The drumbeats of confrontation and war are beating in the controversy surrounding the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran. While it is a scary thought to realize that the North Koreans may have missile and nuclear technology to deliver a nuclear strike on the USA and the Iranian nuclear program and rhetoric is destabilizing an already dangerous region of the world, I wonder at our approach and the urgency of action.
Let’s get the record straight, I have been in favor of nuclear disarmament from the days of debate club in high school! There are just some weapons that we should not consider part of our arsenal. As nuclear technology gets into more and more people’s hands, the road to becoming a nuclear state has been shortened. We’ve had our “allies” in Pakistan with security so lax that their scientists have spread the technology throughout the third world. Pakistan and India both have nuclear bombs and are bitter enemies that have come close to all our war several times. They don’t have any oil or perhaps we’d be more focused on the threat to our existence from their nuclear technology.
Even in the Middle East we have an undeclared nuclear power in Israel. I completely understand how some might look at our stand with regard to Israel’s nuclear weapons and contrast that with our stance versus the Iranian nuclear development program and wonder about the consistency of our moral pronouncements. I understand that Israel’s very right to exist is still in play but turning a blind eye to their nuclear weapons in the Middle East while ramping up for confrontation with Iran over these same weapons is difficult to fathom.
I don’t know that we can close the Pandora’s box of nuclear technology. Technological advances tend to make yesterday’s impossible technology, today’s common knowledge. I am not saying that making nuclear bombs is easy but I think we can expect that more and more countries may feel compelled to direct their scientists and money towards the development of nuclear weapons. An isolated North Korea sees nuclear weapons as essential to their security, an embattled Israel likewise sees defense of their country demanding a nuclear arsenal. I can name a dozen other countries that may soon feel that there are compelling reasons to make a bomb, countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Turkey or Saudi Arabia.
With an increasing international dependence upon nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as the world’s real energy crisis worsens, nuclear technology and material comes into more common use and diversion for weapons programs become easier to hide. It is an international arms race that is not built upon a cold war between a couple of super powers but many little cold and hot wars but dozens of countries saying “why not us”.
We went to war with Iraq to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists and yet the only weapons of mass destruction used or discovered in the war were our own. We talk about Iran destabilizing the middle east and the administration floats the notion of using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons. That is the height of hypocrisy. The production of nuclear weapons is evil enough, but the actual use of these weapons can only be described as a total disregard for humanity.
Our policy should be to create a world free of nuclear weapons and we should be setting the example by taking the first step by dramatically reducing our insane stockpile of nuclear weapons. Our non-proliferation policy should be the same for our friends and our enemies. If the spread of nuclear weapons is bad it is bad regardless of which country intends to enter the nuclear club of death. Creating a world where all citizens can live free of war and oppression is the security we should be working towards, not a world where might makes right and where we view ourselves with real or imagined powers as the last remaining super power. We have a world in turmoil with ideologies and cultures in conflict. It is a world that demands dialogue, understanding and diplomacy. Tossing nuclear weapons into this mix works against the security that all of the world’s citizens should enjoy. Nuclear disarmament is the only long term answer to the threat these weapons hold over the world. It is a threat that not only impacts politics and the psyche of humanity but it also saps the budgets of countries big and small. It is a diversion of precious resources to produce weapons that only the insane could love.
Possession of nuclear weapons does not deter terrorist attacks and the very possession of nuclear weapons is more likely to lead to terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The selective approach of the US towards nuclear proliferation, condoning or perhaps even encouraging states like Israel and India in their illegal possession of nuclear weapons while going to war with Iraq on unfounded suspicions and saber rattling with Iran and North Korea only turns countries away from non-proliferation treaties and compliance. Launching preemptive wars based upon faulty intelligence data can only serve to destabilize the world and increase tensions. This results in even more countries thinking that they, too, need some nukes for protection.
Coupling our efforts to enforce non-proliferation agreements with continued multilateral disarmament negotiations could change the landscape. Disavowing the use of nuclear weapons to settle disputes might be a logical first step in changing the tenor of this dialog.
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