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August 19, 2009 |  1 comment |  Print  Your Opinion  

Topic Precondition for Abolition: Five Factors for Consensus Building

Hall Gardner: There are five points political leaders must be convinced of if a consensus is to emerge on disarmament. Global proliferation destabilizes the political economy of whole regions and nuclear warfare is undeniably genetically genocidal. This is not to mention that empirical proof shows that nuclear weapons pose little deterrent to engaging in conventional warfare.

It may be possible to make deeper cuts in both strategic and tactical nuclear weaponry, leading to the total abolition of nuclear weaponry, under the following circumstances.

State leaderships need to become convinced:

  1. That nuclear weapons do not necessarily serve as a deterrent to conventional warfare. Numerous revolutionary wars have been fought against states with nuclear weapons (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Palestinian intifada, etc.). Moreover, the possession of a significant nuclear weapons capability by the United Kingdom did not prevent Argentina from attacking the Falkland/Malvinas islands in 1982.

  2. That nuclear weapons states may still engage in conventional warfare, and wars of mutual subversion- if not nuclear war. The 1999 Indian-Pakistani Kargil crisis (fought roughly a year after both sides had tested nuclear weaponry) involved a clash of conventional forces, with a real threat to use nuclear weaponry. The possession of nuclear weaponry by both sides might possibly have given second thoughts to an all-out conventional conflict during the crisis, but if US diplomacy had failed, there was still a possibility that nuclear weaponry could have been used, particularly if one side thought it had a preemptive advantage.  It is furthermore not at all certain that India and Pakistan will necessarily pull back from the brink once again if the situation in South Asia continues to deteriorate- with no diplomatic resolution.

  3. That it is increasingly possible for anti-state actors or rogue elements to acquire nuclear weaponry.  These groups (which might or might not be secretly supported by state leaderships) could then attack in secret, without leaving a trace. This fact further erodes the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) as there is no counter-target for retaliation. In 2007-2008, pan-Islamic militants attacked several Pakistani nuclear facilities, including the Wah cantonment, believed to be the place where Pakistan assembles its nuclear weaponry.  These groups may have hoped to cause radioactive leakage, explode nuclear material or else steal nuclear weaponry. Another scenario is the hijacking of nuclear capable aircraft by rogue elements. The above scenarios perhaps represent the strongest argument in favor of banning nuclear weaponry altogether.

  4. That the expense of nuclear weapons rivalries  (which are still accompanied by conventional arms build-ups) are in no one's interest and can destabilize the political economy of whole regions.

  5. That nuclear warfare (not to overlook the testing of nuclear weaponry) is genetically genocidal and must be brought to an end if we are not to poison ourselves and the world around us.

Once (and if) leaderships  can agree to the above five propositions, then states can begin to establish credible overlapping bilateral and international security guarantees (involving international verification) so that the total abolition of nuclear weaponry and other forms of WMD can become a reality.

Russia, for example, may presently have as many as 2,000-3,000 tactical nuclear warheads; the US may have as many as 1,000 deployed in Europe, both sides may have thousands more in stockpiles. During the Cold War, the US argued that NATO needed tactical nukes to counter Soviet conventional force superiority; now the Russians argue that tactical nuclear weapons are needed to counter-balance NATO's conventional force superiority after NATO enlargement! These weapons accordingly represent a major stumbling block to overall US-Russian reconciliation, even if both sides agree to a reduction in strategic nuclear weaponry, as expected. In addition,  Chinese, UK and French nuclear weaponry indirectly works to prevent deeper US-Russian strategic reductions. (A further problem is that even these proposed strategic nuclear reductions may not necessarily be ratified by the Duma or the US Senate).

The effort to bring Russia into a closer associate membership in  NATO and the European Union could, however, represent a first step toward nuclear and conventional arms reductions in the Euro-Atlantic region- to be followed by US, European and Russian (and Chinese) cooperation in ultimately abolishing nuclear weapons throughout the world.

Much as the US and Russia worked together to pressure Belarus, Kazakhstan, as well as Ukraine, to give up their nuclear capabilities left over from the Soviet era, the US, Europe, and Russia, along with China, should pressure states such as North Korea and Iran to give up their nuclear programs, while simultaneously reducing their own nuclear and conventional capabilities through bilateral and international security accords, guarantees and verification procedures.

Hall Gardner is Professor and Chair of the International and Comparative Politics Department at the American University of Paris. He is author of Averting Global War : Regional Challenges, Overextension, and Options for American Strategy and American Global Strategy and the ‘War on Terrorism'.

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Unregistered User

November 6, 2009

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Nuclear weapons do not serve as a deterrent to any warfare if they are not used...... Removing the tribal area of Afghanistan/ Pakistan from the world will convince anyone with doubt that we will not stop at any thing to preserve the civilized world.
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