The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the World’s Future

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Late January of this year will mark the first anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  This momentous international agreement, the result of a lengthy struggle by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and by many non-nuclear nations, bans developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, and threatening to use nuclear weapons.  Adopted by an overwhelming vote of the official representatives of the world’s nations at a UN conference in July 2017, the treaty was subsequently signed by 86 nations.  It received the required 50 national ratifications by late October 2020, and, on January 22, 2021, became international law.

Right from the start, the world’s nine nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—expressed their opposition to such a treaty.  They pressed other nations to boycott the crucial 2017 UN conference and refused to attend it when it occurred.  Indeed, three of them (the United States, Britain, and France) issued a statement declaring that they would never ratify the treaty.  Not surprisingly, then, none of the nuclear powers has signed the agreement or indicated any sympathy for it.

Even so, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has acquired considerable momentum over the past year.  During that time, an additional nine nations ratified it, thus becoming parties to the treaty.  And dozens more, having signed it, are expected to ratify it in the near future.  Furthermore, the governments of two NATO nations, Norway and Germany, have broken free from the U.S. government’s oppositional stance to the treaty and agreed to attend the first meeting of the countries that are parties to it. 

In nations where public opinion on the treaty has been examined, the international agreement enjoys considerable support.  YouGov opinion polls in five NATO countries in Europe show overwhelming backing and very little opposition, with the same true in Iceland, another NATO participant.  Polling has also revealed large majorities in favor of the treaty in Japan, Canada, and Australia.

In the United States, where most of the mainstream communications media have not deigned to mention the treaty, it remains a well-kept secret.  Even so, although a 2019 YouGov poll about it drew a large “Don’t Know” response, treaty support still outweighed opposition by 49 to 32 percent.  Moreover, when the U.S. Conference of  Mayors, representing 1,400 U.S. cities, met in August 2021, the gathering unanimously approved a resolution praising the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Meanwhile, a variety of institutions, recognizing that nuclear weapons are now illegal under international law, have begun to change their investment policies.  In September 2021, Lansforsakringar, a Swedish insurance company with assets of over $46 billion, cited the treaty as a major reason to avoid investing in companies producing nuclear weapons.  In December, the New York City Council adopted a resolution telling the city comptroller to remove investments from the city’s $250 billion pension fund from companies producing or maintaining these weapons of mass destruction.  According to ICAN, 127 financial institutions stopped investing in nuclear weapons companies during 2021.

Despite this impressive display of respect for the landmark agreement, the nine nuclear powers have not only continued to oppose it, but have accelerated their nuclear arms race.  Having cast off the constraints of most nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements of the past, they are all busy either developing or deploying new nuclear weapons systems or have announced their intention to do so. 

In this process of nuclear “modernization,” as it is politely termed, they are building newly-designed nuclear weapons of increasing accuracy and efficiency.  These include hypersonic missiles, which travel at five times the speed of sound and are better able than their predecessors to evade missile defenses.  Reportedly, hypersonic missiles have already been developed by Russia and China.  The United States is currently scrambling to build them, as well, with the usual corporate weapons contractors eager to oblige.

When it comes to “modernization” of its entire nuclear weapons complex, the U.S. government probably has the lead.  During the Obama administration, it embarked on a massive project designed to refurbish U.S. nuclear production facilities, enhance existing nuclear weapons, and build new ones.  This enormous nuclear venture accelerated during the Trump administration and continues today, with a total cost estimated to ultimately top $1.5 trillion.

Although there remain some gestures toward nuclear arms control—such as the agreement between U.S. president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin to extend the New Start Treaty—the nuclear powers are now giving a much higher priority to the nuclear arms race.

The current build-up of their nuclear arsenals is particularly dangerous at this time of rising conflict among them.  The U.S. and Russian governments almost certainly don’t want a nuclear war over Ukraine, but they could easily slip into one.  The same is true in the case of the heightening confrontation between the Chinese and U.S. governments over Taiwan and the islands in the South China Sea.  And what will happen when nuclear-armed India and nuclear-armed Pakistan fight yet another war, or when nuclear-armed national leaders like Kim Jong-un and a possibly re-elected Donald Trump start trading insults again about their countries’ nuclear might?

At present, this standoff between the nuclear nations, enamored with winning their global power struggles, and the non-nuclear nations, aghast at the terrible danger of nuclear war, seems likely to persist, resulting in the continuation of the world’s long nuclear nightmare. 

In this context, the most promising course of action for people interested in human survival might well lie in a popular mobilization to compel the nuclear nations to accept the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and, more broadly, to accept a restrained role in a cooperatively-governed world.

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

Why Is U.S. Military Spending Increasing to New, Outlandish Levels?

