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A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?

UPDATE: Britain's parliament backed Prime Minister Tony Blair's plans to renew the nuclear arsenal, reports Reuters: "Eighty-seven politicians from Blair's Labour Party voted against his plan to spend $42 to 55 billion on new nuclear-armed submarines to replace ones that go out of service in about 2024. It was the biggest rebellion against Blair since a 2003 vote backing war in Iraq and the largest rebellion on a domestic issue in Blair's decade in power. The revolt could have overturned Blair's 67-seat majority in the 646-member lower house of parliament, but backing from the opposition Conservatives helped Blair secure a 409-161 vote in favour of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system."

The Bush administration moves ahead with plans toward building the first new nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. On March 2, the military and the Energy Department selected a design developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The new generation of atomic warheads will replace the existing arsenal.

An AP article published on MSNBC refers to advocates, who argue that the new nukes would "give military commanders greater assurance of reliability and could speed the reduction of the deployed number of nuclear warheads from 6,000 to fewer than 2,000 by 2012." The article also refers to the criticism that it would send "the wrong signal at a time when the United States is assailing attempts at nuclear weapons development in North Korea and Iran and striving to contain them."
 
Should the goal of a nuclear weapons free world be pursued?
The common myth is that only left-wing idealists and some governments without their own nukes call for a nuclear weapons free world, for example Germany.
Think again after reading "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons" written by Sam Nunn, George Shultz, William Perry, and Henry Kissinger for The Wall Street Journal (8 January 2007) and republished by YaleGlobal. The former chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the three secretaries of state and of defense argue:
The end of the Cold War made the doctrine of mutual Soviet-American deterrence obsolete. Deterrence continues to be a relevant consideration for many states with regard to threats from other states. But reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.
The authors "endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons," make several specific suggestions and describe this "bold initiative" as "consistent with America's moral heritage." Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1981-1997 and the chief U.N. weapons inspector from 2000 to 2003, opines about this op-ed:
I don’t know how it was received in the Bush administration, but these guys are not doves. If they can write [that] way, perhaps the idea is not too strange among the policy-conscious, foreign-policy set in the United States. That gives me a lot of hope.

Should Britain keep its nukes?
FP Passport:
The United Kingdom has only one way to deliver its nuclear weapons: U.S.-built submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) called Tridents, which are carried on British Vanguard-class subs. These subs are aging and due to be decommissioned in 2024. Since the British government estimates it will take 17 years to design and build a new submarine, a decision looms and an unusual debate has arisen: should the U.K. even bother maintaining its own nuclear deterrent?
Britain's answer will almost certainly be yes, but the fact that there is a real debate at all is interesting. Detractors of Prime Minister Tony Blair's plan to extend the lifetime of the U.K.'s nuclear forces attack it from several different angles. Nearly everyone cites the expense: roughly £20 billion (~$39 billion) that they say could be better spent.
The Guardian discusses double standards in the debate over Iran's nuclear program:
Claims that Britain cannot expect other countries to refrain from developing nuclear weapons if it upgrades its Trident missile system have been dismissed by the Government. Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said claims by Mohammed El Baradei, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the West risked losing its moral authority when criticising states such as Iran were "wrong."
The graphic at the top of this post shows the new radiation symbol designed by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. "It seems the old symbol just wasn't scary enough," writes the Foreign Policy Blog.

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JW-Atlantic Review on :

Post script: Another post about the German position(s) regarding US nukes in Germany will be published at the weekend. As always, links to interesting articles are appreciated. Further development of nuclear weapons might encourage Russia to reduce its arsenal, but could also encourage them to improve their nukes as well. Producing better nukes does not convince anyone to give up their nuclear program; quite the contrary. Often the question is asked: Can the United States allow itself the "luxury" of sending the wrong signal? Advocates answer "No!" while critics don't think it is a "luxury." What do you think?

Markus on :

Henry Kissinger against nukes? You got to be kidding. He probably does not mean it.

Don S on :

'A world free of nuclear weapons'. Sounds really good to me. Starting with the US of course. What matter if a few pariah regimes hold out against the Force of World Opinion?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Starting with the US of course." Says who?

Don S on :

Well you do have to start with the world's Foremost Pariah Regime - do you not? One cannot expect honored members of the international community such as Iran (much less North Korea) to give up nuclear dreams and/or actualitites without beginning with the Real Problem (tm) - can one? I've been trying to work out where to hold the conference. Do you think Hiroshima wiould be available? That would be perfect. Else perhaps Pyonyang or Tehran.

Anonymous on :

@ Don As usual a total over-reaction of yours. Nobody is asking the United States to give up their atomic bombs. I doubt whether Britain is seriously debating it. The World is demanding that Iran does not devlop atomic bombs. That is just schwer zu vermitteln.

Don S on :

But wasn't there an implicit assumption that the US build-down from an arsenal of 600 unreliable weapons to 2000 modern, reliable weapons was a *Bad Thing* because it didn't involve a plan for complete abolition. It is clear from the tomne of the actual essay that the authors regard complete abolition of nuclear weapons as the possible endpoint of a major effort lasting 20 years or more to reduce the current risks. Most of what they wrote made good sense, and indeed was not inconsistent with the plans of the Bush administration. But that isn't the way the information was presented, was it?

