IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Nukes redux

The pace of world events really does seem to be picking up.  In the immediate wake of the G-20 and during the N.A.T.O. summit the North Koreans launched a missile which gave more “legs” to President Obama’s project to get rid of nukes.  This article from the New York Times summarizes his recent remarks.  The man can really turn a phrase, and I think he has said some very sensible things:  “…if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

Ok, now let’s look into the whole spread and abolition of nukes a little further.  This is, more or less, “governed” by something called “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”, which is a treaty, as you might guess, to limit the spread of nuclear weapons–sounds like a pretty good idea, all things considered.  However, you will note that the purpose of the treaty, and more generally of the non-proliferation “regime” (ie the treaty and everything else that exists to carry out and maintain what is expressed in the treaty) is not to eliminate nuclear weapons.  In fact, the treaty has led to a situation where only the five permanent members of the Security Council can “legitimately” have nuclear arsenals; and of course those few states who have not signed (such as North Korea).

This has led to the critique, apparently first expressed by Nasser the former President of Egypt that “… basically they did whatever they wanted to do before the introduction of NPT and then devised it to prevent others from doing what they had themselves been doing before” .  Though the pemanant members of the S.C. have all sorts of responses to this criticism, I think Nasser, and those after him who made the same argument, have a good point.   If getting rid of nukes is such a good idea, why don’t you [ie the rich and powerful] do it.  This is invidious.  It suggests some are competent to have nukes and some are not.  Whatever merit this argument might have, there is another problem.   With the fusing of S.C. permanent membership and nuclear club membership, having nukes is more than ever a sign of power and influence, even if all rational people understand nukes are close to unusable.  You have nukes, you get respect (even if grudging); so, there is a strong incentive to get nukes to get more power and influence (and to use as bargaining chips with the Great Powers).  This can become very dangerous for the states involved (just read the headlines).

So, what to do?  Some of you probably think I oversimplify sometimes, but I have been pondering this (off and on) for some years, and, honestly, I do believe it comes down to “the way to disarm is to disarm” (not unilaterally, of course…everybody).  Therefore, the NPT, while a good measure in its day, has to evolve into something more equitable if we really want to save ourselves from the potential destruction of nuclear weapons.  The leading states, as Obama may indeed be suggesting, have to demonstrate by example that nukes are no longer necessary (or fashionable).  This is just plain good sense.


April 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. This site is a good massage

    Comment by correspondence courses | April 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] see all the areas where ties were strengthened between the countries).    However, as discussed here , the basic problem of nuclear arms as symbols of power and prestige in international relations […]

    Pingback by Good news, of sorts « IG’s Peace Blog | July 7, 2009 | Reply

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