Tuesday, April 8, 2008

George Shultz on Abolition

If you can get past the partisan material that plasters the National Review Online, Uncommon Knowledge's Peter Robinson recently held some interesting talks with former Secretary of State George Shultz on "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons." The interview online is composed of five segments, between two and eight minutes apiece, each addressing essentially one topic related to nukes.

Episode 1 discusses the inefficacy of using the Cold War's bipolar, state-centric deterrence model in today's world. First of all, there are now more and maybe increasing numbers of countries with nuclear weapons. We've seen a domino effect in cases like Iran, to which countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, have responded with the desire to enrich. While Shultz doesn't question their desire to produce nuclear power, the proximity between uranium enriched for power and weapons grade uranium leaves us in a dangerous situation. In addition, non-state actors are trying to get fissile materials, and these actors negate the deterrence theory. Non-state actors want nuclear weapons to use, not deter.

Add to this the short time between warning of a nuclear attack and the need for a retaliatory strike, and you can observe that the non-proliferation regime is "unraveling." To get it back, he says, we need the ultimate objective of a world free of nuclear weapons. Now, what does it take to get there?

In Episode 2, Shultz tackles the absurdity of the number of nukes possessed by the United States and Russia today. If a single nuke can incinerate Manhattan, what could possibly be the motivation for having thousands? Shultz does not, however, advocate unilateral disarmament, but an international consensus. Of course Russia and the United States - possessing together about 90% of the world's nuclear weapons - will need to take action from the beginning. One such step would be to vigorously renegotiate START before it expires in 2009.

In Episodes 3 and 4 , Shultz discusses the cases of Iran and North Korea. He first identifies that an international consensus for a world free of nuclear weapons will put immense pressure on these countries to refrain from starting or to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. The best strategy for dealing with North Korea? Lean on China and Japan. Thoughts on Iran? A nuclear-armed Iran may be unacceptable, but he cautions against the use of empty threats. His one piece of advice for the next President? Give consideration to changing the environment in which you're working by forming an international consensus among nuclear-weaponized states that we'll all be better off without them.

Shultz interestingly talks about John McCain - whom he supports for President - and his lack of discussion of these issues in the presidential campaign in Episode 5. But when asked if McCain should call for the elimination of nuclear weapons during his campaign, Shultz actually says no. What Shultz, Kissinger, Nunn, Perry, and two thirds of former national security officials are advocating is not meant to be bipartisan - it's meant to be non-partisan. He hopes that all candidates issue support for the group calling for abolition, and, if elected, will listen to them.

Overall, a basic, but well-reasoned and potentially quite useful (depending on your outreach on these issues) look at the movement calling for abolition. If you've only read about Shultz on paper or computer screen, I'd highly recommend a break to watch.

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