FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why are There Still Nuclear Weapons?

by DAVID KRIEGER

I recently received a letter from long-time nuclear disarmament activist from Sweden, which he began by quoting something that I had said earlier this year: “A powerful state, such as the US, has everything to lose and very little to gain from the possession of nuclear weapons.” He indicated his wholehearted agreement, and then posed these questions that he has wrestled with: “Why are there still nuclear weapons? Or, more philosophically: To what need in society, in citizens and in leaders are nuclear weapons the answer?” I think that these are important questions, for which there are no easy answers, but they are certainly questions worthy of our time and thought.

I would begin by arguing that there are still nuclear weapons because US elites are not enthusiastic about nuclear disarmament and have not provided necessary leadership to achieve it. Of course, this leads to the question: Why hasn’t this leadership from US elites been forthcoming? To this question I would offer the following reflections:

1. US elites remain caught up in old patterns of thinking, such as, “The more powerful the weapon, the greater the security it provides.”

2. US elites continue to think and act as though nuclear weapons provide security as well as leverage in the international system. Nuclear weapons may be viewed by elites primarily as weapons of last resort. But they may also be viewed by elites as weapons easy to pull out for more mundane threats, and the very fact of their existence is likely perceived as sufficient in most circumstances to keep another country in line.

3. US elites are caught up in the false notions that there is prestige in possessing these weapons and that they contribute to the national image of “the superpower” state.

4. US elites may be influenced by the concept that technology is non-reversible; once created it cannot be “uncreated.” Or, as it is sometimes put, “The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.”

5. US elites may not understand or believe in leadership that is not based on force, threat of force or economic manipulation.

6. These elites may also be distrustful of nuclear disarmament efforts due to concerns with potential cheating by other states. They currently seem to be distrustful in general of verification measures.

7. Certain corporations and individuals continue to profit from maintaining the US nuclear arsenal.

8. There remains no substantial public or outside pressure on these elites to change US nuclear policy, even policies that threaten preemption or prevention. Consequently, there is little impetus to change.

One psychological concept that may be worth further consideration is that nuclear weapons are seen by elites as a tool of dominance between countries. Much like a master-slave relationship, nuclear weapons are tools of absolute power. They may represent the whip once held by the master. The whip, once its use has been demonstrated, need only be threatened to assure obedience from the slave population. Of course, slavery in general and the whip in particular breeds anger, resentment and rebellion in the oppressed population.

In a time of terrorism, as we have seen repeatedly, this anger may take the form of attacks against vulnerable elements of the population. There is also a psychological tendency in the oppressed (for example, the abused child) to adopt the methods of the oppressor and thus terrorist groups seek to obtain nuclear weapons.

The worst nightmare of US elites would be an attack or potential attack with nuclear weapons by a suicidal, unlocatable terrorist organization, against which US nuclear weapons would have no deterrent value. Perhaps a blind spot in the psyches of US elites and citizens results in an inability to understand that reliance on nuclear weapons and failure to provide leadership for nuclear disarmament is moving the world in the direction of nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear disaster.

DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

 

 

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail