New York is OVERDUE for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

According to geologist Dr Charles Merguerian, there are a slew of faults running through NY. One is the Ramapo FaultNew York is OVERDUE an earthquake from a ‘brittle grid’ of faults under the city, expert warns

When you think of the impending earthquake risk in the United States, it’s likely California or the Pacific Northwest comes to mind.

But, experts warn a system of faults making up a ‘brittle grid’ beneath New York City could also be loading up for a massive temblor.

The city has been hit by major quakes in the past, along what’s thought to be roughly 150-year intervals, and researchers investigating these faults now say the region could be overdue for the next event.

Experts warn a system of faults making up a ‘brittle grid’ beneath New York City could also be loading up for a massive temblor. The city has been hit by major quakes in the past, along what’s thought to be roughly 150-year intervals. A stock image is pictured 

Experts warn a system of faults making up a ‘brittle grid’ beneath New York City could also be loading up for a massive temblor. The city has been hit by major quakes in the past, along what’s thought to be roughly 150-year intervals. A stock image is pictured


On August 10, 1884, New York was struck by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake with an epicentre located in Brooklyn.

While there was little damage and few injuries reported, anecdotal accounts of the event reveal the frightening effects of the quake.

One newspaper even reported that it caused someone to die from fright.

According to a New York Times report following the quake, massive buildings, including the Post Office swayed back and forth.

And, police said they felt the Brooklyn Bridge swaying ‘as if struck by a hurricane,’ according to an adaptation of Kathryn Miles’ book Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.

The rumbles were felt across a 70,000-square-mile area, causing broken windows and cracked walls as far as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

The city hasn’t experienced an earthquake this strong since.

According to geologist Dr Charles Merguerian, who has walked the entirety of Manhattan to assess its seismicity, there are a slew of faults running through New York, reports author Kathryn Miles in an adaptation of her new book Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.


One such fault passes through 125th street, otherwise known as the Manhattanville Fault.

While there have been smaller quakes in New York’s recent past, including a magnitude 2.6 that struck in October 2001, it’s been decades since the last major tremor of M 5 or more.

And, most worryingly, the expert says there’s no way to predict exactly when a quake will strike.

‘That’s a question you really can’t answer,’ Merguerian has explained in the past.

‘All we can do is look at the record, and the record is that there was a relatively large earthquake here in the city in 1737, and in 1884, and that periodicity is about 150 year heat cycle.

‘So you have 1737, 1884, 20- and, we’re getting there. But statistics can lie.

‘An earthquake could happen any day, or it couldn’t happen for 100 years, and you just don’t know, there’s no way to predict.’

Compared the other parts of the United States, the risk of an earthquake in New York may not seem as pressing.

But, experts explain that a quake could happen anywhere.

‘All states have some potential for damaging earthquake shaking,’ according to the US Geological Survey.

‘Hazard is especially high along the west coast but also in the intermountain west, and in parts of the central and eastern US.’

A recent assessment by the USGS determined that the earthquake hazard along the East Coast may previously have been underestimated.

‘The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,’ the USGS report explained.

The experts point to a recent example – the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that hit Virginia in 2011, which was among the largest to occur on the east coast in the last century.

This event suggests the area could be subjected to even larger earthquakes, even raising the risk for Charleston, SC.

It also indicates that New York City may be at higher risk than once thought.

A recent assessment by the USGS determined that the earthquake hazard along the East Coast may previously have been underestimated. The varying risks around the US can be seen above, with New York City in the mid-range (yellow)

A recent assessment by the USGS determined that the earthquake hazard along the East Coast may previously have been underestimated. The varying risks around the US can be seen above, with New York City in the mid-range (yellow)

Given the population density in the region, a major quake in this area could be catastrophic.

But, in somewhat of a relief, the report also found that the threat to tall buildings posed by an earthquake in New York City may be lower than suspected.

‘In New York City, the maps indicate a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought (but still a hazard nonetheless),’ the report continued.

‘Scientists estimated a lower likelihood for slow shaking from an earthquake near the city.

‘Slow shaking is likely to cause more damage to tall structures in contrast, compared to fat shaking which is more likely to impact shorter structures.’


Saudi Allies with the American Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Selling nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia and allowing them to build massive uranium-enrichment facilities and plants to extract plutonium is a stupendously dumb idea. So, it is perhaps fitting that the Trump administration is sending Rick Perry to discuss all this with the Saudis.

Of all the recent secretaries of energy, Perry knows the least about nuclear energy, nonproliferation policy, and the history of the region. He actually fits in well with an administration notoriously short on expertise. Not only have very few of the appointees appeared to know much about the regions or issue areas they now oversee, but the Department of State remains a ghost ship, with only one-third of the 150 presidentially appointed positions filled.

This puts the United States at a decided disadvantage as Secretary Perry sits down in London to discuss with Saudi officials their plan to build 16 nuclear reactors. They want to award major contracts soon, and US companies are drooling at the prospect of selling their nuclear wares to one of the few countries that wants to build more reactors.

