This speech was delivered on July 3,1988 to approximately 30,000 people at the 125th celebration of the Batde of Gettysburg and the rededi-cation of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Every quarter century, the peace memorial at Gettysburg is rededicated; Presidents Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Eisenhower have been the previous speakers.
From Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, selected and introduced by William Satire (New York: W. W Norton, 1992)
Fifty-one thousand human beings were killed or wounded here—ancestors of some of us, brothers of us all. This was the first full-fledged example of an industrialized war, with * Cowritten with Ann Druyan. The speech has been revised and updated for this book. 232 • Billions and Billions machine-tooled arms and railroad transport of men and materiel. It was the first hint of an age yet to come, our age; an intimation of what technology bent to the purposes of war might be capable. The new Spencer repeating rifle was used here. In May 1863, a reconnaissance balloon of the Army of the Potomac detected movement of Confederate troops across the Rappahan-nock River, the beginning of the campaign that led to the Battle of Gettysburg. That balloon was a precursor of air forces and strategic bombing and reconnaissance satellites.
A few hundred artillery pieces were deployed in the three-day battle of Gettysburg. What could they do? What was war like then? Here is an eyewitness account by Frank Haskel of Wisconsin, who fought on this battlefield for the Union Armies, of nightmarish, apparently hovering, cannon balls. It is from a letter to his brother: We could not often see the shell before it burst, but sometimes, as we faced towards the enemy and looked above our heads, the approach would be heralded by a prolonged hiss, which always seemed to me to be a line of something tangible terminating in a black globe distinct to the eye as the sound had been to the ear. The shell would seem to stop and hang suspended in the air an instant and then vanish in fire and smoke and noise. . . . Not ten yards away from us a shell burst among some bushes where sat three or four orderlies holding horses. Two of the men and one horse were killed.
It was a typical event from the Battle of Gettysburg. Something like this was repeated thousands of times. Those ballistic projectiles, launched from the cannons that you can see all over this Gettysburg Memorial, had a range, at best, of a few miles. The amount of explosive in the most formidable of them was
Gettysburg and Now • 233
some 20 pounds—roughly one-hundredth of a ton of TNT. It was enough to kill a few people. But the most powerful chemical explosives used 80 years later, in World War II, were the blockbusters, so-called because they could destroy a city block. Dropped from aircraft, after a journey of hundreds of miles, each carried about 10 tons off NT, a thousand times more than the most powerful weapon at the Battle of Gettysburg. A blockbuster could kill a few dozen people.
At the very end of World War II, the United States used the first atomic bombs to annihilate two Japanese cities. Each of those weapons, delivered after a voyage of sometimes a thousand miles, had the equivalent power of about 10,000 tons of TNT, enough to kill a few hundred thousand people. One bomb. A few years later the United States and the Soviet Union developed the first thermonuclear weapons, the first hydrogen bombs. Some of them had an explosive yield equivalent to ten million tons of TNT; enough to kill a few million people. One bomb. Strategic nuclear weapons can now be launched to any place on the planet. Everywhere on Earth is a potential battlefield now.
Each of these technological triumphs advanced the art of mass murder by a factor of a thousand. From Gettysburg to the blockbuster, a thousand times more explosive energy; from the blockbuster to the atomic bomb, a thousand times more; and from the atomic bomb to the hydrogen bomb, a thousand times still more. A thousand times a thousand times a thousand is a billion; in less than one century, our most fearful weapon has become a billion times more deadly. But we have not become a billion times wiser in the generations that stretch from Gettysburg to us.
The souls that perished here would find the carnage of which we are now capable unspeakable. Today, the
United States and the Soviet Union have booby-trapped our planet with almost WPf"
234 • Billions and Billions
60,000 nuclear weapons. Sixty thousand nuclear weapons! Even a small fraction of the strategic arsenals could without question annihilate the two contending superpowers, probably destroy the global civilization, and possibly render the human species extinct. No nation, no man should have such power. We distribute these instruments of apocalypse all over our fragile world, and justify it on the grounds that it has made us safe. We have made a fool's bargain.
