Nukes for None
Sharing an opinion with BushCheney makes me nervous. Somehow, it just does not seem right that he and I agree on anything. Yet, here I am agreeing with him that the idea of Iran developing nuclear weapons is Not Good. I strongly believe that Iranian nuclear weapons are an inherent threat to peace and stability in that region. I further believe that all nations, particularly Iran’s neighbors should actively pursue policies to limit Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran’s unwillingness to allow international verification and inspection belie its claims of peaceful nuclear research. You are right, George, Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a matter of grave concern.
But (you knew this was coming, didn’t you) the danger is not limited to Iran. Israel is reported to possess about 100 or more nuclear weapons, which causes a certain amount of apprehension to its neighbors. Elsewhere, India has about 30 nuclear devices while neighboring Pakistan probably has somewhat fewer (http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/nuke/). And of course, the 800 pound gorillas of the nuclear club, the United States and Russia, possess thousands of nuclear weapons, a legacy of the Cold War that continues to influence the present. Although the US and Russia have reduced nuclear arsenals in recent years, they both retain significant nuclear capability. So do the British, French and Chinese. For a list of nuclear weapons capability, see here.
The Cold War arms race between the US and the former USSR should give the world a clue to what is happening now in the middle east. Beginning with the first American nuclear device, the Soviets, threatened by the West since 1917 (and remembering the US and British intervention against them in 1918-19), matched every improvement made in the US arsenal. The Soviets exploded their first nuclear device in 1949. When the US developed the hydrogen bomb that same year, the Soviets followed suit in 1955. Soviet advances in rocket science gave them a perceived advantage in ballistic missiles in 1960 (the so-called “missile gap” that the post-Soviet archives now reveal was a chimera). The US introduced multiple targeted reentry vehicles in 1969, an advantage that was soon eliminated when the Soviets did the same. Whatever advantage one side or the other achieved was soon canceled by the other’s advances. If a nation (Iran, USSR) feels threatened by another’s weapons (Israel, USA), it will do what it can to eliminate that threat. History shows that weapons beget weapons whether those weapons be longbows, gunpowder, battleships or nuclear missiles.
Iran’s nuclear weapons research follows this age-old pattern for which human beings have yet to devise an effective strategy. The incredible destructiveness of nuclear weapons has lead to a variety of arms control and non-proliferation schemes but in an unstable world, where nations feel at risk, these efforts are a weak bulwark. What is needed is a strong commitment to de-proliferation, the creation of nuclear-free zones that ultimately encompass the entire planet. The middle east is a good place to start.
Iran and other Muslim nations are rightly afraid of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and will seek to neutralize it as soon as they can. In the absence of any organized effort to reduce and eliminate Israel’s nuclear weapons, they have every incentive to pursue their own nuclear weapons. That is why, along with other cooperative efforts to restrain Iranian nuclear weapons development, I advocate establishing nuclear free zones in the middle east (and south Asia). The idea is to eliminate regional arms races that contribute mightily to instability.
A good first step in that direction would be the United States’ unilateral reduction in its nuclear arsenal with a pledge to make further reductions as other nations agree to similar reductions. The US can reduce its arsenal with little or no risk because even a reduced inventory provides more than sufficient deterrent against any would be foe. This is hardly a new idea; it’s been around almost as long as nuclear weapons themselves. In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev proposed eliminating all nuclear weapons. Back then the world was a simpler place with only a few nuclear powers. Twenty years later the world is far more at risk.
Returning to my opening thought. Yes, BushCheney, Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a danger. Simply waging economic or military war will, at best, address only part of that danger. The greater danger is a world in which nuclear weapons are considered legitimate for ANY nation.