Here’s the catch. Saudi Arabia also wants to build plants to make the fuel to put in these reactors. They also want plants to reprocess the fuel when it is taken out of the reactors. The problem is that the same centrifuges that can spin uranium gas to enrich it to levels necessary for fuel can also spin that gas to levels necessary for nuclear weapons. With the same facilities, the same machines, and a slightly different configuration, you can go from a fuel plant to a bomb factory in weeks.

Similarly, the same plants that break the spent fuel down into component elements for waste storage and reuse can also extract the plutonium from the used fuel rods. Unlike uranium, plutonium does not exist in nature. It is produced in the fission reactions that generate the energy (heat) used to turn water into the steam that spins the turbines that produce electricity. Extracting the plutonium could give Saudi Arabia a second pathway to a bomb. The Hiroshima bomb was made of uranium; the Nagasaki bomb, plutonium.

Most nations that have reactors buy their fuel from the handful of countries that make it, such as Russia or the European Union. Uranium enrichment is very expensive. It does not make economic sense to manufacture your own fuel unless you have 20 or more reactors. Saudi Arabia doesn’t yet have one, but it wants an enrichment facility.

Saudi Motives

Are Saudi motives suspicious? You betcha. Studies such as one done by the AUB Policy Institute in Beirut, Lebanon in October 2016 show that it would be far cheaper for all Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, to buy their fuel from “the oversupplied enrichment market” where prices have been steadily falling, “then seeking to establish their own enrichment programs.” The authors of this study propose establishing a multinational enrichment facility in the Middle East, similar to the multinational enrichment system in the EU. No one nation controls such faculties, so no one nation can quickly turn them into bomb plants.

Saudi motives are just as suspicious as Iran’s were when it announced nearly identical plans in the early 2000s. Many nuclear policy experts, including this author, opposed any enrichment or reprocessing facilities in Iran for precisely these reasons.

It would have been considerably wiser to negotiate with Iran in 2003 when it had only a few dozen centrifuges, or in 2005 when it had a few hundred, or in 2009 when it had several thousand. A “zero option” might have been possible at those moments. But by the time the United States got serious about talks in 2013, Iran had 20,000 operating centrifuges and a deal to get rid of them all was beyond reach. The vast majority of global nuclear experts greeted the Iran nuclear accord with relief, as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) effectively blocked Iran’s pathways to a bomb for at least 15 years—indeed, forever if it can be supplemented with additional agreements.

This is why it would be foolish to give Saudi Arabia these same pathways now. “Giving Riyadh a pass on tight nuclear nonproliferation rules would be playing with fire,” argue Victor Galinsky and Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Education Center in a recent Foreign Policy article. “Saudi Arabia is neither a stable state nor a benign actor in the Middle East that deserves U.S. coddling…the truth is that the Saudis have been the main purveyors of the fundamentalist religious doctrines that have spread the seeds of terrorism throughout the Arab world.” Given that Saudi Arabia is now engaged with Iran in a struggle for regional dominance, Riyadh’s “resistance to restrictions on uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction amounts to a public declaration that the kingdom wants to keep a nuclear weapons option open,” they warn.

As The Economist points out, “Granting the Saudis such a deal could prompt other countries such as the UAE, to ask for similar terms.” The UAE is also building a reactor (the first in the Arab world) but agreed several years ago to foreswear any enrichment or reprocessing plants. The Obama administration declared this the “gold standard” for all new nuclear sales deals. Giving in to the Saudis now could trigger a UAE reconsideration and “undermine global efforts at non-proliferation,” says The Economist. And it could blow apart the Iran Deal: “Critics of the Iran deal fear that a Saudi enrichment programme would compromise their effort to impose tighter restrictions on Iran.” Does anyone seriously think that Iran would agree to extend the restrictions on its program if Saudi Arabia were operating potential bomb factories next door?

It is not, after all, as if Saudi Arabia were asking for the same deal the nations of the world struck with Iran, though the issue is often framed this way. Former Acting Undersecretary of State Tom Countryman tweeted, “I offered the Saudis the same deal that Iran got in the JCPOA: toleration of enrichment, no nuclear trade with the US, permanent pariah status, and inspectors in their shorts from now to doomsday. For some reason, they only focused on the first bit.”

The Iran deal, with all its unprecedented restrictions, is not what the Saudis want. They want complete freedom to build what they want and use it how they want, reserving all options. Lenin famously said, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” The Saudis are asking for the nuclear rope.

Trump’s Proliferation Position

Still, the Trump administration may cave to Saudi demands. Many in the administration, including the president, don’t think it would be so bad if Saudi Arabia got the bomb. It is not the spread of nuclear weapons they worry about; it is the spread of nuclear weapons to “bad guys.” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a March 2016 interview that it didn’t matter if Saudi Arabia got nuclear weapons because “it was going to happen anyway.” Cooper asked him, “So if you said, Japan, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?”

“Can I be honest with you?” asks Trump, “It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.” And then he cuts to the chase: “Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

Forget the corrupt business deals that may bind Saudi Arabia to the Trump administration. Forget the sword dances and the fawning flattery and the millions of Saudi dollars flooding American think tanks and university centers. Forget the complete lack of understanding of the Middle East.