Lawrence S. Wittner

posted December 28, 2021

Photo: Shutterstock

Although critics of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan to increase funding for U.S. education, healthcare, and action against climate catastrophe say the United States can’t afford it, there are no such qualms about ramping up funding for the U.S. military.

In May 2021, the Pentagon asked Congress to fund a $715 billion budget for Fiscal 2022—an increase of $10 billion over the previous year.  Together with another $38 billion requested for military-related programs at other government agencies, this would bring total U.S. military spending to $753 billion. 

But from the standpoint of most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress, this was not enough.  In September, by an overwhelming margin, the House passed a $768 billion military spending bill and, in December, the Senate did so, as well, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.  These actions were taken despite the fact that, except for military spending at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, current U.S. military spending, after adjusting for inflation, is the highest since World War II.

Indeed, even without any increase, annual spending on the U.S. military would have been more than four times the proposed $175 billion annual spending on the stalled Build Back Better plan.

But isn’t this massive military spending necessary to prevent Chinese aggression?

China, although recently quite assertive in world affairs and repressive toward internal dissent, has not been at war with another nation since 1979, when it fought a brief but bloody conflict with Vietnam.  Furthermore, even though China has engaged in a military buildup in recent decades, its military spending increases have often lagged behind those of the United States.  In 2020, China’s military spending rose over the preceding year by 1.9 percent, whereas U.S. military spending increased by 4.4 percent.

Furthermore, if Chinese aggression isn’t already deterred by the current level of U.S. military spending, it’s hard to imagine that increased funding for the U.S. military will be more effective.  After all, the United States is currently the biggest military spender in the world, accounting for 39 percent of the global total.  China, the number 2 nation in military expenditures, spends only a third of that amount.  When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States has 5,500 nuclear warheads to China’s 350, providing the United States with an almost 16-to-1 advantage. 

Given the enormous superiority of current U.S. military power, is more really useful?  Indeed, isn’t increased U.S. military spending actually counterproductive—provoking China to engage in an expensive and dangerous arms race with the United States and squandering U.S. tax dollars that could be spent more productively?  Wouldn’t both countries be better served by an agreement between them to freeze military spending at current levels and to transfer responsibility for the enforcement of international security to a strengthened United Nations?

Why, then, is U.S. military spending increasing?  One reason is an inflamed nationalism—the widespread assumption that, as U.S. politicians like to say, the United States is “the greatest country in the history of the world.”  This belief in the superiority of one’s own nation, shared by people in many lands, is played upon by demagogues like Donald Trump, who talk glibly of “America First” and send their audiences into rapturous chants of “USA, USA.”  In these circumstances, citizens of powerful nations slip easily into what U.S. Senator J.W. Fulbright once called “the arrogance of power”—the assumption that their country should play a dominant role in world affairs.  Little wonder, then, that many members of Congress, although skeptical of the necessity for rising military budgets, tamely vote for them lest they be portrayed as “soft on defense.”

But this is only part of the story, for, although many Americans support ramping up U.S. military spending, most Americans don’t.  A July 2020 opinion survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that only 23 percent of U.S. respondents favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 66 percent either favored maintaining the current level (38 percent) or cutting it (28 percent).  A February 2021 Gallup Poll revealed similar opinions.

A more powerful driver of military spending increases lies in the enormous influence of self-interested corporate contractors.  These private companies work hard to ensure that the U.S. military budget—and thus their income—keeps rising.  Over the past two decades, U.S. weapons makers have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying, employing over 700 lobbyists per year to sell new, immensely expensive high-tech missiles, warplanes, warships, and other implements of destruction to the U.S. government.  Most of these corporate lobbyists have moved through a revolving door of jobs at the Pentagon, the National Security Council, Congress, and other key agencies.  Indeed, four of the past five U.S. Secretaries of Defense have come from one of the top five arms contractors.  Military contractors also copiously fund major think tanks and, of course, make very substantial campaign contributions to friendly politicians—an estimated $285 million over the last two decades.

Such investments have paid off handsomely, enabling military contractors to rake in roughly half of the Pentagon’s lavish annual spending.  Since Fiscal Year 2001, U.S. weapons manufacturers have secured $4.4 trillion in U.S. government contracts, with a quarter to a third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years going to just five major weapons companies:  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.  In Fiscal 2020, Lockheed Martin alone received $75 billion from the Pentagon.  Furthermore, enormous Pentagon contracts are also handed out to military logistics, reconstruction, and “security” corporations.

In response to these pressures, the U.S. government all too often bypasses other approaches to international security—including forging cooperative agreements with other nations and strengthening multilateral institutions—while increasing its military spending to new, outlandish levels.

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

Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu

By Matt Meyer

The author with Archbishop Tutu. Photo courtesy of Matt Meyer.

