unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
- Albert Einstein
While thinking about nuclear weapons it is essential that we be aware of how we think about weapons of mass destruction. We need to be conscious of our psychology, the psychology of our enemies, and the dynamics of our interactions, lest we make psychological mistakes with dire consequences. When I began exploring the psychological aspects of nuclear weapons. 22 years ago, I never imagined where we would be today, and who can imagine where, or even if we will be in 22 years from now? Imagine a variation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a global scale, with numerous state and nonstate actors and weapons of mass destruction, each feeling justified in acting for their security. What we do at this meeting will play a part.
The Necessity of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
Since 1968, the NPT has had limited success in preventing proliferation. This cannot be maintained indefinitely. If the fragile NPT beaks down, we will spiral into nuclear anarchy. The NPT is necessary, but not sufficient, for maintaining global security
Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton states that nuclear weapons are beyond psychology. They alter our relationship to life and death, impair "our capacity to confront the bomb" and "our ability to confront issues vital to our survival." We have a limited capacity to imagine the real. We are challenged to be exquisitely conscious and courageous in facing difficult realities.
The presence of these mass-killing devices in the world, creates staggering new problems for us and at the same time distorts our thinking and blnts our feeling about precisely these problems.
- Robert Jay Lifton
Lifton coined the term, "psychic numbing", "a form of desensitization . an incapacity to feel or confront certain kinds of experience, due to the blocking or absence of inner forms or imagery that can connect with such experience." If one is in a horrific inescapable situation, psychic numbing is a protective survival mechanism. But in a situation that one can change, psychic numbing is maladaptive and threatens survival.
"Disavowal of the truth .an attempt to disavow the existence of unpleasant reality." People feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of massive threats. Denial is an attempt to avoid despair, while increasing the basis for despair. Denial is an attempt to avoid knowledge and its implied responsibility. Our state of massive denial, ignorance, and psychic numbing, allows danger to escalate. As in the beginning of the Holocaust, which could have been prevented, attempts to raise awareness and intervene were denied, ignored and dismissed.
We apply old concepts, logic and strategies of conventional weapons to nuclear weapons. Peter Weiss , President of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy elaborates that ". the latest Nuclear Posture Review is making nukes 'just another weapon in our arsenal', thereby extinguishing the line between 'conventional' weapons and sui generis nuclear weapons." It is like treating cancer with antibiotics while ignoring effective preventative measures.
We are in a state of emergency. The global security situation is alarming. The stakes are as high as can be. Our emotional reaction is not commensurate with the threat.
"Nuclearism" defined by Lifton, is "the psychological, political, and military dependence on nuclear weapons, the embrace of weapons as a solution to a wide variety of human dilemmas, most ironically that of "security." Nuclearism is an extension of military fundamentalism, a hegemonic ideological belief that the only way to solve problems is by threat or use of violent force, domination, and punishment We ignore bodies of knowledge of political psychology, violence prevention, tension reduction and conflict transformation.
Mega Mission Creep
Nuclear weapons were developed out of fear that the Nazis would get them first. They were used on the Japanese with the belief that they would end World War II and save many lives. They were further developed during the Cold War in an intense arms race with the Soviets, The highly charged image of the Evil Empire, has been replaced by Rogue States and now the Axis of Evil. These archetypal images are used in identical ways to create fear, justify abrogation of treaties, development of "missile defenses" and new weapons systems, and weaponization of space. Nukes seem to have a life of their own, finding reasons to justify their existence.
Irrationality and the Paradox of Security
We act as though it is rational to spend trillions to build weapons that can destroy the world many times over. We say we build these weapons so that we won't have to use them. "Nuclear deterrence is a scheme for making nuclear war less probable by making it more probable." There are some cases in which deterrence theory appears to work successfully, as in WWII, though it cannot be proven. There are other historical examples, like WWI, where deterrence breaks downs and demonstrates evidence of spiral theory. "In the name of "National Security" we create fear, hatred, envy, and provoke proliferation, rendering ourselves and the planet vulnerable. We are provoking a new arms race, entering the second nuclear age, characterized by nuclear anarchy, weaponization of space, and terrorism. Paradoxically, the way to be more secure is to make your enemy more secure. Today, National Security is an oxymoron. There is only Universal Security or universal insecurity.