All of that certainly influences the public debate and Trump administration attitudes. But in the end, it may just come down to the president of the United States going against everything his predecessors from Truman to Obama believed, and all their work to stop any nation from getting these weapons, including U.S. allies. It may come down to Donald Trump thinking it is perfectly fine to give Saudi Arabia the atomic bomb.

Why Trump May Lead US Into War

See the source imageWhat Next for Trump: War?

by Andrew Levine

True to his reality TV persona, Donald Trump never ceases to amaze.  Just when it seems that he couldn’t be dumber or more vile, he outdoes himself.  Arming classroom teachers is his latest gem.

“And you ain’t seen’ nothin’ yet,” as carnival barkers used to say.  Mountebanks and carnival barkers — that is the cloth from which the Donald is cut.

Even back in the days of television’s Golden Age, when the high-minded deemed the fare offered the viewing public “a vast wasteland” and when reality television wasn’t even a glint in the eyes of debased network executives, Trump was selling snake oil – not to rubes, that would come later, but to readers of tabloids and the National Enquirer.

Mountebanks and carnival barkers repeat their pitches whenever they can; they stick with whatever works.  This is why when Trump is feeling vexed because the law is closing in on him, or when he cannot block out the contempt of the peoples of the world and of two-thirds of the American electorate, he holds later-day Clinton v. Trump campaign rallies in friendly venues – letting loose with timeworn “Make American Great Again” rants.  As every sensate being on earth knows, he means: “Make America White.”

The cruder and more ridiculous Trump is, the better his sales pitch goes.  His diehard fans  lap up every slur and vulgarity he throws their way.

They are a shameless lot.   Nothing — not the rightwing media culture they wallow in, not even their justifiable contempt for the self-righteous hypocrisies of the Democratic Party’s nomenklatura — excuses their complicity.

They are stubborn too.  With the Trump era now in its second year, anyone who has not already jumped ship probably never will.

Thus the “Trump base,” as it is euphemistically calle, has become a force to be reckoned with in the impending midterm elections and in the years ahead.  It comprises roughly a third of the electorate.

It has already enabled the dunce who brought them together to hijack the Republican Party lock, stock, and barrel.  It may also be able to prevent Trump from being removed from office, regardless how many “high crimes and misdemeanors” Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team conclude they could establish beyond a reasonable doubt.

Needless to say, no one with a temperament anything like Trump’s should be Commander-in-Chief of anything, much less America’s bloated armed forces.  The very idea that he is allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes, that he could unleash a nuclear holocaust in a fit of pique, is horrifying and absurd.  Getting him out of the White House is a matter of the utmost urgency.

Even so, what would then follow would be no panacea.  Were Trump to cut and run, as was his way when his businesses failed, or were he to be removed involuntarily from office, the miscreants his election empowered would still be around, still working overtime to reverse decades of social and economic progress.

Vice President Mike Pence would take Trump’s place.  Unlike Trump, who has no settled convictions, only opportunistic instincts and mean spirited attitudes, Pence is a theocrat and a bona fide old school Republican reactionary.  Having no discernible personality, he is also bland enough not to scare people off.  If only for that reason, he would likely do a better job advancing hard right causes than Trump.

Why then was the mood at the recently concluded CPAC gathering so ardently pro-Trump?

The kindest explanation is that  “conservatives” have concluded that Trump is good enough and that there is no point in taking on the turbulence that would inevitably follow were they and less ideological Trump diehards to part ways.

A less kind but sounder explanation is that, like Trump himself (according to Rex Tillerson), they are “fucking morons.”

And so, for the foreseeable future, it looks like Trump and his minions will be the ones leading the country to ruin; not Pence and his.  They will do it as best they can – in the ways and at the levels they currently are – provided, of course, that they don’t destroy the world first.

With Trump desperate to divert attention away from the dirt Mueller is digging up, destroying the world first is a distinct possibility.

The problem, of course, is not Russian meddling in 2016 and in the upcoming midterm elections.  Notwithstanding the ardent Cold War revivalism of nearly all Democrats, including the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the repeated assurances of “liberal” pundits, Russian “collusion” with the Trump campaign is very likely the red herring Trump says it is.

The dirt that is almost certainly there to be found by anyone looking doggedly enough pertains instead to the involvement of the Trump Organization with Russian money laundering and other shady financial shenanigans.

But fear of prosecution is not the only reason why the world is more imperiled now than it was in the pre-Trump era.  A deeper problem is that, for Trump the egotist and for the ideologues who are using him to advance their causes, what the Trump administration has accomplished so far, and what it is able to do in the circumstances that now obtain, just isn’t enough.

Beyond undermining nearly every socially useful thing the government does, beyond “deconstructing the administrative state,” as the currently out-of-favor Steve Bannon put it, they want to make a more positive mark — as they did when they got their fiscally reckless tax cuts for the hyper-rich enacted into law or as they have been doing by stacking the federal judiciary with pernicious rightwing jurists.  Neil Gorsuch is only the most heralded example; there are many more down the line.