In mid-December 2021, I urged my colleagues, friends, and family to find the joy in the festive season rooted in our collective work for justice. As we prepared to close our year out with hopes for a better one in the future, I too was looking for reasons to celebrate. On the day after Christmas, however, my joy was diminished as the world bid farewell to a true voice for justice for all, one whose circumstance and character catapulted him to extraordinary prominence. I was truly humbled to call South African Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Despond Mpilo Tutu a friend, honoured to have his strong and supportive words serve as Introductions to three of my books and his inimitable presence on video and in person add to countless conference and events I helped organize. The “Arch” truly provided a human entranceway for so many freedom fighters who would find no similar source of sustenance from anyone near to his level of global prominence. It was not just that he had an unquenchable thirst for the liberation of all, leading him to a genuine, independent radicalism which defied easy ideological definition and defied the powerbrokers of every continent and corporation. It was not just that he fashioned—even in the busiest and most repressive of times—an administrative centre which enabled clear access to so many grassroots resistance initiatives. Archbishop Tutu’s head and heart, his prayers and actions, triumphantly focused on reconciliation and reparations borne of that resistance.

One might assume that my connection to the Arch came about first and foremost through my mentorship and deep collaborations with the man who would eventually become my step-dad, Pan African pacifist Bill Sutherland, with whom I co-authored Guns and Gandhi in Africa (2000) which Archbishop Tutu provided the Introduction for. And while it is true that the Arch’s connection to Bill was a deep and long-standing one more akin to family members than friends, it is not how he and I first met. Bill, it should be noted, worked for decades with the War Resisters’ International and for years as a staff member of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which won the Nobel Peace prize as an organization – along with the British Friends Service Council – in 1947, following the end of WWII. As is the custom, Nobel Peace laureates are given special space to nominate future prize-winners and – as an AFSC representative helping to lead that group’s work against the heinous racist apartheid regime, Bill worked hard to get AFSC to recommend then-Bishop Tutu for the prize, As is now well documented, Tutu was awarded the prize in 1984 at a key moment in South Africa’s history.

Though repression within the apartheid regime was still extremely intense, the mass democratic and anti-racist movements which would sweep across the country and ignite the world were coming up at just this time, in the early 1980’s. The United Democratic Front, a broad coalition of grassroots groups, was taking the lead in many places and, within the white community, the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) was developing as a voice within the communities of the oppressor, to spark a creative fire among a new generation of whites who would come to oppose both militarism and racism. Tutu, of course, was a supporter and champion of both and – more than that – was willing to take substantial risk by boldly dispelling the myth that the Boycott and Divestment movement would hurt the African people of South Africa. The callous liberal and mainstream mock-concern that BDS would be anything other than a strategic, internationally accessible, nonviolent means of hurting the apartheid regime was laid bare when Tutu led the call (at a time when getting direct word out of South Africa was difficult) that BDS was a policy which would help Black South Africans not hurt them; their torture at the hands of the racist regime was far more serious than the loss of a few coins which might trickle down to the African community from the state losses under a successful divestment campaign. 1984 was key, and the Archbishop was always personally grateful and politically engaged with Papa Bill for the support of the Nobel endorsement and what became our collective conversations on unarmed resistance and the tactics of social change. I shall never forget the surprise call from the Arch which came through on my mobile phone in Brooklyn decades later as we were celebrating Papa Bill’s 90th birthday, noting that the people of Africa owe him a debt of gratitude.

My first personal connection to the Arch, however, came through work with another fierce and fearless friend: Cape Town’s wonderful Dr. Ivan Toms. Ivan was many things to many people, first and foremost known as the medical doctor who built and staffed the health clinic at Crossroads. Crossroads was not really a township or a neighborhood, it was a community–a very unique community made up of those now called shack-dwellers, a grouping of squatters making up what some termed a shantytown. One of the special things about Crossroads was that no matter how many times the apartheid regime literally bulldozed down this community of open resistance, community members would quickly turn around and rebuild. A little thing like a highly militarized and repressive state was not going to get in their way! Another special thing was that there was this one member of the white community, a prominent medical doctor no less, who decided to throw his lot in with those most oppressed and create a health center in the middle of Crossroads where he could attend to people most in need and train a crew of community-based health practitioners and nurses to take care of the rest. This was just who Ivan was. He was, by the way, also one of the early leaders of ECC, refusing the doctor’s draft and other calls to military service and supporting those younger resisters who were less established. When he obtained a small US State Department grant to travel to the States as an example of South African ‘goodness,’ he made sure to speak out against racism and apartheid whenever he could and, as soon as his official responsibilities were completed, decided to extend his stay in the hemisphere and bought himself a ticket to revolutionary Nicaragua, fighting against the US-sponsored contra war. Upon returning to South Africa, he infuriated the right-wing regime and ruffled a few feathers on the left when he publicly proclaimed, “Yo Soy Sandinista!” 

