Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Economist on "Banning the Bomb" in 2009

Speaking of bringing the discussion of nuclear abolition to the mainstream, I recently learned of another terrific article by Peter Craig on the topic in The Economist’s “The World in 2009” that came out a couple of days ago. (h/t Masoud Shafaee)

One prediction about 2009 can be made with absolute confidence: nuclear weapons will not be abolished. However wonderful it may be in theory to remove the threat of nuclear annihilation once and for all, the idea of simply banning the bomb has long seemed like so much pie in the sky. But here’s a paradox. Talk about abolition is going to grow louder. And the talkers will not be only the usual dreamers. Some hard-headed practitioners of realpolitik will be joining the fray.

Oddly enough, what will drive the growing talk about outright abolition is the world’s failure to achieve the much more modest objective of preventing new countries from joining the nuclear club. George Bush made stopping “evil” regimes such as North Korea and Iran from getting the bomb a big part of his presidency. In neither case did he succeed. North Korea let off some kind of bomb in 2006, and nobody is certain that it will honour a later promise to disarm. Iran has meanwhile ignored United Nations resolutions (and sanctions) calling on it to stop enriching uranium, which many governments think, despite Iran’s denials, it intends to use for a nuclear weapon.

If dangerous-looking countries such as Iran and North Korea build nuclear weapons, why should the official nuclear-armed powers (America, Russia, Britain, France and China), let alone the “unofficial” ones (India, Pakistan and Israel), give up theirs? They won’t. But their recent failure to halt actual proliferation in North Korea and potential proliferation in Iran has taught the nuclear powers a lesson. The haves have learnt that unless they start at least to talk about their own eventual disarmament they will find it hard to get many of the have-nots on their side when it comes to preventing further proliferation.

Click here for the full article.

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