With that ambition in mind, and with Mueller closing in, it could hardly have failed to occur to Trump and the others that “a splendid little war” might be just the thing they need.

Wars seldom turn out well; but in the short run, they can be a government’s best friend.

This is a lesson that could be learned from books.  Trump doesn’t read, but a few Republican ideologues do; they fancy themselves intellectuals make quite a show of it.  It is far from clear, however, what wisdom they get from the reading they do; for all practical purposes, they might be better off being more like Trump, more conspicuously anti-intellectual.

He and they do log a lot of cable news time, however.  They therefore could not help but notice how, in the public mind, the otherwise hapless George W. Bush was transformed after 9/11 from a bumbling nincompoop into a world historical figure (for a brief while, before reality sunk in).   All it took was a war of revenge against Afghanistan and a war of choice against Iraq.

It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold; perhaps, but as an instrument of foreign policy or domestic politics, it is an uncivilized and gratuitous evil.

Moreover, if Bush really did think that the thing to do after 9/11 was to shock and awe a Muslim country and bomb its cities to smithereens, Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan, would have been a more appropriate target.  But, of course, Bush and the Saudis were thick as thieves, and Afghanistan seemed easy prey.  More than a decade and a half later, Americans are still killing and being killed there with no end in sight.

The Iraq War was more obviously uncalled for and unwise than Bush’s Afghanistan War; even Barack Obama thought it “dumb.” The murder, mayhem, and geopolitical havoc it set in motion also continue to this day.

But, at the time, thanks to the hard work of servile media pundits and White House scribes, it turned Bush and Dick Cheney, his éminence grise, and other leading administration figures, even Donald Rumsfeld, into heroes.

In time, however, Americans wised up.  They would have wised up even more had Obama not been quite so determined “to look forward” by giving Bush and Cheney and  other war criminals involved in prosecuting that war open ended get-out-of-jail-free cards.  His feigned magnanimity allowed him to broaden and deepen their war against the historically Muslim world.

He did it, however, in a less hysterical way.  He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, after all.

At a time when Bush era officials are installed as founts of wisdom on liberal cable networks, it seems almost churlish to object to the fact that liberal public opinion continues to cut Obama complete and total slack on Afghanistan and Iraq.   At least part of the blame for this lies with Trump.  In comparison with him and his people, nearly everything, no matter how awful, looks good.

Trump would surely like to replicate the boost in popularity and esteem that the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars provided Bush – at first.   How else could he salvage his presidency?  Strategic thinking is hardly his forte, but it is not beyond his ken to figure out that what was good for the last numbskull Republican president who couldn’t get any respect could work for him as well.

Bottom of the barrel “deplorables” may be enough to keep his presidency afloat, but even Trump has to know that his marks are useless for conferring upon him the kind of respect he craves but has never received.  Surely, he realizes too that everyone who is not in his base despises him now more than ever.

Is he therefore hoping for another 9/11?  If so, he had better do nothing more than wait patiently.  Trump doesn’t have the wits to conspire; he may not even have the wits to collude.

To be sure, he is doing his best to discredit the intelligence services that are supposed to defend “the homeland” against terrorists.  But that is about saving himself from their investigations of him, not about making the world safer for the political heirs of Osama Bin Laden; and, in any case, the CIA and the others are not about to let their guard down just because a “fucking moron” casts dispersions on their honesty and competence.

In any case, if he is hoping to be as lucky as George W was, he is almost certainly hoping in vain.  Whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead, it is extremely unlikely that anyone outside the Trump base would even think to rally around the Donald.

When 9/11 came along, the jury was still out on Bush.  The situation didn’t look promising, but the daggers weren’t drawn; Bush was not intensely hated.  The consensus view among right-thinking people was that he was a likeable but laughable nitwit, not a clear and present danger.

This is not the case now with Trump.  He is hated implacably by two-thirds of all politically cognizant Americans, and considered untrustworthy by many more.

In these circumstances, it is hard to imagine how he could sell anybody on a war of revenge, much less a war of choice.  Were he to try, he would do himself more harm than good.

He should also be careful what he wishes for.  Despite what Hegel and Marx famously said, tragic historical events don’t always repeat themselves as farces.  They sometimes repeat themselves as greater tragedies still.

Were Trump to start a war now, he would likely find himself mired in one of those times, his fate and fortune shot to hell.


With the Bush-Cheney wars continuing, and with the several wars and quasi-wars initiated by Obama proceeding on course, it is not even clear against whom another war could be launched.

It is no longer even possible to say precisely where and against whom the United States is already at war.  What is clear is just that the Greater Middle East has been all but picked clean.  There is no low-lying fruit left.

Trump could escalate American involvement in Syria, but the shifting alliances involved there are too hard to navigate, and thanks to Turkey, Russia, and Iran, the Syrian civil war is now rapidly winding down – after a fashion.

Not long ago, North Korea seemed a likely target.