The 51,000 casualties here at Gettysburg represented one-third of the Confederate Army, and one-quarter of the Union Army. All those who died, with one or two exceptions, were soldiers. The best-known exception was a civilian in her own house who thought to bake a loaf of bread and, through two closed doors, was shot to death; her name was Jennie Wade. But in a global thermonuclear war, almost all the casualties would be civilians—men, women, and children, including vast numbers of citizens of nations that had no part in the quarrel that led to the war, nations far removed from the northern midlatitude "target zone." There would be billions of Jennie Wades. Everyone on Earth is now at risk. In Washington there is a memorial to the Americans who died in the most recent major U.S. war, the one in Southeast Asia. Some 58,000 Americans perished, not a very different number from the casualties here at Gettysburg. (I ignore, as we too often do, the one or two million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Kampucheans who also died in that war.) Think of that dark, somber, beautiful, moving, touching memorial. Think of how long it is; actually, not much longer than a suburban street. 58,000 names. Imagine now that we are so foolish or inattentive as to permit a nuclear war to occur, and that, somehow, a similar memorial wall is built. How long would it have to be to contain the names of all those who will die in a major nuclear war? Gettysburg and Now • 235
About a thousand miles long. It would stretch from here in Pennsylvania to Missouri. But, of course, there would be no one to build it, and few to read the roster of the fallen.
In 1945, at the close of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were virtually invulnerable. The United States—bounded east and west by vast and impassable oceans, north and south by weak and friendly neighbors—had the most effective armed forces, and the most powerful economy on the planet. We had nothing to fear. So we built nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. We initiated and vigorously pumped up an arms race with the Soviet Union. When we were done, all the citizens of the United States had handed their lives over to the leaders of the Soviet Union. Even today, post-Cold War, post-Soviet Union, if Moscow decides we should die, twenty minutes later we're dead. In nearly perfect symmetry, the Soviet Union had the largest standing army in the world in 1945, and no significant military threats to worry about. It joined the United States in the nuclear arms race so that today everyone in Russia has handed their lives over to the leaders of the United States. If Washington decides they should die, twenty minutes later they're dead. The lives of every American and every Russian citizen are now in the hands of a foreign power. I say we have made a fool's bargain. We—we Americans, we Russians—have spent 43 years and vast national treasure in making ourselves exquisitely vulnerable to instant annihilation. We have done it in the name of patriotism and "national security," so no one is supposed to question it.
Two months before Gettysburg, on May 3, 1863, there was a Confederate triumph, the battle of Chancellorsville. On the moonlit evening following the victory, General Stonewall Jackson and his staff, returning to the Confederate lines, were mistaken for Union cavalry. Jackson was shot twice in error by his own men. He died of his wounds.
235 • Billions and Billions We make mistakes. We kill our own.
There are some who claim that since we have not yet had an accidental nuclear war, the precautions being taken to prevent one must be adequate. But not three years ago we witnessed the disasters of the Challenger space shuttle and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant—high technology systems, one American, one Soviet, into which enormous quantities of national prestige had been invested. There were compelling reasons to prevent these disasters. In the preceding year, confident assertions were made by officials of both nations that no accidents of that sort could happen. We were not to worry. The experts would not permit an accident to happen. We have since learned that such assurances do not amount to much.
