Nuclear Weapons, Arms Control, and Human Nature

Posted: June 9, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , ,

What is it about nuclear weapons that give the arms control industry such angst?

Threat-wise, the U.S. government is unconcerned about the nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles of Britain, France, and Israel.  The USG is not really highly concerned (that is, worried) about the same regarding Russia, China, and India.  So who is the U.S. we concerned about?

Pakistan (loose nukes, insider issues, and a sort of whole of government concern); nutty theocracies like Iran; of course, the hermit kingdom, North Korea.

As such, consider a Ronald Reagan paraphrase: Pakistan and India don’t distrust each other because they have nuclear weapons; rather, they have nuclear weapons because they distrust one another.

If you believe the crux of Reagan’s thought, it would seem the issue is not in the weapons count, but rather in who holds the weapons and what their relationships are with other such states and their neighbors. 

So when the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Director Daniel Nord says

because [the recognized] "nuclear weapons states [Britain, France, China, Russia, and the U.S.] are modernizing and are investing in their nuclear weapons establishments (it) seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future."

The elephant in the room that Nord misses is the ‘so what?’  Nuclear modernization is not the real issue; that’s something that happens on an ongoing basis.  Nor is the issue the weapons count for the recognized nuclear weapons states; after all, weapons and delivery vehicle counts have gone down significantly and continually since the 1960s.  Rather, the most destabilizing and concerning aspect of nuclear weapons is their proliferation to states like Pakistan, North Korea, and soon to be, Iran.

The arms control industry feels compelled to do something but that desire almost always leads back to the U.S. instead of to where the much more difficult and dangerous problems are, North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan.

My suggestion for the arms control industry writ large is for a couple of self-help books.  One would deal with procrastination; the other would deal with prioritization.

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