FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

by LAWRENCE WITTNER

he apparent employment of chemical weapons in Syria should remind us that, while weapons of mass destruction exist, there is a serious danger that they will be used.

That danger is highlighted by an article in the September/October 2013 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Written by two leading nuclear weapons specialists, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of the Federation of American Scientists, the article provides important information about nuclear weapons that should alarm everyone concerned about the future of the planet.

At present, the article reports, more than 17,000 nuclear warheads remain in the possession of nine nations (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). Over 90 percent of that inventory consists of U.S. and Russian warheads. These weapons, of course, are incredibly destructive, and almost all of them can massacre populations far more effectively than did the atomic bomb that obliterated the city of Hiroshima. Indeed, a single one of these weapons can slaughter hundreds of thousands of people.

Although U.S., Russian, British, and French stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been declining since the end of the Cold War, those of the five other nuclear nations have been growing. Consequently, as Kristensen and Norris observe, with the possible exception of North Korea, all of these countries “have sufficient numbers of warheads and delivery systems to inflict enormous destruction over significant ranges with catastrophic humanitarian and climatic consequences in their regions and beyond.”

Furthermore, many of these deadly weapons stand ready for almost instant use. As the authors state, “roughly 1,800 U.S. and Russian warheads are on high alert atop long-range ballistic missiles that are ready to launch 5 to 15 minutes after receiving an order.”

But surely these terrible weapons are being phased out, aren’t they? After all, the major nuclear powers, plus most nations, have formally committed themselves to building a nuclear weapons-free world. And it is certainly true that the number of nuclear weapons on the world scene has dropped very significantly from the roughly 70,000 that existed in 1986.

Even so, there are numerous signs that the nuclear disarmament momentum is slowing. Not only have nuclear disarmament negotiations between the United States (with 7,700 nuclear warheads) and Russia (with 8,500 nuclear warheads) apparently run aground, but none of the nuclear powers seems to take the rhetoric about a nuclear weapons-free world seriously. Kristensen and Norris note: “All the nations with nuclear weapons continue to modernize or upgrade their nuclear arsenals, and nuclear weapons remain integral to their conception of national security.”

For example, the United States is modifying its existing nuclear warheads while planning production of warheads with new designs. Russia is phasing out its Soviet-era missiles and submarines and deploying newer missiles, as well as additional warheads on its missiles. France is deploying new nuclear missiles on its fighter-bombers and submarines. China is upgrading its missile force, while India and Pakistan are locked in a race to deploy new types of nuclear weapons. Although Israel is the most secretive of the nuclear powers, rumors are afloat that it is equipping some of its submarines with nuclear-capable cruise missiles. North Korea reportedly lacks operational nuclear weapons, but its hungry citizens can take heart that it is working to remedy this deficiency.

In addition, of course, it is quite possible, in the future, that other nations will develop nuclear weapons, terrorists will obtain such weapons from national stockpiles, or existing nuclear weapons will be exploded or launched accidentally.

In these very dangerous circumstances, surely the safest course of action would be to have the international community agree on a treaty requiring the destruction of all existing stocks of nuclear weapons and a ban on their future production. Nuclear disarmament discussions along these and other lines have recently been concluded by a UN Open Ended Working Group, and will be continued in late September by a UN High Level Meeting and later this fall by the UN General Assembly First Committee.

But, to judge from past government behavior, it does not seem likely that disarmament discussions among government officials will get very far without substantial public pressure upon them to cope with the nuclear weapons menace. And it is a menace — one at least as dangerous to the future of world civilization as the existence of chemical weapons. So pressing world leaders for action on nuclear disarmament seems thoroughly appropriate.

The alternative is to throw up our hands and wait, while power-hungry governments continue to toy with their nuclear weaponry and, ultimately, produce a catastrophe of immense proportions.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and writes for PeaceVoice.  His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” – a satire on the corporatization of higher education.]

Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail