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The nuclear fallout from Japan has reached my state of California. Reportedly, the level of radiation is not dangerous to the people of the West Coast so they do not need to take those iodine pills.
I’m plagued with a different question. Here’s a possible nuclear threat that no country has placed as part of their national security calculus of risk.
There are general opinion pieces on how the world needs to rethink nuclear weapons after the coming Japan disaster. Some newspapers have picked up on the historical memory of the first use of nuclear weapons, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to massive catastrophe. Others are struggling with why Japan chose to use nuclear power after the horrifying specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Japan’s first nuclear disaster is not just a memory. The fact that the country is once again on the brink of nuclear doom should not be lost to memory.
The United States has never apologized for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for its hand in the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. Most of the discourse ignores that the United States played a vital hand in the nuclear infrastructure of Japan and blames Japan for its use of nuclear power. However, Japan is facing nuclear disaster because the United States and Russia went down the path of mutually assured destruction during the Cold War rather than condemning nuclear power. They formed an exclusive nuclear club that continues to deny membership to the more “pariah states” like North Korea and Iran in the name of international security. While Japan has never been a part of that nuclear club, the fact that it has nuclear infrastructure has never become an international or national security concern until now.
Just imagine if it was North Korea or Iran who were faced with impending doom. The international response would be radically different. The UN Security Council would be up in arms. And yet, international security is not threatened by those “pariah states” right now. Any prospective threat comes from Japan, a country that is considered benevolent and right now, under the United States nuclear umbrella. Maybe we need to redefine the nexus of our security concerns and threat construction.
I’m not saying Japan is an inherent threat to international security. I’m saying that there is something very wrong about how threats are constructed using geo-political calculations, and how this construction actually endangers our security. Maybe a tsunami and earthquake need to figure higher up on our list of threats to human security than a nuclear Iran OR nuclear North Korea. And maybe the creation of nuclear waste and nuclear power should be every bit of a threat as a nuclear explosion.
- For A-bomb survivors, lifelong radiation concerns (sfgate.com)
- Nuclear crisis recalls painful memories in Hiroshima!! (lebs295.wordpress.com)
- A Rabbi Remembers The First Japan Nuclear Crisis (huffingtonpost.com)
- Japan Anti Nuclear Groups Should Not Have Been Ignored (socyberty.com)
- Nuclear crisis recalls painful memories in Hiroshima (cnn.com)
That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC
Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.
Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.
(1) Race war discourse
While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons. Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!
Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:
To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.
On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.
To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.