The Double Standard and Nuclear Provocation
Being absorbed in one's own security needs, engaging in "justified" self-protective, conventional activities around weapons, policies and treaties, provokes fear, hatred, and resentment globally. Actions considered protective are perceived as indications of aggressive intentions and plans to attack. According to "the mirror image of the enemy" each side perceives its own motives as noble, just, and necessary, while the enemy 's motives are perceived as hostile and aggressive. States naturally claim that if one country reserves the right to "protect its sovereignty" with weapons of mass destruction, so do they. Then we condemn them for being hostile and aggressive for wanting what we claim a right to and a need for. The double standard is demoralizing. They too feel a need for similar self-protection. Weapons of mass destruction take on a psychological and symbolic meaning and status, creating a desire to join the nuclear weapons club. Military buildup and posturing inspire the development of countermeasures and terrorism which are far less expensive (1/100 - 1/1000the the cost) and require far less technology than the systems they can overcome. Psychologically this is analogous to bullying in a Global Columbine, provoking explosive reactions such as 9/11. Actions in the name of security increase the possibility of terrorism
"Blowback", the Law of Unintended Consequences and Predictability
Strategies, actions and policies employed for a specific purpose create new unanticipated problems (the rise of bin Laden and Sadaam Hussein). In a world with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) blowback will be catastrophic. History is filled with military blunders. From a psychological perspective, much blowback is predictable and preventable. Taking the perspective of the other, empathy, following consequences through time, avoiding humiliation, addressing suffering, despair, poverty, culture, and designing win-win strategies, using language, policies and interventions that give hope and reduce tension go a long way in reducing violence.
Dangerous Emotions and Attitudes
Fear -There is a belief that if others are afraid of our power they will submit to our demands and we will be safer. This works under specific conditions, but not others, and is risky with WMDs. It is a psychological fact that people are most dangerous when they are afraid, even more than when they are angry. We, too, are more dangerous when w e are afraid. Strategies should be designed to reduce fear and provide assurances.
Envy and Humiliation are highly associated with violence and the breakdown of deterrence.
US unilateralism, in its disregard of global community is causing a range of problematic emotional reactions around the world, including resentment, fear, hatred, anxiety, terror, dread, envy, humiliation, intimidation, anger, rage, insult, and a healthy desire for a respectful responsiveness which, if not met will naturally drive others, in desperation, towards a desire for revenge. This endangers US citizens.
Policies, strategies, language organized around one's own security needs and sense of rightness with no consciousness about how these are experienced and received by other actors. Making incorrect assumptions about the psychology of the other, i.e., assuming deterrence will work, imposing demands and ultimata, when defiance to greater power is valued in a culture.
Asymmetrical Warfare, Psychology of Defeat and Domination
Terrorism is a form of asymmetrical warfare. Nuclear proliferation is a response to asymmetry. Power imbalances are unstable in the long term. Domination, oppression, humiliation, and suffering provoke the desire to even the scales as we see in universal myths like David and Goliath. As 9/11 shows, there is no amount of power that cannot be turned against us. Equality is a stabilizing force.
Mystification, flawed rationales, and thought-stopping dismissals
Psychological techniques induce us to accept the absurd as rational. The use of an exaggerated, distorted image of the enemy, disinformation, misinformation, and censorship, play on fear and use fear to justify foreign and domestic policy. This keeps us ignorant and precludes balanced, complex thinking about less dangerous strategies. A monofocus on military strategies precludes safer, more effective strategies like South Korea's "Sunshine policy." Flawed concepts and dismissals such as the need to maintain a "credible threat," "the only language they understand is force," and deterrence theory mystify us into believing that these are proven concepts that work all the time. False beliefs such as there are no effective alternatives to military solutions, we have no choice, they will attack us if we are perceived as weak, we must show resolve, etc. divert us from enlightened action Nuclear myths and illusions about effectiveness and necessity are promulgated to elicit support. "Reality testing" defined as " A fundamental ego function which consists of the objective evaluation and judgement of the world outside the ego or self." is poor, as beliefs are impervious to evidence.
Structural Absurdities- Absurdities
"We live in a state of absurdity that the mind perceives but suppresses." Lifton points out structural absurdities.
* A "sense of futurelessness, as well as certain forms of collective behavior such as widespread fundamentalism on the one hand, and psychic numbing on the other."
* We live a double life, going on with business as usual, while knowing that at any moment everything we love and hold dear can be destroyed.
* We are "poised to destroy all in the name of destroying one another."
* There is an "Absurd disparity between threat and response."
* We are "Using all resources to make it happen and little effort to prevent it" from happening.
* There is no problem for which the nuclear solution isn't worse than the problem itself.