However, even if a war there could be contained, the consequences would be catastrophic for the entire Korean peninsula, for tens of thousands of American soldiers and civilians in the area, and for a major node in the global economy.  Trump, along with his advisors and generals, may not care much about what they destroy, but they do care about that.

Moreover, the diplomatic skills that would be needed to contain a revived Korean War plainly lie beyond Trump’s ken, and probably also exceed the capacity of anyone else associated with his administration, including the generals he loves so much.  Even were nuclear weapons not deployed, Japan, China and Russia would almost certainly become involved at some level.

It is relevant too that in reaction to Trump’s bluster, and thanks to the intelligence of North and South Korean diplomats, the “indispensable nation” of Madeleine Albright’s imagination has become more dispensable than it used to be.  The two Koreas, with China’s help – and also Russia’s and Japan’s — are hard at work defusing tensions.  Trump and Pence still want to exacerbate them, but the principals no longer seem to care.

Trump could still cause a lot of trouble in Korea, but, as matters now stand, if he wants a  war badly enough, he would probably look elsewhere to have it.

Elsewhere would most likely be Iran.

Part of the appeal there is that, unlike North Korea, Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons.

This is unlikely to change any time soon thanks to the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration’s finest diplomatic achievement.

That is part of the problem, however; in Trump’s mind, Obama’s role in bringing that agreement about is reason enough to quash it.

No doubt, his generals are telling Trump that were America to go to war against Iran, the consequences would be worse by far than the consequences of the Bush-Cheney-Obama war against Iraq.

There would be casualties galore, not all of them Iranian, and the consequences for regional stability and for virtually every aspect of commerce that depends on oil would be catastrophic.  Nowadays, nearly all the world’s commerce depends on oil to some extent.

Does Trump understand this?  Probably not.  He knows little and thinks less.

Were he a more normal president, trusted international leaders and the foreign policy establishments of all Western nations, our own especially, would surely dissuade him.  But Trump is not normal; the only opinion he values is his own.

He does listen to his generals, however.  How pathetic that those masters of war are the peace party’s best hope!

Meanwhile, though, Saudi Arabia is pulling hard, along with the government of Israel, in the opposite direction. This is bad news indeed.  The de facto Salafi-Zionist alliance that has sprung up in recent years is easily as worrisome a development as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Saudis are in it because their semi-feudal leaders want to keep the money flowing into their coffers and because they want the country they rule to become the unchallenged regional hegemon.

Thanks to their oil money, and the extent to which American and European death merchants depend on selling them weapons, the theocrats in Riyadh figure they are pretty much there already.  They would like to keep it that way.  Therefore, the more harm they can visit upon their competition, the better.

The United States has long encouraged them in this endeavor not because they think that the Saudi theocracy is less noxious than Iran’s – they don’t, and it probably isn’t – but because the Saudis have learned over the years how to use the avariciousness of Western capitalists to their advantage.

Meanwhile, for the past three and a half decades, Iran has resisted the empire’s predations as well or better than any country on earth.  Our bipartisan elites do not like this one bit; and while America may be, as Gore Vidal once said, the United States of Amnesia, the stewards of the empire do have difficulty letting go of grudges.  In their minds, the humiliation the United States suffered in the hostage crisis three and a half decades ago still rankles.

But even were they to let that go, and even without pressure from Saudi Arabia, the Israelis would still be there, doing their best to stir up hostilities between the United States and Iran.

They have something even more potent than Saudi money to work with — homegrown American billionaires like Sheldon Adelson.  And they have the Israel lobby.

As lobbies go, only the (currently embattled) NRA rivals it.

Both propagandize actively, but AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and its sister organizations benefit from a narrower focus, mainly targeting younger American Jews (a demographic in which automatic support for the ethnocratic settler state is rapidly declining) and Christian Zionists.  The NRA, on the other hand, focuses on everybody actually or potentially besotted with guns.

Also, the NRA has State Houses all over the country to intimidate and control, not just Congress and the White House.  AIPAC can deploy its carrots and sticks on Congress and the White House alone.

Of late, the Israel lobby is more than usually motivated to do precisely that – not just because, in the face of Palestinian resistance, Israel has effectively exhausted what little moral capital it could convince liberal Zionists it had left, but also because the Netanyahu government is tottering under the weight of its own turpitude and corruption.

As much or more than Trump, Netanyahu could use a war – to strengthen his own position and to bring wavering American and European Jews into line.

His problem, though, is that were the vaunted IDF to take on Iran – either directly or through proxies – without substantial American aid, it would soon find itself in such desperate straits that the very idea of Israeli invincibility would cease to be a factor in the politics of the region.

The solution is clear: goad America to do to Iran what Trump was not long ago declaring he would do to North Korea.

Obama had a gift for backing off when situations threatened to get out of hand.  In that respect, Trump could not be more different.

Combine his mindless instability with the Russophobic paranoia that the Democratic Party has taken to cultivating and the likelihood of bumbling into a war to end all wars, along with everything else, is alarmingly high.

Trump will only listen to reason when his brand and bottom line are endangered; he could care less about anything else.  Our Constitution makes it extremely difficult to get rid of him, and all but impossible to undo the consequences of the 2016 election.   But an outraged citizenry can affect his bottom line and the reputation of his brand.  There is power in that, if only it is marshaled and put to use.