Pat Patterson on :

The head designer, Dr. Seymour Sack, is a retired 77 year old semi-recluse. He lives in the hills above Berkeley and hates to leave his home so the Lab sends a chauffeur to pick him up and take him home after Lab they convinced him to come back out of retirement and submit designs he had worked on during the Carter and Reagan administrations. So the US is basically replacing bombs made in the 60's and 70's with ones designed in the 80's. Before the naval Battle of Lepanto the Venetians bragged that their naval fleet and shipyards could easily and quickly build enough ships to turn the Turkish fleets away. The Venetians did indeed have the most ships in the Christian fleet but only by using using emergency funds from Philip II of Spain. I think in this case the US and Britain would rather have bombs that work and maintain deterrence rather than having bombs that they're only pretty sure will work.

Zyme on :

There is even a statue and several memorial plaques of the admiral of the Battle of Lepanto in my city. He is depicted as the savior of the occident :)

Pat Patterson on :

Without any snark intended, John of Austria or Philip II?

Zyme on :

Don Juan d´Austria, right. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/130404_regensburg-don-juan-d'austria_1-480x640.jpg That´s the statue in Regensburg, where he was born (I just found out^^) - which was the capital of the Reich at that time I think. Wikipedia says he was an extramarital son of Emperor Karl V.

Pat Patterson on :

Rats, I've never been to Regensburg. I would have liked to have seen the monument. I assumed the Austrians had completely forgotten about him. Myabe next time!

Don S on :

Regensburg is in Germany, not Austria, Pat. It is one of those cities one intends to visit one day. Bamberg and Marburg are others like it small cities with an inperial past.

Zyme on :

I honestly have to admit that I didn´t notice the statue itself for a long time although it is located on a populated square in the historical part of the city. There are many such monuments of all kinds of historical persons - and usually you don´t move through your own city, going on historical tours like all the tourists do :)

Pat Patterson on :

Ok, no wonder I never noticed Regensburg. I was in the wrong country. I didn't check but just assumed it was in Austria, mea culpa. But I did get to see the box around the statue of Augustus in Augsburg. My timing as a tourist always left much to be desired.

pen Name on :

I think a world free of nuclear weapons is not a realistic goal at this time. I think, however, there is the possibility of reducing or eliminating certain classes of nuclear weapons. The class of nuclear weapons that I have in mind are various types of thermo-nuclear weapons commonly known as hydrogen bombs; among which you must include Neutron bombs, Lithium bombs, etc. These are weapons of terror against cities - and they have no concievable use against military tragets - ports, ships, factories, troop concentrations etc. In US, 150 million people live within 50 miles of the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. Greater London is a city of 12 Million. Tehran is a city of 10 million, Seoul is 12, Mexico City is 20, Tokyo is 12, and so on. Why should these cities be held hostage? What is the point? I believe this is a modest step that does not detract from any state's capacity to defend it self - even with Atomic weapons.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Great suggestion. Thank you. Are you aware of any arms control negotiations that deal with these suggestions? Actually, what arms control negotiations are there in general these days?

pen Name on :

SALT I and SALTII touched on these but they were between USA and USSR (now Russia). I am unaware of any one working along the lines I suggested.

Pat Patterson on :

There is only one country that still deploys a neutron warhead, the PRC, but it still has only one type of ICBM with barely the range, 7,2000 miles, to strike as far south on the US coast as NYC. The US and France destroyed their stockpiles in the late 80's and 90's and the Soviet Union/Russia never deployed that type of device. But if the Chinese decided to get even for the Charlie Chan movies then Hollywood is in trouble. No more capitalist dogs but all the cameras and Ferraris will be there for the taking. Lithium was used as a trigger in the steps neccessary to detronate a hydrogen bomb but the only countries known to be using lithium aside from laptop batteries are India and Pakistan. Which means probably that Iran might and North Korea probably does. But as these countries acquire the expertise they will shift to other materials to create fusion and detonation in the warhead. Lithium is not used like uranium or plutonium as the core explosive in a bomb. The targeting of weapons did indeed include cities but both sides, the West, the Soviet Union/Russia and even China targeted mainly the missiles of the other side. The west through first strike and the East, for lack of a better phrase, hoped to have enough assets left to then destroy any military capability the West might still have. A big radioactive hole in the ground would indicate that a military and a civilian target was hit. The point of having these warheads was so that neither side would have to make that distinction.

pen Name on :

Pat Patterson: A lithium bomb is a hydrogen bomb whose outer shell is covered with an specific isotope of lithium. The nuclear reaction of this lithium isotope with the fast neutrons of the hydrogen bomb explosion will cause the creation of a radiation front that burns everything in its path. I imagine a few of them are sufficient to burn everything on the ground in a country the size of France. Netural countris could thus be destroyed to pre-empt the other side from occupying them.

Pat Patterson on :

Lithium ignites when exposed to air, water vapor or water. How could the bomb even be delivered without burning up the delivery system in the silo, sub or bomber? Could you provide a link or citation for your claim?

pen Name on :

I am familiar with the chemical properties of Lithium. You can cover it in parafin to prevent it from burning. I cannot provide any links.

Pat Patterson on :

So in other words a lithium bomb is hypothetical but not actually deployable? Still curious.

pen Name on :

As far as I know they exist - I suspect the French have them.

Mrine Engineers on :

I guess that the naval fleet was very powerful and targeted cities in both regions

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