Saturday, October 6, 2007

Daalder and Holum: U.S. Should Aim for World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Should the United States aim to achieve a world free of all nuclear weapons?

The answer, as laid out in a terrific op-ed by Ivo Daalder and John Holum in the Boston Globe, is a resounding yes.

Nearly 20 years after the Cold War ended, the time has come to make a concerted effort to verifiably rid the world of all nuclear weapons. The United States must start by recognizing that the threats it confronts have changed and so, consequently, has the role and purpose of our nuclear weapons.


Tomorrow's nuclear threats are different. They are that unstable regimes or, worse, nihilistic terrorists get their hands on a bomb and use it. This threat is becoming more real as nuclear technology and materials spread around the world. The first order of business must be to ensure that all the nuclear weapons and materials in Russia and elsewhere are safe and secure. While recognizing the threat of loose nukes and materials, this administration has done far too little to make sure this happens. The next administration must do better.

The second order of business, though, is to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in order to ease the road to their elimination. The only reason the United States should maintain nuclear weapons is because others have them. There cannot be another purpose. We don't need them to deter a non-nuclear attack on ourselves or our allies; our conventional forces can deal with those contingencies. We certainly don't need them to attack some far-away or deeply buried targets, because there isn't a target whose destruction is worth breaking the 62-year-old taboo against using a single nuclear weapon.

Given this limited role for nuclear weapons, there is much that the United States can do to lift the dark nuclear shadow over the world. It can sharply reduce its nuclear stockpile to 1,000 weapons or less, if Russia agrees to go down to the same level. It can eliminate tactical nuclear weapons to underscore that it understands that a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, no matter its size, yield, range, or mode of delivery. It can agree never to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, and accept the need for intrusive verification if other states agree to end such production as well. It can commit never again to test a nuclear device, and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

If the United States were to do all these things, it would make clear, to our citizens and the world, that it is serious about tackling the nuclear danger. It would reestablish the nation as the leader of the global nuclear nonproliferation movement. Above all, it would make the world a much safer place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully platitudinous. Realistically, though, a world free of nuclear weapons will mean also a world free of highly enriched uranium or plutonium in any form (e.g., MOX or Pu metal), even if this fissile material is intended for civilian use; a world in which the International Atomic Energy Agency or, the sort of international atomic development agency (a transnational authority that would have owned and operated ALL enrichment, reprocessing, etc.) that Bernard Baruch had envisioned in the late 1940s, has a truly intrusive inspection mandate, and can truly verify not merely the correctness of a government's declaration, but also the completeness; a world in which the U.N. Security Council has accepted and embraced the concept of automatic sanctions for nuclear noncompliance, a la the proposals of Baruch and now former IAEA deputy director Pierre Goldschmidt.

Arms controllers, whose good intentions I do not doubt, place so much emphasis on the idea of nuclear weapon States disarming. In my view, though, they have yet to begin to face squarely the above issues, which constitute the necessary conditions for a world -- a real world -- free of nuclear weapons.