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August 21, 2009 |  4 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Barry M. Blechman

Topic Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: Yes, We Can!

Barry M. Blechman: The reduction of nuclear weapons is an unclear goal but entirely possible if the right structural framework is set in place. All that’s needed is the courage and will of political leaders to take the first steps. Inaction is too risky a course to take.

Nuclear weapons are not military assets. They are not tools for war demanded by military leaders. There is good reason why nuclear weapons have not been used for more than sixty years, despite no shortage of wars involving nuclear powers - they are useless for military purposes. Indeed, the US armed services find nuclear weapons to be burdensome diversions of resources that could be better used for other purposes. The Russian armed forces seem to place greater value on them, but this is a rhetorical substitute for the weakness of Russian conventional military power.

The only problem addressed by nuclear weapons is the one they cause - deterring the possibility of their use. It follows, therefore, that if every nuclear-capable state agreed to eliminate its weapons, nothing would be lost by any of them.

Yet, by not moving to eliminate nuclear weapons, humanity is running chilling risks. In today's world, the validity of the nuclear deterrence doctrine is doubtful. When our enemies are either unaccountable dictators with doubtful devotion to their citizens' welfare and distorted knowledge of the world around them, or terrorists with no return address, the threat of inflicting mass civilian casualties in response to a nuclear attack is neither practical, nor moral, nor likely to be effective. As the number of states possessing nuclear weapons multiplies, deterrence will become ever more uncertain and the probability of nuclear weapons use will rise exponentially. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that nuclear war can be deterred indefinitely and that nuclear terrorism can be avoided in a world containing twenty or thirty nuclear arsenals.

Eliminating the 20,000-plus nuclear weapons that are now owned by nine, and perhaps soon-to-be ten, nations will no doubt be a difficult process taking two, three, or even four decades to accomplish. It is an eminently feasible possibility, however, if the world's leaders muster the courage to start down the path.  The US and Russia together own more than 90 percent of the worlds' weapons, so the place to start is with deep reductions in their two arsenals. The April 2009 joint commitment by Presidents Obama and Medvedev to the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons began that process. Completion of the START replacement treaty by the end of 2009 will be a good second step. But US-Russia reductions cannot be restricted to the strategic (longer-range) operational weapons now on the table. Subsequent talks need to address the two arsenals comprehensively, covering shorter-range weapons as well as reserve warheads.  

Simultaneously, talks should proceed at the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva for a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty, a key ingredient of a nuclear-free world.  Also, arrangements to ensure that nuclear materials for civilian power plants are not diverted for use in weapons need to be strengthened and extended to those few states not now participating in the safeguards maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Assuming the US and Russia are successful in negotiating deep cuts in their arsenals, multinational talks could then begin for a disarmament treaty. It will require developing a robust system to verify the destruction of nuclear arsenals, effective governance mechanisms, and powerful means of enforcing the treaty should any of the signatories try to break out of its bounds after disarmament had been achieved.   

Opponents of disarmament cite imagined risks of a world without nuclear weapons - like it would only make the world safe for conventional warfare. Regrettably, there is insufficient space in this essay to rebut those charges. But in any case, the choice is not between those alleged risks and a safe and secure world. The nuclear world we live in today is extremely dangerous. We could wake up tomorrow, for example, to the news that the government of Pakistan and its 60 to 100 nuclear weapons had been taken over by an extremist group allied with al-Qaeda. How soon after that would nuclear weapons start exploding in Western cities?  

We must not hesitate to begin traveling the road to zero -- the risks of inaction are far too great. We know how to eliminate nuclear weapons technically; all that is needed is the political will to do so.  

Barry M. Blechman is Distinguished Fellow is at the Henry L. Stimson Center. Throughout his career he has specialized in international security issues workin for both, the public and the private sector.

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Unregistered User

August 25, 2009

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Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, yes we "could", but scared "to do":
WMDs, here nuclear arsenals, seem to be interesting ingredients to a world
of self-importance spiked with the desire of being the one of a dominant nature.
Disarmament is certainly a noble goal set to achieve. With 90 % of all nuclear
weapons ( delivery systems ) in the hands of USA, Russia, Israel one cannot
ignore that just these three countries could not agree with a simple ban on the use of " Cluster Bombs ", which are designed on collateral damage.
To maintain nuclear arsenals is quite cost intensive, if not dangerous, especially while " graying". But in order to uphold this nuclear exclusivity,
NPT was introduced with signatures of acceptance from many countries,
while allowing exceptions to this agreement ( India, South Africa ) was at the pleasure of the countries mentioned above.
Through these actions and by not fundamentally confronting ( militarily )
NPT violations, second tier nuclear powers came into existance.
( suitcase bombs would deserve discussions outside of here,-- third tier )
Whether there are now eight or nine ( Iran ) nuclear establishments, I feel
is not of great concern.While single members of a society may be praised
by this society for a " heroic" act of murder, WMD simply stands for
"Weapons of Mass Destruction" and I don't feel that whole populations
are prepared to go to the other side at on time.
When one compares the magnitude of destruction through atom-bombs
at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the magnitude of destruction through
phosphor bombing in Dresden and Koenigsberg ( Kaliningrad ), the question,
since both were at equal proportions, must be asked about the timing of these proposals and why just singling out nuclear arsenals.
Obviously the economic "demise" of our free market applications with its recessionary reflections is part of the equation of too expensive weapons sytems. While the USA carries three times a military budget when compared to all developed countries, it cannot be less than obvious, that ratios and
proportions of ratios are intended to be maintained, yet at a different
cost level to become more economically palatable.
Finally, with the disproportionate distribution of wealth and the unparalleled polarization of capital over the last several years, the defining devlopments
seem to cristalize around top down governance of bottom up governance.
Either way nuclear deterrants in their present form are (becoming) irrelevant.,
but seem to be of psychological importance.








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Member deleted

August 25, 2009

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I already have commented earlier. But something makes me ask a few questions and perhaps put in a thought or two that may sound very awkward to some.

The questions are very basic:

1. Why do we want a nuclear free world?
2. Do we aim at a the final ambition of a non-militarized world when we speak of particular weapon-systems?
3. Do we foresee an Utopian condition of negative freedom and positive peace existing, should a non-militarized world be the final ambition for many?
4. Do we, then, foresee the possibility of a crime-free world where Human Rights in letter and spirit forms the basic fundamental laws?

The fourth question is a necessity to the all-of-the-above. For it entails quite an ambition and a primary one for that matter. Somehow getting the basics straight always has been the first condition to any solution. Throughout history.

The second trick is:
Can we divorce religion from thoughts about Human Rights? - they are not related without elevating religion to a place that scarce shows such an honour as an organized body and mass of people.

 
Member deleted

September 24, 2009

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Peace in Space

None of the major space players ratified the Fifth Space Treaty - The Moon Treaty.

With the knowledge that the moon has abundant hydrogen isotopes for nuclear powers, and without the ratification of the moon treaty by major space powers, peaceful use of the outer space will be difficult to maintain, especially when in the future.
 
Unregistered User

February 20, 2012

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Irshad,Iran would like to see Saudi niaotnal guard pulled out of Bahrain. This would be a good starting point, but one would want to avoid having it appear to be a condition imposed on the Saudis.
 

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