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Ten Reasons to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
by David Krieger
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa
Barbara and a founder of Abolition 2000, a Global Network to eliminate Nuclear
1. EXISTING OBLIGATIONS
The nuclear weapons states have made solemn promises to the international
community to negotiate in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament. Each
of the nuclear weapons states accepted this obligation when it signed the
NonProliferation Treaty (NPT), and extended this promise at the 1995 NPT
Review and Extension Conference. India and Pakistan, which are not signatories
of the NPT, have committed themselves to abolish their nuclear arsenals
if the other nuclear weapons states agree to do so. The only nuclear weapons
state that has not made this promise is Israel, and surely it could be convinced
to do so if the other nuclear weapons states agreed to the elimination of
their nuclear arsenals. The International Court of Justice, the world's
highest court, unanimously highlighted the obligation for nuclear disarmament
in its 1996 Opinion: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good
faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament
in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."
This means an obligation to reduce the world's nuclear arsenals to zero.
2. NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION
The failure of the nuclear weapons states to act to eliminate their nuclear
arsenals will likely result in the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other
nations. If the nuclear weapons states continue to maintain the position
that nuclear weapons preserve their security, it is only reasonable that
other nations with less powerful military forces will decide that their
security should also be maintained by nuclear arsenals. Without substantial
progress toward nuclear disarmament, the Non-Proliferation Treaty will be
in jeopardy when the parties to the treaty meet for the NPT Review Conference
in the year 2000.
3. NUCLEAR TERRORISM
The breakup of the former Soviet Union has weakened the command and
control system relied upon by the Russians. This could lead to nuclear weapons
or weapons-grade materials falling into the hands of terrorists or criminals.
Because terrorists and criminals are not easily locatable, they are not
subject to deterrence, which relies upon the threat of retaliation. It isn't
possible to retaliate against a party that is not locatable.
4. NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS
The breakup of the former Soviet Union has also weakened Russia's early
warning system, since many parts of this system were located outside of
Russia. This could result in the launching of nuclear weapons by accident
or miscalculation, given the short time periods available in which to make
decisions about whether or not a state is under attack.
5. IMMORALITY OF THREATENING MASS MURDER
It is highly immoral to base the security of a nation on the threat to murder
hundreds of millions of people. This immoral policy is named nuclear deterrence,
and it is relied upon by all nuclear weapons states. Nuclear deterrence
is a dangerous theory that in implementation places humanity and most of
creation in jeopardy of annihilation.
6. UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY
Nuclear weapons undermine democracy by placing the power to destroy the
world as we know it in the hands of a very few individuals. No one should
have this much power. If these individuals make a mistake, everyone in the
world will pay for it.
7. SECRECY FROM PUBLlC
Decisions about nuclear weapons have been made largely in secrecy with little
involvement from the public. In the United States, for example, nuclear
weapons policy is set forth in a Presidential Decision Directive, which
is not made available to the public. On this most important of all issues
facing humanity, there is no informed consent to presidential policy.
8. DRAIN ON RESOURCES
Nuclear weapons have drained resources, including scientific resources,
from other more productive uses. A recent study by the Brookings Institution
found that the United States alone had spent more than $5.5 trillion on
nuclear weapons programs since the beginning of the Nuclear Age. The United
States continues to spend some $25-$35 billion annually on maintaining,
testing, and developing its nuclear arsenal. All of these misspent resources
represent lost opportunities for improving the health, education, and welfare
of the people of the world.
9. WARNINGS BY DISTINGUISHED LEADERS
Distinguished leaders throughout the world, including generals, admirals,
heads of state and government, scientists, and Nobel Peace Laureates, have
warned of the dangers inherent in relying upon nuclear weapons for security.
These warnings have not been heeded by the leaders of nuclear weapons states.
10. IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY
We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to end the threat
that nuclear weapons pose to humanity. If we do not accept responsibility
to speak out and act for a world free of nuclear weapons, who will?
From Timeline, Issue No. 44 March/April 1999