This is the century of Hitler and Stalin, evidence—if any were needed—that madmen can seize the reins of power of modern industrial states. If we are content in a world with nearly 60,000 nuclear weapons, we are betting our lives on the proposition that no present or future leaders, military or civilian—of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and whatever other nuclear powers there will be—will ever stray from the strictest standards of prudence. We are gambling on their sanity and sobriety even in times of great personal and national crisis—all of them, for all times to come. I say this is asking too much of us. Because we make mistakes. We kill our own. The nuclear arms race and the attendant Cold War cost something. They don't come free. Apart from the immense diversion of fiscal and intellectual resources away from the civilian economy, apart from the psychic cost of living out our lives under the Damoclean sword, what has been the price of the Cold War? Gettysburg and Now • 237
Between the beginning of the Cold War in 1946, and its end in 1989, the United States spent (in equivalent 1989 dollars) well over $10 trillion in its global confrontation with the Soviet Union. Of this sum, more than a third was spent by the Reagan Administration, which added more to the national debt than all previous administrations, back to George Wasfungton, combined. At the beginning of the Cold War, the nation was, in all significant respects, untouchable by any foreign military force. Today, after the expenditure of this immense national treasure (and despite the end of the Cold War), the United States is vulnerable to virtually instant annihilation.
A business that spent its capital so recklessly, and with so little effect, would have been bankrupt long ago. Executives who could not recognize so clear a failure of corporate policy would long before now have been dismissed by the stockholders.
What else could the United States have done with that money (not all of it, because prudent defense is, of course, necessary— but, say, half of it)? For a little over $5 trillion, skillfully applied, we could have made major progress toward eliminating hunger, homelessness, infectious disease, illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, and safeguarding the environment—not just in the United States but worldwide. We could have helped make the planet agriculturally self-sufficient and removed many of the causes of violence and war. And this could have been done with enormous benefit to the American economy. We could have made deep inroads into the national debt. For less than a percent of that money, we could have mustered a long-term international program of manned exploration of Mars. Prodigies of human inventiveness in art, architecture, medicine, and science could be supported for decades with a tiny fraction of that money. The technological and entrepreneurial opportunities would have been prodigious. • Billions and Billions
Have we been wise in spending so much of our vast wealth on the preparations and paraphernalia of war? At the present time we are still spending at Cold War levels. We have made a fool's bargain. We have been locked in a deadly embrace with the Soviet Union, each side always propelled by the abundant malefactions of the other; almost always looking to the short term—to the next Congressional or Presidential election, to the next Party Congress—and almost never seeing the big picture. Dwight Eisenhower, who was closely associated with this Gettysburg community, said, "The problem in defense spending is to figure out how far you should go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." I say we have gone too far.
How do we get out of this mess? A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would stop all future nuclear weapons tests; they are the chief technological driver that propels, on both sides, the nuclear arms race. We need to abandon the ruinously expensive notion of Star Wars, which cannot protect the civilian population from nuclear war and subtracts from, not adds to, the national security of the United States. If we want to enhance deterrence, there are far better ways to do it. We need to make safe, massive, bilateral, intrusively inspected reductions in the strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals of the United States, Russia, and all other nations. (The INF and START treaties represent tiny steps, but in the right direction.) That's what we should be doing.
Because nuclear weapons are comparatively cheap, the big ticket item has always been, and remains, conventional military forces. An extraordinary opportunity is now before us. The Russians and the Americans have been engaged in major conventional force reductions in Europe. These should be extended to Japan, Korea, and other nations perfectly well able to defend themselves. Such conventional force reduction is in the interest Gettysburg and Now • 239
of peace, and in the interest of a sane and healthy American economy. We ought to meet the Russians halfway.
The world today spends $1 trillion a year on military preparations, most of it on conventional arms. The United States and Russia are the leading arms merchants. Much of that money is spent only because the nations of the world are wnable to take the unbearable step of reconciliation with their adversaries (and some of it because governments need forces to suppress and intimidate their own people). That trillion dollars a year takes food from the mouths of poor people. It cripples potentially effective economies. It is a scandalous waste, and we should not countenance it. It is time to learn from those who fell here. And it is time to act.
