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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 Weapons.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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