But efforts are better spent persuading Democrats than persuading Trump or the leaders and rank-and-file of the more odious of our two semi-established political parties. They are, or at least ought to be, more susceptible to rational arguments and to pressure from below.  Sadly, however, in the struggle against Cold War revivalism, they have shown no sign of this so far.

Democrats who are progressive on domestic issues, but whose decency stops at the water’s edge, have been with us seemingly forever.

Even now, they are no better than Obama or Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Witness their positions on Israel-Palestine, or the myriad ways they support environmental depredations in distant lands that suit the interests of what one of the best of them, Sanders, calls “the donor class.”

However, fanning dying Cold War embers, a quarter century after the “evil Empire” imploded, is many times worse than the rest of what they do – not just for its recklessness, but also for its detrimental effects on free expression and public discourse.  It seemed that we had gotten beyond all that a generation ago; evidently, we had not.

And so, we degrade our politics in the old familiar way, imperiling the entire world in the process.

We should not write off the handful of ostensibly progressive Democrats just yet, however.  Of all the perpetrators of the circumstances that have brought the present situation to fruition, they are likely the most persuadable.  It is therefore upon them that maximal pressure should be put.

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Playing Nuclear Russian Roulette


At a vast tract of uninhabited desert in southern Nevada, hundreds of moonlike craters dimple the wasteland, remnants of Cold War nuclear explosions that melted the bedrock and fused the sand to ensure that America could take part in the unthinkable: global thermonuclear war. The crowds of scientists and generals are long gone–the U.S. hasn’t tested a nuke since 1992, when then President George H.W. Bush declared a self-imposed testing moratorium. But the Nevada National Security test site is not completely abandoned. A skeleton crew of custodians oversees the long dormant facility, less than 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, standing by to turn the lights back on if the day ever comes.

It may come sooner than many thought.

Since 1993, the Department of Energy has had to be ready to conduct a nuclear test within two to three years if ordered by the President. Late last year, the Trump Administration ordered the department to be ready, for the first time, to conduct a short-notice nuclear test in as little as six months.

That is not enough time to install the warhead in shafts as deep as 4,000 ft. and affix all the proper technical instrumentation and diagnostics equipment. But the purpose of such a detonation, which the Administration labels “a simple test, with waivers and simplified processes,” would not be to ensure that the nation’s most powerful weapons were in operational order, or to check whether a new type of warhead worked, a TIME review of nuclear-policy documents has found. Rather, a National Nuclear Security Administration official tells TIME, such a test would be “conducted for political purposes.”

The point, this and other sources say, would be to show Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Iran’s Ayatullah Ali Khamenei and other adversaries what they are up against.

President Trump has not ordered such a test, but even the consideration of a show of force–by the nation that announced the atomic age by dropping nuclear weapons on Japanese cities in August 1945–marks a provocative shift from the sober, almost mournful restraint that has characterized the U.S. posture toward the weapons for decades. To prevent nuclear war and the spread of weapons to non-nuclear states, the strategy of Republican and Democratic Commanders in Chief alike has been to reduce nuclear arsenals and forge new arms-control agreements.

The Trump Administration, by contrast, is convinced that the best way to limit the spreading nuclear danger is to expand and advertise its ability to annihilate its enemies. In addition to putting the Nevada testing ground on notice, he has signed off on a $1.2 trillion plan to overhaul the entire nuclear-weapons complex. Trump has authorized a new nuclear warhead, the first in 34 years. He is funding research and development on a mobile medium-range missile. The new weapon, if tested or deployed, would be prohibited by a 30-year-old Cold War nuclear-forces agreement with Russia (which has already violated the agreement). And for the first time, the U.S. is expanding the scenarios under which the President would consider going nuclear to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” including major cyberattacks.

“We must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression,” Trump said on Jan. 30 during his State of the Union address. “Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

The rapid strategic changes have been matched by Trump’s norm-breaking rhetoric. Previously, every U.S. Administration since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s had avoided referring to the prospect of launching nuclear war and explicitly maintained, advanced or defended treaties designed to limit the spread of nuclear arms. Trump has openly threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and has been hostile toward international agreements. He reportedly called for more, not fewer, nuclear weapons in a July 20 Pentagon briefing, where military advisers were upbraided for presenting global reductions in nuclear stockpiles as progress.

Trump has criticized New START, which reduces and limits nuclear arms in the U.S. and Russia, as a bad deal. He has repeatedly questioned the multilateral deal under which Iran suspended its nuclear program, and promised to decertify it in May if changes aren’t made. He has publicly undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, instead warning North Korea about his “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button. “The long-standing strategic policy of the United States has been to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons,” says Andrew Weber, who spent 30 years on nuclear-weapons issues in the State and Defense departments before retiring in 2015. “That idea seems to have been balled up and thrown out the window.”

