Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nuclear Capability: A Club of Good Old Boys?

The recent announcement of the agreement for nuclear cooperation between the United States and the government of India comes at a time when the United States and the European Union are fiercely engaged in coercing Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear capability. The same coercive means has already resulted in North Korea shutting down its nuclear reactor. With Iraq under occupation by the US, ostensibly for "possession of weapons of mass destruction" including nuclear ambition under Saadam Hussein, the message and the picture become very clear. Those countries that fall under the umbrella of the "Axis of Evil", as designated by George W. Bush, are inelligible to possess nuclear capability. Iran, of course, is the only one of the three "evil" countries defying this arbitrary and whimsical denial of the right of possession.
The stockpile of nuclear weapons in the US surpasses that of any other country in the world, including Russia. And yet the Bush Administration has plans afoot to further develop more sophisticated, and by implication, nuclear weapons with greater killing power. All of the European countries, Australia, Israel, Pakistan, and India are known to possess nuclear weapons in varying numbers relative to their economic and military strength. Together, these countries have become a de facto elite Club of good old boys with common friendly ties to the United States. Israel's nuclear facilities are not even subject to inspection, as are those of the United States and major countries in the Club: Britain, France, Russia, Australia and Spain. Again, the implication is that in order to be elligible to possess nuclear capability, either the United States has to sign off on it, you must belong to the European Union or be an ally of the United States. The other proviso to membership, specifically for the junior members of the Club (India and Pakistan), is that their facilities remain open for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The strongest argument for denying Iran the right to nuclear capability is that the Mullahs who rule that country are, somehow, of questionable stability of mind and pose a great threat to Israel. The flaw in this argument, of course, cannot escape scrutiny and rebuttal by a fair minded observer. During the Cold War, when IBMs were pointed in either direction at the US and the Soviet Union, it is generally agreed that the threat of mutual annihilation was the greatest deterrent to either side using its arsenal to attack the other. Fast forward to the present and the same argument can be made that possession of nuclear weapons by Iran and Israel will deter either side from mounting a nuclear attack against the other side. Besides, Iran claims - and there is no reason to disbelieve - that its nuclear program is non military but for domestic energy self sufficiency when their oil reserves run out, as they predictably will.
All of this, of course, misses the point that nuclear weapons pose a great danger to the entire human race, no matter in whose hands. Therefore, the discussion has to focus on non-proliferation instead of escalation. The United States which has the greatest stockpile of nuclear arms has a moral obligation to initiate the process of disarmament to get rid of its vast stockpile. The other major countries in the Old Boy's Club of nuclear capable countries should then immediately follow the lead by the United States to disarm. Only then can they, collectively, have the moral justification to discourage countries like Iran from embarking on a quest for nuclear capability. The policy of " do as I say and not as I do" will always ring hollow in the ears of determined and defiant aspirants to nuclear capability like the Iranians. Even worse is the use of threats of military action to force compliance. The rulers of Iran have no greater propensity for the misuse of nuclear weapons than the rulers of Israel, India or Pakistan.
We need only look back to history to learn that when it comes to judging who poses the greatest threat to using nuclear weapons, the answer lies in the Club of the good old boys of nuclear capable countries. The US remains the only country that has used nuclear weapons against a civilian population. The world has also witnessed, in the last decade, the hair trigger nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. These two historical events combine to strip the Club of any shred of moral superiority over Iran as a nuclear risk.

Okuche 07/31/07

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