The nuclear war that
so many people feared during the Cold War (especially where I grew up*) never happened
-- arguably because of the existence of nuclear weapons and MAD (Mutually
Assured Destruction) doctrine, not the UN.
There were many efforts to control nuclear
proliferation. Some succeeded. Others failed.
Fast forward to Sept. 11, 2001. Nuclear fears had mostly subsided, but Presidential
policy pre 9-11 still focused on early detection and missile defense against a
nuclear attack. Having nukes and missile
defenses however didn’t protect us. But
using tactical nukes against a new enemy was still an option.
Most troubling however was the 2003 invasion and occupation
of Iraq, which had no link to 9-11, but was conducted as the first preemptive war
with the intention of disarming a suspected nuclear state. Disarmament was clearly not a path to peace.
In early October 2002 Congress empowered President Bush to
go to war against Iraq on his own authority whenever he deemed it appropriate,
using whatever means including nuclear weapons if he felt it necessary. Both Senator’s Kerry and Clinton supported
it. Colin Powel testified before the UN
to make a case for going to war by saying “Saddam Husain is determined to get
his hands on a nuclear bomb.” Public opinion
of Americans to go to war jumped from 50% to 63%.
In a recorded interview after the invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney
declared “if there’s a 1% chance of Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build
or develop a nuclear weapon we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our
Along the way the US threatened Libya to give up its nuclear
ambitions. That turned out to be a big
mistake for Kaddafi and his regime. Even
the Ukrainian post-Cold War surrender of all its nuclear weapons might now be
seen as a mistake.
Yet some Americans are still hopeful that nuclear weapons
will be voluntarily eliminated from every corner of the world. An increasingly unlikely scenario.
“For a nation to entirely forsake nuclear weapons is like
taking part in a boxing match and promising not to throw hooks.” Tadae Takubo,
professor of policy at Japan’s Kyorin University, urging officials to
reconsider Japan’s long-standing taboo against possessing nuclear weapons. August
Even if they could be (and it is feasible) it might not be a
good idea. There is the possibility needing
them in the future. Defending against an
asteroid, a hostile visit from another world or some other cosmic threat that
might need instant incineration is a possibility.
Proliferation is a problem. In early March 2015 Senator Lindsey Graham (a
possible 2016 GOP Presidential candidate) asked a New Hampshire crowd if they
though Al Qaeda would have killed far more than 3000 American’s on 9-11 if they
had the capacity to kill a million or more? He had a good point. Does anyone doubt they might be seeking such
And now, we, or the Israeli
government, is very close to starting a second nuclear ‘disarmament’ war. An action that could spark a far larger world
war in hopes of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability. Even if
a preemptive strike stopped Iran’s quest for a bomb and there were no war like
Iranian counter measures, many believe such an attack would only ensure Iran’s
pursuit of a nuclear weapon to defend it against future aggressions. And now with growing hostility between Russia
and the US over Ukraine there is growing collaboration between Russia and
Iran. It is not out of the question that
Iran could buy or borrow such weapons from Mr. Putin if his ambitions for power
are as insane as many think they are.
3-17-15: Washington Times: “What’s
the big idea?” by Kim Holmes, distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation,
said “Moscow, not Washington, becomes the key decider of whether Iran does or
does not acquire a nuclear weapon. Russia
[or China, or North Korea] may now prefer that Iran not get them, but in the
future Moscow’s [or Beijing’s, or Pyongyang’s]
interest in enhancing its strategic position in the Middle East may trump its
headline: Top of FormBottom of Form “Putin Was 'Ready For Nuclear Alert’ “Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in a prerecorded
documentary about Russia's seizure of Crimea, said he was prepared to put
Russia's nuclear weapons on alert during tensions over the crisis in Ukraine
and Crimea. Putin said in the documentary that he was 'ready to do this,'
when asked if Russia's nuclear forces could be put on standby. The nearly three-hour documentary, Crimea:
Path To The Homeland, was aired on March 15.
should be no doubt that nuclear weapons remain a threat to individuals, nations
and the world. There should also be no
without nuclear weapons, the capacity for mass murder on a scale comparable to
nuclear weapons will persist in the form of easier to make, more affordable and
harder to trace biological weapons.
2: The use
of nuclear materials in energy production, medicine, space travel, and a
multitude of other scientific research projects, means dirty bombs and smaller
nuclear weapons will continue to be a threat to life, property and the
environment as long as humans thrive.
attempt to ensure global compliance with any level of weapons prohibition on
any technological developments (nuclear, cyber, bio, chem, nano…) will be monstrously
expensive, prohibitively intrusive, and highly improbable of succeeding.
Our greatest error in thinking was exposed over 60 years ago
in Emery Reves book, The Anatomy of
Once the mechanics and the fundamental causes of wars – of all wars
– are realized, the futility and childishness of the passionate debates about
armament and disarmament must be apparent to all. If human society were
organized so that relations between groups and units in contact were regulated
by democratically controlled law and legal institutions, then modern science
could go ahead, devise and produce the most devastating weapons, and there
would be no war. But if we allow sovereign rights to reside in the separate
units and groups without regulating their relations by law, then we can
prohibit every weapon, even a penknife, and people will beat out each other’s
brains with clubs. Emory Reves, The Anatomy
of Peace, 1945
In summary, security is not a function of armaments or
disarmament. It is a function of
In that context, one more key point must be considered. There are essentially 4 categories of
treaties. Arms Control, Economic, Human Rights, and Environmental. Advances in technology are making it easier
and easier to detect violations of human rights and environmental standards. Unfortunately, the same technological
advances are making the detection of most weapons or money movements increasingly
difficult. I assert that investing
limited resources in the protection of human rights and the environment will
bring far greater security to humanity considering the range of other threats
we face, than trying to control the spread of weapons or financial resources. Human rights are profoundly tied to
justice. No justice, no peace, and far
Time, money and energy expended going down the path of
disarmament is not just wasteful at a unique moment in history when none should
be squandered. Recent history demonstrates
such disarmament efforts are more likely to be counterproductive in keeping the
peace. The question is ‘Why continue
down this path?’ Habit? Professional investment? Feelings
of moral superiority? Lack of critical
I assert that it is far more logical, rational and moral to
work for a democratic world federation where the protection of human rights being
paramount would create a global social environment where the possession of
nuclear weapons will become increasingly irrelevant to security -- as well as a waste of money and manpower to make
and maintain them.
What is the logic in working to pass treaties that cannot be
enforced and will most likely lead to unexpected and undesirable consequences
if effectively pursued?
The main focus of
international attention must move beyond the symptoms of weapons proliferation
to its causes. It may seem easier to control supply, yet it is demand that
raises the tide of proliferation. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for Jan-Feb
1999, p. 76, "Book Note" on Kosta Tsipis and Philip Morrison's book,
"Reason Enough for Hope."
"We often think of peace as the
absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals,
we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own
minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the
bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in
our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for
peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women."
Thích Nhất Hạnh
who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." - George
*Disclosure: If it
had not been for the US effort to develop the first nuclear bomb toward the end
of WWII, I would never have been born.
My parents met during the construction of the first weapon in Hanford,
Washington and my father continued to work in the nuclear industry for 30 years. After I graduated from Colorado State University
with a Biology degree I returned to Washington to teach and worked summers at
Hanford for Battelle NW Laboratories Environmental Evaluation section researching
the extent of nuclear contamination in soil from the past waste storage
facilities and the potential for agriculture losses in the event of a future