The Trump team says it is responding to bad policy by past Administrations that left the U.S. vulnerable as other countries broke their word, and non-nuclear countries decided to pursue the weapons. “The President hates bad deals,” one senior Administration official tells TIME. “There’s a view of arms control as an intrinsic good, per se. Any agreement is a good agreement. That’s not where we are.” Aggressively responding to violations of treaties, launching new nuclear-weapons programs and reminding the world about the power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, officials say, is the best way to deter others from expanding, or seeking, arsenals.

Foreign nations have issued dire warnings in response. China’s Ministry of National Defense in January urged the Trump government to abandon a “Cold War” mind-set, and view matters more “rationally and objectively.” Russian President Vladimir Putin in December accused the U.S. of violating a landmark Cold War–era nuclear arms deal and carrying out an aggressive military policy that “seriously affects security in Europe and in the whole world.” Both China and Russia are upgrading their nuclear weapons. Other nuclear powers, such as North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel, continue to build new systems.

Rather than dissuading such efforts, arms-control experts from both political parties say, Trump’s moves will accelerate them. A new nuclear-arms race would not be limited to two superpowers seeking strategic balance in a Cold War but would include many nations, including foes in regions where hot wars are a regular occurrence.

“The new arms race has already begun,” says former Defense Secretary William Perry. “It’s different in nature than the one during the Cold War, which focused on quantity and two superpowers producing absurd numbers of weapons. Today it is focused on quality and involves several nations instead of just two. The risk for nuclear conflict today is higher than it was during the Cold War.”

The Trump administration is planning to take a step toward developing a new generation of nuclear weapons this month in its Nuclear Posture Review, a strategy document for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has not designed any new nuclear weapons as it and Russia have worked to scale back their strategic arsenals. A draft proposal of the 64-page document, published in January by the Huffington Post, included two new sea-launched weapons, one outfitted with a small atomic warhead for battlefield use.

The new warhead, known as a tactical nuclear weapon, would be delivered by a submarine-launched missile against an advancing army. It differs from a strategic weapon, which is designed to destroy cities and hardened military targets. America needs battlefield nukes, the Trump team says, to match and deter adversaries’ tactical arsenals. In an escalating fight with Russia or China, the U.S. military could engage in a “limited nuclear war” rather than leveling whole cities with strategic weapons. Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells TIME the President needs options. Trump and his successors should not face a choice between killing millions of civilians or backing down, he says. “It makes people uncomfortable to hear about nuclear war–fighting and presenting options to the President, whomever that person might be,” Selva says. “Strategic stability in the world between our nuclear competitors and our nuclear peers has been assumed. It is not a birthright.”

Trump’s new plan also expands the President’s “first use” of nuclear weapons to circumstances that include “non-nuclear strategic attacks” against the U.S. or its allies. That could mean cyberattacks on nuclear command and control systems or civilian infrastructure, like the electricity grid or air-traffic-control system, arms-control experts have concluded. Previous Administrations limited the threat of a nuclear response to mass-casualty events, like chemical- and biological-weapon attacks. Stephen Schwartz, a nuclear weapons policy expert, said the key concern is the expansion of the nuclear umbrella to “include these new and not extreme possibilities, thus dramatically lowering the threshold for nuclear use.”

The Trump plan also takes a new, skeptical approach to nuclear arms-control agreements. In the 2018 Pentagon budget, Trump included funding for the development of a new missile. If tested or deployed, the missile would violate a 30-year-old arms-control pact with Russia, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Unlike his predecessors, Trump is directly confronting Russia’s prior violation of the treaty, says David Trachtenberg, Defense Undersecretary for Policy, who helped oversee the new plan. “The world is not as benign as some hoped it would be,” he says.

Trump’s nuclear moves, rolled out in policy papers and secret briefings over the past year, have garnered responses abroad ranging from quiet concern to outrage.

On Nov. 8, nearly five weeks before Trump approved research on the new missile, Secretary of Defense James Mattis assembled the defense ministers of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 29-nation alliance that contained and defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Convened inside a secure conference room under NATO’s highest security classification, known ominously as “Cosmic Top Secret,” the Mattis briefing laid out the American intelligence case indicating Russia’s violation of the INF treaty.

U.S. intelligence agencies had captured overhead imagery and additional information that Moscow had for years been testing a treaty-violating cruise missile at the Kapustin Yar rocket-launch test site in western Russia, Pentagon sources tell TIME. Now the missile had been deployed with two different Russian military units, putting European capitals at risk. The weapon was derisively nicknamed the SSC-8 “Screwdriver” by NATO analysts because “Russia used it to screw us,” say former U.S. officials.

The Russian cruise missile that violated the treaty could be launched without giving allies much advance time to determine what was coming their way. Leaders would have to quickly discern the blip on their radar screens and decide whether to respond in kind. The INF agreement, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, was the only nuclear arms-control agreement to eliminate a class of nuclear weapons. It forced the superpowers to scrap more than 2,600 missiles with ranges of about 310 to 3,420 miles–weapons considered destabilizing to Europe because they could deliver a nuclear strike in less than 10 minutes.