Dr. Ivan Toms was also gay. And like nearly everything in the rest of his life, he refused to keep quiet about things which were important to him. He was, in addition, an Anglican and a member of the Cape Town church where Desmond Tutu regularly pastored. So, very early on in his life as an iconic figure in his own right, Ivan asked his pastor Tutu (also years before the Nobel prize) what he should do. He didn’t want to be closeted, but also didn’t want to diminish his role as a then-rare white opponent of apartheid. Needless to say, Tutu and Toms engaged in dialogue deeply personal, spiritual, and strategic – as was their way. Out of those conversations came Ivan’s very public coming out, and Tutu’s very public support of the same. By the mid-1980’s and the growing anti-apartheid movements within South African and internationally, these two stalwart figures and friends was already “on record” – not merely about LGBT rights but about the principled position that liberation for all was not a negotiable thing to be compromised away. Ivan and I became buddies as fellow draft resisters across the waters at and after the founding of ECC. When I was tasked with editing a Peace calendar on youth resistance and “Children of War, Children of Peace,” Ivan helped connect me (now in the early 1990’s) with his famous friend who had also championed those children caught within the tragedies of war. Archbishop Tutu thus wrote the Introduction to my first edited “booklet,” a 1993 collection which includes short poetry and prose from young people around the world, including the voice of a “New Afrikan” scout based in the southeastern US by the name of Tupac Shakur!   

In the days and weeks following Archbishop Tutu’s passing, the leaders of almost every nation— the politicians and pundits of the most powerful on earth—will line up to claim him as their own. But the still-colonized people of the world who the Arch strenuously supported and defended will hopefully also remember his love—be they the Puerto Rican nation seeking freedom from direct US colonialism or the Tibetan people seeking freedom from China, be they the people of Western Sahara or West Papua or of Palestine, who as subjects of modern settler-colonial Israeli apartheid were of particular concern to this servant of God. We would also hope but do not expect that their colonizers, who will be among the first to claim Tutu as a source of inspiration (out of both sides of their mouths), would follow the freedom-loving directions which the Archbishop set forth. Those still imprisoned for political reasons (and their jailers) should also remember his consistent calls for their release—be they well known figures such as American Indian Movement elder Leonard Peltier or Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, or the lesser-known names of the wrongfully incarcerated of every nation (including, in the US, Sundiata Acoli, who is just a few years younger than the Arch). Freedom for all would be a far more fitting tribute to the life of Archbishop Tutu than the hollow words we will undoubtedly hear repeated in the coming days, and “peace on Earth, good will towards All” would be a more significant refrain if put into practice by the arms manufacturers and weapons peddlers of the planet.

The Arch was a great strategic thinker, and I remember sitting with him privately some years back in his office in Cape Town. Our conversation spanned so many topics across a world of injustices, but I recall two points of both tactical and spiritual significance. In discussing the still-incarcerated Puerto Rican patriot Oscar Lopez Rivera, termed by many South American heads of state “the Mandela of the Americas,” the Arch weighed in on how best to balance his ongoing support for Oscar’s immediate and unconditional release with the need to also understand the mind of the man who would be destined to release him: Barack Obama. Students of realpolitik, we realized that Obama wouldn’t simply set Oscar free based on moral suasion. The right words and right timing had to be considered regarding the Call for release. Then, as we moved to another “agenda item,” we reflected upon the people of Palestine’s West Bank and especially Gaza who had just suffered a bombing raid by the all-powerful and unregulated Israeli Defense Force. “God must be weeping now,” the Arch sombrely repeated to me, heart sick about both the immediate human toll as well as the difficulties ahead.

On these same days and weeks, I will try not to weep for our loss of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who—as I just wrote to his daughters—lived such a truly extraordinary and meaningful life. As we send the family our condolences and best wishes for a healing time ahead, let us do as the Arch would do, with steadfastness and humour and a focus on what needs to be done rather than its costs.

Today the gratitude which Archbishop Tutu insisted be paid to the under-recognized Bill Sutherland, the precious memories which are due to Ivan Toms, and those looking to pay tribute to Tupac as well as so many others, would do well to better understand the connections between these fierce freedom fighters. We would do even better to comprehend and act upon the potential connections which we can and must build between us. Let us take part of our energy in remembering the Arch to work towards building the 21st Century united fronts so needed to pave a path toward justice.

Let us work to heal the earth, and to heal one another, by redoubling our fight to Free the Land and its Peoples, to Free All Political Prisoners, to build a beloved community of liberation where all can find the enduring peace which is the fruit of our struggles for structural justice.

Matt Meyer is Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association, Senior Research Scholar at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Resistance Studies Initiative, and a member of the editorial board for Peace & Change.

This post was expanded and revised on December 29, 2021.

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.