that, in a world faced with global problems such as a disease pandemic, climate catastrophe, a nuclear arms race, and economic inequality, a nationalist approach doesn’t make much sense.  Recognizing this, most of the public gravitates toward global solutions.  A Pew Research Center poll in the summer of 2020 found that 81 percent of the 14,276 people interviewed in 14 nations thought that “countries around the world should act as part of a global community that works together to solve problems.”  Some 76 percent approved of the role of the United Nations in promoting human rights and 74 percent in promoting peace, while 63 percent said that the WHO had done a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, despite the recent setbacks experienced by nationalist parties, they are far from dead.  They have succeeded in establishing themselves as part of the political landscape and today govern a variety of countries, including Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, and Turkey.  In the United States, the Trump-dominated Republican Party controls numerous state governments and stands a reasonable chance of recapturing control of the federal government.

Even so, the political tide has recently turned against nationalism and, consequently, possibilities have re-emerged for addressing global problems on a global basis.

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).] 

In Memoriam: Geoff Smith

Geoffrey S. Smith, past Peace History Society president (1995-1997) and professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on April 1, 2021. 

PHS offers condolences to his family.

An obituary appears in the The Globe and Mail (Toronto):

Queen’s University offers this tribute to Prof. Smith:

https://www.queensu.ca/gazette/stories/queen-s-remembers-professor-emeritus-geoffrey-smith

We republish here the citation for the Peace History Society Lifetime Achievement Award which PHS president Kevin Callahan presented to Prof. Smith in October 2015 at the PHS biennial conference, in West Hartford, Connecticut:

In 2005, Peace History Society set up the Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented every other year to a PHS member who has contributed outstanding scholarship and exemplary service to peace history…

This year (2015), the Lifetime Achievement Award committee confers the highest distinction of the Peace History Society on Geoffrey S. Smith, Professor Emeritus of History, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Dr. Smith was born in San Francisco and raised in California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s, where he got his first protest experience by spending a week holding a sign criticizing the administration during the Free Speech Movement. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1969 and taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota for two years before joining the faculty at Queens University.

Interested in security and its misuse by elites, Dr. Smith taught courses on “Conspiracy and Dissent in American History,” U.S. Foreign Relations, Latin American History, the Vietnam War, and American Social and Cultural History. Outside the classroom, he coached the Queens’ University basketball team for over a decade while also participating in Civil Rights protests and antiwar protests during the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Dr. Smith has written widely on issues related to peace history, gender and U.S. national security in the Cold War, the relocation of Japanese minorities in the U.S. and Canada during WWII, and American nativism. His 1973 monograph, To Save a Nation: American Extremism, the New Deal and the Coming of World War II, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In this work, Smith argued that the activities of right-wing extremists like Father Charles Coughlin and Fritz Kuhn of the German American Bund tainted moderate and responsible non-interventionists prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby making it easier for Franklin D. Roosevelt and his foreign policy advisers to garner support for intervention.

A true servant to the discipline, Dr. Smith is a Lifetime Member of the Peace History Society, has been an active book and article reviewer for the organization’s journal – Peace & Change, served as president of the Peace History Society from 1995-1997, PHS executive Secretary-Treasurer from 1997-2000, and most recently a board member from 2008-2012. Please join me today in thanking Dr. Geoffrey Smith and congratulating him on his tremendous accomplishments.

When news of Geoff Smith’s passing reached the Peace History Society his colleagues and friends offered these remembrances:


So long, Geoff.

It is the collective memory, which counts here. Although our organization may be small, its membership casts a wide net. Geoff Smith was one who did cast a wide net in terms of his excellent scholarship on behalf of peace as well as his affable and warm personality. I can’t count how many years I knew Geoff, too many at this point, but I always looked forward to seeing and talking with him at various professional meetings. Knowing he was a West Coast guy and from the San Francisco area, I bestowed upon him my peace necklace adorned with beads. I did it in the presence of my wife at one of the OAH meetings at the book exhibit. Geoff fondly took it and promptly placed it around his neck. We had a good laugh. The symbolism of the moment was appropriate as it brought back Geoff’s personal determination and grit to uphold conscience over conformity. There are other stories I could tell but I will leave that for others to address. The last time I spoke to Geoff it was the PHS meeting in Hartford, Connecticut. Fittingly, it was the occasion when he was bestowed the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He presented a great acceptance speech and reminded us all our duties as peace scholars and human beings. We only have the memories now but thanks, Geoff, for creating them in the first place. 

So long, my good friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    — Chuck Howlett  

I sat next to [Geoff] at the banquet during which he received his Lifetime Achievement Award and remember that he was always welcoming to other scholars and had a great affection for PHS.  I learned more of our Society’s backstory that night than from almost any other interaction in my years with PHS!  He will be sorely missed.

                                                                               — David Hostetter, President, Peace History Society

Back in the early days of PHS in the mid-`90s, we helped put the Peace History Society on a sounder footing, corresponded fairly frequently, and gathered annually at history conventions. Geoff was a fantastic teacher, a fine scholar, and an all-around good person. I am deeply saddened by his passing.

                                                                              — Jeffrey Kimball, prof. emeritus Miami   University                                                                    (Oxford OH) and former president of PHS

I so enjoyed working with Geoff when we were both officers in PHS and also on the projects we worked on together. I always teased him that he reminded me of Steve Martin, not only in looks but in his great sense of humor. He thought that was hysterical.

                                                                               — Harriet Alonso

His humor was priceless and his commitment to a historical narrative that embraced a whole reality should provide a standard for everyone.

                                                                              — Sandi Cooper

I grew up with Geoff. His mother and mine were best friends at the University of California in the 1930s, and our families remained close as he and I grew up. Geoff and I spent many a happy summer together at the Lair of the Bear. the alumni camp of the university. We lost contact after that (I betrayed the good cause by studying at arch-rival Stanford). To my great pleasure, he and I reconnected through the PHS decades later. My sympathies go out to his family, particularly to his younger brother, Jon, who was also my good friend.

                                                                              — Roger Chickering

Like others, I recall most his great sense of humor. I served on a panel with Geoff at a SHAFR conference some years ago. In the discussion period Geoff regaled the room about his childhood experiences with civil defense drills and how, during one drill, he kissed his very young sweetheart under the desks which were protecting both from the mock nuclear attack.  He noted that, perhaps, his kiss subverted the drills, although I’m quite certain that this was not his intention at the time!

                                                                              — Scott Bennett

I’m very sad to learn of Geoff Smith’s passing. He was a kind supporter and mentor to me and to all of us who came along in the 1990s and beyond. I have a vivid memory of seeing Julian Bond give a talk at the 2003 OAH in Memphis, and in the Q&A afterwards, Geoff, who was sitting in another part of the enormous hall, stood to ask a question.  I don’t remember his question, or the long wind-up to it, but I do remember that by the time he was finished, he had the whole room – hundreds of people – in stitches. The person next to me said, “He’s a live wire, isn’t he?” and he was.

I’m happy to remember him as a great historian, a mentor to many,  but especially as a “live wire.”

                                                                              — Mike Stewart Foley