But if Europeans were concerned about Russia’s violation of the accord, they feared that the Trump Administration’s response would distract from it, said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. The last thing Europeans want is Moscow and Washington launching a new arms race in Europe. “There is no indication that NATO supports a new [missile], and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive,” Reif says. “It is thus a weapon to nowhere.” Three days after Trump signed the defense bill, NATO issued a statement touting the INF treaty as “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security” and reiterated that “full compliance” was essential. NATO also called on Russia “to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way.”

Arguments over U.S.-Russia nuclear deployments are not new. Strategists have long disagreed about whether to counter Moscow’s nuclear threat with escalation or restraint. It’s a high-stakes game of nuclear poker. The Trump Administration, in its aggressive approach, is betting on coercion. “We have to have this strong stance in order to get Russia to return to the negotiating table,” says Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon Russia expert. “But we are not throwing out the treaties that have served us so well in the past decades.”

If they can’t fix INF, officials tell TIME, the Trump Administration is not willing to engage on future arms agreements with Russia. That’s a particular problem, because New START, a linchpin arms-control agreement, will expire in three years. The 2010 deal limits each side to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. If it sunsets, it will be the first time the effort to limit the strategic stockpiles in the U.S. and Russia has lapsed since 1991.

Former U.S. Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, whose bipartisan partnership was crucial to gaining ratification of nuclear-weapons treaties in the chaotic years following the Cold War, fear an end to arms control altogether. “We have severe erosion,” Nunn says. “We are going into a period of much greater risk in the nuclear arena.” Says Lugar: “The trend has been moving away from these sorts of international agreements, which is deeply troubling–and frankly dangerous.”

At the same time, the U.S. and Russia are accelerating their spending on nuclear forces. The current U.S. plan would require spending $1.2 trillion to modernize the aging U.S. “nuclear triad” of bombers, submarines and land-based missiles over the next three decades. The U.S. is reinvesting in the labs and factories that produce warheads. While the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been slashed over the past 30 years, the U.S. military has said the remaining arsenal is unmatched.

Russia is in the midst of overhauling its nuclear forces, including new ICBMs, ballistic-missile submarines and modernized heavy bombers. It’s developing a massive RS-28 Sarmat ICBM that boasts countermeasures designed to elude U.S. antimissile systems. It’s also practicing nuclear snap drills that involve missile launches from the air, land and sea.

The rest of the world is not blind to the accelerating U.S.-Russia competition. While the two nations account for nearly 93% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, there are now nine countries with stockpiles. Not only do they have no plans for disarmament, but they aren’t seeking reductions. The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined since the Cold War, from a peak of about 70,300 in 1986 to 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). But the pace of reductions has drastically slowed.

Around the globe, the perceived value of acquiring nuclear weapons has gone up, while the repercussions of violating treaties has declined, says Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear-information project at FAS. “We’re certainly in a dynamic strategic competition where all sides are arming themselves,” he says. “If the dynamic is not stopped and reversed, it will almost inevitably escalate into an arms race. That is in the nature of the beast.”

If Trump undoes the nuclear deal with Iran, analysts fear that Tehran will sprint for a weapon. Its regional rival Saudi Arabia could then develop its own atomic weapon, or import one from close ally Pakistan, which has its own fast-growing nuclear arsenal to counter arch-rival India’s. (Pakistan is building up its stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.) China now has a nuclear-powered submarine, known as the Jin-class, that gives its military the ability to launch ICBMs from the sea.

Few threats loom larger, or more immediate, for the U.S. than North Korea. Pyongyang has launched a record 23 missiles during 16 tests since Trump took office. It has tested at least six nuclear warheads, and U.S. intelligence believes it has made progress on miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile. The isolated nation’s most recent launch, on Nov. 29, climbed 2,800 miles into outer space, more than 10 times higher than the International Space Station. If that flight path were flattened out, it could have hit New York City, Washington or nearly any other city in America.

Hawaii’s false ballistic missile alert on Jan. 13 was the most visceral reminder yet of what’s at stake. Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill, read the emergency-system alert pushed to people’s smartphones statewide. It took 38 minutes to issue an all clear for the mistake; a worker had mistaken a drill for the real thing.

Disarmament experts warn that this is just one of the risks in a new era of brinkmanship. “Trump has not said what the last 10 Presidents have said, which is we will lead on arms-control agreements and nonproliferation issues,” says Thomas M. Countryman, a 35-year career diplomat who retired last year after leading the State Department’s nonproliferation efforts. “I think that is an indication that the importance of appearing masculine is more important than actually reducing the threat of nuclear warfare.”

Philip Coyle, a former test director at the Nevada Test Site, also warned about the chance of miscalculation. “This is a time where we need more thought about where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” he said. “There is little room for error.”

Americans of a certain age will remember the Doomsday Clock maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It expresses the risk of nuclear annihilation as time remaining until midnight. On Jan. 26, citing Trump’s moves, it pushed the second hand 30 seconds forward, the closest Doomsday has loomed since 1953, when the U.S. and Russia first tested hydrogen bombs within months of each other.

This appears in the February 12, 2018 issue of TIME.