26 Jun 2009

A World Without Nuclear Weapons

On the 3rd June 2009, a statue of Ronald Reagan was unveiled in the Capitol, giving Senator John McCain the opportunity of a floor statement that serves as an accurate summary of the aims of the Nuclear Security Project.

The Nuclear Security Project claims to be in favour of a world free of nuclear weapons, and yet McCain's speech inadvertently shows how hollow this truly is. Quoting Kissinger and Schultz, "Without the vision of moving toward zero, we will not find the essential cooperation required to stop our downward spiral." Perhaps they really meant 'upward spiral' in terms of the increase in nuclear states and the proliferation of weapons-grade materials. Like one of Zeno's paradoxes, the arrow will never hit the target but we have to look as if we're trying.

"Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used." Reducing the danger of nuclear weapons is not the same as reducing the number of nuclear weapons. It is true that the USA and Russia have a surfeit of nuclear warheads and that reducing them is purely pragmatic - why blow up the world five times when once will suffice? But McCain goes on to say that nuclear weapons are "still important to deter an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies," without seeing the logic that every nation on the planet can take the same stance. North Korea and Iran are labeled as 'rogue states' without (unsurprisingly) including Israel.

The protocols that led to detente and the idea of an un-winnable war are still in place. The notion that nuclear terrorists pose a real threat is in the same camp as the phantom targets of the US war on terror. And thus we come to the real aims of the Nuclear Security Project: to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology beyond the current nuclear states. I assume other nations will be added to this nuclear club as and when a friendly nation has the resources and strategic importance. But this is not a tactic unique to the USA, with Russia and China following a similar path of radioactive empire-building.

To seriously imagine that a country such as North Korea is a genuine threat to the USA is laughable. It may be a threat to South Korea but this particular theatre of conflict is ultimately a game between China and the USA. Becoming a legitimate nuclear power takes a lot more technology than knowing how to manufacture warheads and missiles - that part is relatively simple. The really high-grade technology lies in the surveillance systems that can locate a missile launch the second it happens. For all the advanced physics that goes into a warhead, the missile is still subject to old-fashioned newtonian laws of motion. There are now much faster electromagnetic weapons that can be as lethal as nuclear weapons but without the spread of radioactive materials. Perhaps nuclear weapons are actually already obsolete but nobody wants to say so as it would reveal the other gadgets in the world's doomsday arsenal. Perhaps we will have a nuclear-free world one day soon, but I don't think it will stop the arms race.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments to older posts are moderated just so I can keep track so please don't submit multiple copies. Any blatant advertising will be deleted. If you want to promote your site create a link and your page will be visible as a backlink - fair exchange. Thanks.