* We are willing to risk the lives of millions of innocents to punish their leaders. (DP)
We are deeply organized around nuclear weapons - psychologically, economically, institutionally, and politically. "It also means extricating ourselves from our deadly dependence on and worship of the weapons, extricating ourselves from nuclearism." There is a profound psychological resistance to disarmament. We need to go through a gradual process of withdrawal, economic conversion, and replacement with more effective strategies.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty and General Systems Theory
According to General Systems Theory, the NPT is likely to go from the homeostatic maintaining, negative feedback loop, into a positive feedback spiral, which reinforces change - in one direction or another. If the NPT breaks down, we will spin into the unconscious positive feedback spiral of provocative proliferation (also called "deviation amplifying mutual causal process"). 60 more countries can acquire nukes, leading to nuclear anarchy and a certainty of accidents, terrorism, or deliberate use. A psychologically sound, mature, intelligent, wise positive feedback spiral would break out of the NPT by thoughtfully negotiating reductions towards elimination. We must simultaneously build new kinds of political relationships and institutions, change our posture in the world, and develop nonmilitary methods of addressing conflict and enmity. For a fraction of what the world spends on armaments, we could invest in social scientists and develop violence prevention, "de-enmification" strategies, economic development and peace-building measures - in a "reverse Manhattan project" that will be far more effective in creating Universal Security.
General Omar Bradley said after WWII: "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we do about peace; more about killing than we do about living."
The problems that we have created as a result of the level of thinking that we have done thus far cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which we created them.
- Albert Einstein
The last century has been by far the bloodiest ever. If we are to survive, we must make a quantum leap into the next, post-military paradigm. We need a profound transformation to a new way of thinking and conducting international relationships. It should be obvious by now that the dualistic, right-wrong, us-them, good-bad military force paradigm is making us infinitely less secure. The peace and anti-war movements have not effectively articulated plausible alternatives to violence and inaction. Rich bodies of knowledge about political psychology, violence prevention, peace and conflict studies are virtually absent in the media and politics. The challenge now is to raise consciousness, build new institutions, and integrate proven methods informed by social science. We need a transitional period during which we build the new paradigm and phase out the old, perhaps holding the use of force as a back up while wholeheartedly employing nonviolent strategies,
"Conscious Politics" comprises many concepts such as "political wisdom" or "political maturity." Like Daniel Goleman's groundbreaking concept, and bestseller, Emotional Intelligence (1995), we can envision a "Political Intelligence" that can be applied to reducing terrorism and transforming our posture in global politics. I use the term "Transcendent Politics" in which policies transcend particular interests, dualistic thinking, and consider optimal, win-win strategies with long-term benefit.
METAFORCE: Replacing War
Richard Wendell Fogg, director of the Center for the Study of Conflict, claims we need to replace war and develop complex strategies that combine nonviolent forms of force including economic, educational, political, psychological, social, moral, spiritual, and physical forms of force. I have coined these "Metaforce." .If we are to prevent the spiral of nuclear proliferation, we need to move into a post-military paradigm. As a poor third alternatives, negotiations and conflict resolution seem ineffective in dealing with brutal regimes.
Richard Wendell Fogg, director of the Center for the Study of Conflict, says that we don't need to abolish war. We need to replace war. Fogg says that we must use force - political force, economic force, social force, psychological, educational, physical, moral, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and aesthetic forms of force - in combinations forming complex strategies. He suggests systematic strategies, including reducing the opponent's fear, avoiding cornering the opponent, avoiding retaliating, satisfying just grievances, understanding the meaning of their attack, removing pressures, using mediators, designing win-win solutions, etc, etc, including some harsher nonviolent approaches when the more positive ones don't work. Since we don't have a concept to describe bloodless forms of force, I have coined the term "Metaforce" which is not passive, and similar to the Indian terms ahimsa and satyagraha.
Global Nonviolent Peace Force
A Global Nonviolent Peace Force, is being developed to reduce tension and prevent violence so other strategies can be used to solve problems. It is based on a body of literature about the success of nonviolent accompaniment and other strategies that have prevented violence around the world.
Graduated Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction (GRIT)
An example of a conscious, creative positive feedback spiral is the described by Charles Osgood of "Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension-Reduction", known as GRIT in "Disarmament Demands GRIT." It is "aimed to reduce and control international tension levels and to create an atmosphere of mutual trust within which negotiations on critical military and political issues can have a better chance of succeeding." There have been some historical cases where this has been applied successfully as part of a complex strategy in tension reduction and violence prevention.
History, despite its wrenching pain
cannot be unlived, but if faced
With Courage, need not be lived again.
- Maya Angelou, Inaugural poem