In part the American Civil War was about freedom; about extending the benefits of the American Revolution to all Americans, to make valid for everyone that tragically unfulfilled promise of "liberty and justice for all." I'm concerned about a lack of historical pattern recognition. Today the fighters for freedom do not wear three-cornered hats and play the fife and drum. They come in other costumes. They may speak other languages. They may adhere to other religions. The color of their skin may be different. But the creed of liberty means nothing if it is only our own liberty that excites us. People elsewhere are crying, "No taxation without representation," and in Western and Eastern Africa, or the West Bank of the Jordan River, or Eastern Europe, or Central America they are shouting in increasing numbers, "Give us liberty or give us death." Why are we unable to hear most of them? We Americans have powerful nonviolent means of persuasion available to us. Why are we not using these means? The Civil War was mainly about union; union in the face of differences. A million years ago, there were no nations on the 240 • Billions and Billions planet. There were no tribes. The humans who were here were divided into small family groups of a few dozen people each. We wandered. That was the horizon of our identification, an itinerant family group. Since then, the horizons have expanded. From a handful of hunter-gatherers, to a tribe, to a horde, to a small city-state, to a nation, and today to immense nation-states. The average person on the Earth today owes his or her primary allegiance to a group of something like 100 million people. It seems very clear that if we do not destroy ourselves first, the unit of primary identification of most human beings will before long be the planet Earth and the human species. To my mind, this raises the key question: whether the fundamental unit of identification will expand to embrace the planet and the species, or whether we will destroy ourselves first. I'm afraid it's going to be very close.
The identification horizons were broadened in this place 125 years ago, and at great cost to North and South, to blacks and whites. But we recognize that expansion of identification horizons as just. Today there is an urgent, practical necessity to work together on arms control, on the world economy, on the global environment. It is clear that the nations of the world now can only rise and fall together. It is not a question of one nation winning at the expense of another. We must all help one another or all perish together.
On occasions like this it is customary to quote homilies— phrases by great men and women that we've all heard before. We hear, but we tend not to focus. Let me mention one, a phrase that was uttered not far from this spot by Abraham Lincoln: "With malice toward none, with charity for all..." Think of what that means. This is what is expected of us, not merely because our ethics command it, or because our religions preach it, but because it is necessary for human survival. Gettysburg and Now • 241
Here's another: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Let me vary it a little: A species divided against itself cannot stand. A planet divided against itself cannot stand. And to be inscribed on this Eternal Light Peace Memorial, which is about to be rekindled and rededicated, is a stirring phrase: "A World United in the Search for Peace." /*•
The real triumph of Gettysburg was not, I think, in 1863 but in 1913, when the surviving veterans, the remnants of the adversary forces, the Blue and the Gray, met in celebration and solemn memorial. It had been the war that set brother against brother, and when the time came to remember, on the 50th anniversary of the battle, the survivors fell, sobbing, into one another's arms. They could not help themselves.
It is time now for us to emulate them—NATO and the Warsaw Pact, Tamils and Singhalese, Israelis and Palestinians, whites and blacks, Tutsis and Hutus, Americans and Chinese, Bosnians and Serbs, Unionists and Ulsterites, the developed and the underdeveloped worlds.
We need more than anniversary sentimentalism and holiday piety and patriotism. Where necessary, we must confront and challenge the conventional wisdom. It is time to learn from those who fell here. Our challenge is to reconcile, not after the carnage and the mass murder, but instead of the carnage and the mass murder. It is time to fly into one another's arms. It is time to act.
Update: To some degree, we have. In the time since this address was delivered, we Americans, we Russians, we humans have made major reductions in our nuclear arsenals and delivery systems—but not nearly enough for safety. We seem to be on the verge of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—but the means of
242 • Billions and Billions assembling and conveying nuclear warheads has spread or is about to spread to many more nations. This circumstance is often described as the exchange of one potential catastrophe for another, with no substantial improvement. But a handful of nuclear weapons, as catastrophic as they can be—as much human tragedy as they could cause—are as toys compared with the 60 or 70 thousand nuclear weapons that the United States and the Soviet Union accumulated at the height of the Cold War. Sixty or seventy thousand nuclear weapons could destroy the global civilization and possibly even the human species. The arsenals that North Korea or Iraq or Libya or India or Pakistan could accumulate cannot, in the foreseeable future, do any of that.
