Tragic, heartbreaking, irresponsible to the highest degree. What can we say to describe the almost certain calamitous effect of the neglect and mismanagement of the nuclear threat by the Bush administration? In fact, the mismanagement goes back to the dawn of the nuclear age, but the last six-plus years has accelerated the race of humanity towards doom.
Jonathan Schell – perhaps our most brilliant and consistent attendee to the issue – has written what I believe are still the three yardstick books on the subject of the nuclear threat: The Fate of the Earth (1982), The Abolition (1984) and The Gift of Time (1998). A quarter of a century ago Schell wrote:
“Two paths lie before us. One leads to death the other to life… Either we will sink into the final coma and end it all or…”
Now 25 years have passed and we are still in a coma, and, as the USA fails to lead, the nuclear threat grows and grows. We – the USA – do not honor nonproliferation treaties, we make plans to create new types of “bunker buster atomic weapons,” and we call other nations names for wanting to possess what we possess and what we refuse to eliminate. This is not leadership; ultimately, this is insanity.
There is only one solution to the nuclear threat – complete abolition. Only the nations who possess huge arsenals can lead in this direction. And this is the great failure of the past six – soon to be past eight – years of the Bush administration. A true visionary leader would see that it is inevitable that proliferation leads to an increasingly unstable world where eventually some conflict will lead to war and to the use of these weapons. Remember, we are now in a situation where one bomb can destroy an entire city. Would Pol Pot, Saddam, Idi Amin, do any less than Harry Truman and the USA were willing to do to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
The very existence of these bombs legitimizes their ownership and surely, someday, they will be used again! Entangling alliances led country after country to war in 1914 – imagine if these countries had all had nuclear weapons or if, in addition to Truman, imagine that Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Chang Kai Shek, Mao and Stalin also had possessed nuclear weapons. Is there any doubt that they would have used them? And what would General Giap and Ho Chi Minh have done in response to the US carpet bombing of North Vietnam (killing two-three million people) if they, too, had had possessed nuclear weapons.
No, you cannot allow proliferation and expect a safe world. And you cannot prevent proliferation if you insist on possessing weapons yourself while arguing that others should not possess them.
There is, as Schell writes, only one solution – the gradual disarmament and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons on earth. As Schell writes, “Performing that act is the greatest of the responsibilities of the generations now alive.”