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Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Could Become Law Next Year

Photo Source International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons | CC BY 2.0

“GENEVA (Reuters) — A treaty banning nuclear weapons could come into force by the end of 2019, backers of a campaign that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize said in an annual progress report on Monday.”

This October 29 report also announced a newly established watchdog for the 2017 nuclear weapons ban known as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The new “Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor” published by Norwegian People’s Aid will measure progress related to signature, ratification, and entry into force of the TPNW.

So far, 19 governments have ratified the TPNW and it will come into force after 50 states ratify. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told Reuters, “We have about 25 or 30 countries that say they will be ready [to ratify] by the end of 2019, so it’s definitely possible” to pass the 50 country mark next year.

The TPNW places nuclear weapons in the same outlaw category as biological weapons, poison gas, land minds and cluster munitions, all of which are banned by treaties. The Monitor says the TPNW will further stigmatize both nuclear weapons and the countries that ignore the treaty. The Monitor can be downloaded on at www.banmonitor.org

The Monitor’s lead article says about the new ban treaty: “Adopted by 122 states on 7 July 2017 at a United Nations diplomatic conference, the TPNW provides a reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.” Once it takes effect, the TPNW will forbid the development, testing, possessing, hosting, using of, and threatening to use nuclear weapons. The treaty also outlaws assisting, encouraging, or inducing these prohibited acts. The treaty “codifies norms and actions that are needed to create and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” the Monitor notes.

The United States under president Obama led the nuclear-armed states’ opposition to the treaty, and when final negotiations were launched March 27, 2017, Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley explained the US-led boycott this way: “[W]e have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”

Realists for Unilateral Nuclear Abolition

But being realistic means at least listening to realists, and no one can be considered more so than the late Paul Nitze, the Cold War military strategist and Reagan presidential advisor. As Secretary of the Navy and later Deputy Secretary of Defense, Nitze drafted and implemented US nuclear war plans himself. His advocacy produced of the world’s first hydrogen bombs and the vast increase of the arsenal’s size.

Yet five years before his death, this hard-nosed realist wrote, “I see no compelling reason why we should not unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons. To maintain them is costly and adds nothing to our security.”

Sec. Nitze’s public and absolute renunciation of the Bomb, “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves,” New York Times, Oct. 29, 1999,  read, “I can think of no circumstances under which it would be wise for the United States to use nuclear weapons, even in retaliation for their prior use against us.”

This total rejection of “nuclear deterrence” had become the view of a life-long defender of pro-nuclear orthodoxy. Sec. Nitze’s argument demolishes Ambassador Haley’s ahistorical March 27, 2017 UN speech, in which she said, “[W]e can’t honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have [nuclear weapons], and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.”

Putting aside the United States’ “trying to keep peace and safety” by simultaneously bombing seven different countries, Amb. Haley’s excuses for the Bomb are archaic and laughable in view of the devastating non-nuclear weapons in the Pentagon’s hands. Sec. Nitze made this point crisply: “In view of the fact that we can achieve our objectives with conventional weapons, there is no purpose to be gained through the use of our nuclear arsenal.”

Haley and the nuclear-armed states could embrace the new ban treaty using Sec. Nitze’s words:“Destruction of the arms did not prove feasible then [in 1982], but there is no good reason why it should not be carried out now.”

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John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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