Again With Those Nuclear Weapons
Living on the Brink, Again
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by Jonathan SchellIf you want to understand the magical, the glamorous, the unshakable appeal that nuclear weapons have for the leaders of states and others, just start asking yourself why it is that in ten years time, we wish to live under the threat of instant annihilation from that rotting old arsenal in Russia. US leaders are not willing to give up our arsenal in order to rid ourselves of that threat. Now if you can explain that, I think you would be getting very close to the reason why these weapons have such a grip on the imagination of those who have them.
I would be very much remiss if I didn't share with you the direction that I think is the right one and the one in which we should go:
First, we can not look at the different aspects of the issue of weapons of mass destruction in isolation from one another any longer. They have to been seen as whole.
Second, the U.S-Russian decisions about their arsenals are going to set the pace for the whole show. If we decide that we have to have 2,000 nuclear weapons in the year 2010, we are guaranteed that other poorer nations will say, as India has already said, that they don't want to live with nuclear apartheid. The two-tier world, to use a phrase beloved by the strategist, is an unstable world. It's got to go one way or the other. Either it's going to go to zero nuclear weapons, or it's going to go to a much fuller proliferation.
Third, proliferation in our day does not mean proliferation to only countries. This applies to all three types of weapons of mass destruction. It means proliferation to groups that are not countries, such as al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, and the others. Because in a world of proliferating weapons of mass destruction and blurring brinks that I've been speaking about, the globe is awash in this technology. And we're not going to be able to get it under control.
In conclusion, control in this case begins at home. I do not think we can be serious about nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism, if we're not serious about nonproliferation. And I don't think we can get serious about nonproliferation until we get serious about the existing possession of these arsenals, which means the possession of them by the eight nuclear powers, led by the United States and Russia. So, from my point of view, there is no solution to this fresh wave of rising danger without a commitment, starting with the United States, to proceed to a world without nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. It's a tall order, I know, but I think it's the clear need of our time.
Jonathan Schell is currently peace and disarmament correspondent for The Nation, as well as the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at The Nation Institute. The full text of Schell's speech is available at www.fpif.org
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