Peter Zeihan: Fighting the United States is “Flirting with Personal Armageddon”
Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is crucial principle of military strategy, but it is often misunderstood. In my interview with geopolitical strategist and futurist, Peter Zeihan, he shared the truth about MAD. To see the full interview, check out the video below.
Brendan Carr: “Is Mutually Assured Destruction enough for our security?”
Peter Zeihan: “Anyone who wants to pick a nuclear fight with the United States that is not a peer power is simply flirting with personal Armageddon, and I think everybody realizes that. The North Koreans certainly have made that almost publicly known with the summit. The only countries that the United States needs to worry about nukes are peer countries, and when I say “peer,” I mean peer in terms of arsenal, and that is exactly one country. That’s Russia. And that is a reason enough in my opinion for the Americans to make sure that we never allow relations with the Russians to sink too low.
The Russian demographic and economic situation is tragic, and the Russians will probably cease to exist as a country within the next 40 years. You do not want to be the country that they lash out at, rather than going quietly into the night. So in my opinion, our current relations with Russia actually … Our relations with Russian under the last two presidents has been criminally mishandled, and that is something that in my opinion needs to improve.
But for everybody else, the United States is not a peer power compared to them. They are more consumed with issues in their neighborhood, and there is no advantage in a world where the United States is no longer maintaining global security and going out and picking a fight with an expeditionary power that has 10 aircraft carriers and 3,000 deliverable nuclear warheads, who happens to be on the other side of the planet and just really doesn’t care about you. Why pick that fight?
And so as the United States withdraws, we’re not going to be containing the Chinese, but the Japanese will. We’re not going to be containing Iran, but the Saudis and the Turks will. Nukes are likely to be used, but they are not likely to be used on us, because all that does is guarantee your country’s complete destruction. MAD only works when there’s parody, and no one has parody with the United States except Russia.
Now, the countries that are likely to use nukes probably aren’t the list that you’re thinking. You use nuclear weapons when you are in a fight you can’t win conventionally. That’s not Iran. That’s not China. That’s Japan, that’s Korea, that’s Saudi Arabia, that’s Ukraine, that’s Sweden. So we need to rethink how we process the nuclear with, because most of the places where I expect nukes to be used are not the folks that Americans are traditionally concerned about. We’re concerned about the countries that we’re concerned about right now because we’re maintaining global order, and that means we have to stand up to the local regional powers, who happen to be for whatever reason preventing the global order from working. And today, that might be China. That certainly is Iran. But those days are coming to a close very, very quickly.
I think that the best example to kind of highlight that is what’s going on with North Korea right now. I don’t mean to suggest that the Trump-Kim Summit of last weekend is the end-all, be-all. There’s a long way ahead of us. But we’ve already seen some very real commitments from the North Koreans in terms of practical disarmament steps. But you’ll note that those steps have nothing to do with the nukes; it has to do with the missile program. The United States really doesn’t care if North Korea has nuclear missiles that can only be delivered a few hundred kilometers. We just want to make sure they get rid of their missiles so it can’t hit North America. So this now is a Chinese, South Korean, Japanese problem. And in a world where the United States is not maintaining the global order, that’s a success.”
Peter Zeihan is the author of The Accidental Superpower, a featured book in the Navy Reading Program. For the complete podcast interview, click here.