At the other extreme is the boast by American political leaders that no Russian nuclear weapon is targeted on a U.S. child or city. This may well be right, but retargeting takes at most 15 or 20 minutes. And both the United States and Russia retain thousands of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. That is why, throughout this book, I have insisted that nuclear weapons remain our greatest danger—even though substantial, even stunning, improvements in human safety have transpired. But it could all change overnight.
In Paris, in January 1993, 130 nations signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. After more than 20 years of negotiation, the world declared its readiness to outlaw these weapons of mass destruction. But as I write these words, the United States and Russia have still not ratified the Convention. What are we waiting for? Meanwhile, Russia has not yet ratified the START II accords, which would reduce the American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by 50 percent, down to 3,500 deployed warheads each. Since the end of the Cold War, the American military budget has declined—but only by 10 or 15 percent, and almost none of Gettysburg and Now • 243
that saving seems to have been effectively applied to the civilian economy. The Soviet Union has collapsed—but widespread misery and instability in the region is reason for worry about the global future. Democracy has to some extent reasserted itself in Eastern Europe, and Central and South America—but has made few inroads, except for Taiwan and South Kore< in East Asia; and is distorted in Eastern Europe by the worst excesses of capitalism. Identification horizons have broadened in Western Europe— but generally narrowed in the United States and the former Soviet Union. Progress has been made at reconciliation in Northern Ireland and in Israel/Palestine—but terrorists are still able to hold the peace process hostage.
Draconian cuts in the U.S. federal budget must be made, we are told, because of an urgent need to balance the budget. But, oddly, an institution whose share of the gross domestic product is higher than the entire federal discretionary budget is essentially off-limits. This is the military's $264 billion (compared with $17 billion for all civilian science and space programs). Actually, if hidden military costs and the intelligence budget were included, the military's share would be much larger.
With the Soviet Union vanquished, what is this immense sum of money for? Russia's annual military budget is about $30 billion. So is China's. The combined military budgets of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Cuba amount to about $27 billion. The U.S. is outspending all of them put together by a factor of three. It accounts for about 40 percent of world military expenditures. The Clinton defense budget for fiscal year 1995 was some $30 billion higher than Richard Nixon's defense budget in the height of the Cold War, 20 years earlier. With the Republican-proposed increments, the U.S. defense budget will grow in real dollars by 50 percent by the year 2000. There is no effective 244 • Billions and Billions voice in either political party opposing such growth—even as agonizing rips in the social safety net are being planned.
Our skinflint Congress turns shockingly profligate when it comes to the military, pressing unsolicited billions on a Department of Defense trying to exercise some modicum of self-control. While freighters in busy harbors and embassy pouches immune to border inspection are now the most likely delivery systems for nuclear weapons to American soil, there is strong Congressional pressure for space-based interceptors to protect the United States from the nonexistent intercontinental ballistic missiles of rogue nations. Wacky $2.3 billion rebate schemes are proposed for foreign nations so they can buy American arms. Taxpayers' money is given to American aerospace companies so they can buy other American aerospace companies. Around $100 billion is spent every year to defend Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and other nations—virtually all of which enjoy healthier balances of trade than the United States does. We plan to keep almost 100,000 troops stationed in Western Europe indefinitely. To defend against whom? Meanwhile, the hundreds of billions of dollars it will cost to clean up the military nuclear and chemical waste are a burden passed on to our children that we somehow don't have much problem with. Why do we have such difficulty grasping that national security is a much deeper and more subtle matter than the number of rocks in our pile? Despite all the talk of the military budget's being "cut to the bone," in the world we live in, it's bulging with marbleized fat. Why should the military budget be sacrosanct when so much else that our national well-being depends on is in danger of being thoughtlessly destroyed? There is much left to do. It is still time to act. CHAPTER 1
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