Stopping the New Nuclear Arms Race
Krieger, David, The Humanist
If terrorism is the threat to injure or kill the innocent, then nuclear weapons are the ultimate instruments of terrorism. They are held on constant alert, ready to destroy whole cities, whole populations. They corrupt by their very presence in society. They contribute to a culture of secrecy while undermining democracy, respect for life, human dignity, and even our human spirit.
Nuclear weapons aren't really weapons; they are devices of unimaginable destruction that draw no boundaries between soldiers and civilians, men and women, the old and the young. They have no true military purpose since their use would cause utter devastation. The stories of the hibakusha--the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--attest to the hell inflicted by the dropping of atomic bombs during World War II. Yet despite this knowledge, some countries continue to rely upon such weapons for what they call national security.
The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remind us that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist indefinitely. The relationship is bound to end in future tragedies, if for no other reason than we humans are fallible creatures and cannot indefinitely maintain infallible systems. It's therefore clear that nuclear weapons pose a species-wide threat that demands a species-wide response.
This is why peace is not the province of governments; it is the province of the people. It is a responsibility that rests upon all of our shoulders. The people know far more about achieving and maintaining peace and human dignity than the so-called experts--political, military, or academic--will ever know. Therefore we must act now as if our very lives depend on it--because they do.
If we turn over the responsibility for peace to the governments of the world, we can expect wars and military solutions to conflicts will continue. One program now being advanced by the Bush administration that could undermine peace and stop progress on nuclear disarmament is ballistic missile defense. On the surface, missile defense might sound like a good idea. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just make those nasty nuclear weapons harmless? That is, theirs not ours. We don't worry much about the threat posed by our own arsenal; after all, the missiles aren't aimed at us. And if we believe our leaders, they're actually aimed at the oceans. They can, however, be reprogrammed on a moment's notice to strike anywhere.
Nuclear weapons pose a domestic security problem because relying on them for security means that other countries will do the same, resulting in all of them being targeted by someone. Ballistic missile defense, if we are to believe its proponents, offers a technological solution. It is, however, unproven and improbable and comes at a high price, both monetarily and in terms of security.
Ballistic missile defense was pushed in the United States by the Reagan administration. In that early incarnation, it was derided as "Star Wars." Since then, it has gone through many more incarnations, the latest of which is a land-based National Missile Defense (NMD) system that is intended to defend against an attack by relatively small and technologically unsophisticated countries like North Korea, Iran, Iraq, or Libya. None of these countries, however, currently has ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. No matter, we are told by NMD's proponents; it's better to be prepared for any eventuality. The Rumsfeld Commission unanimously concluded in 1998: "Concerted efforts by a number of overtly or potentially hostile nations to acquire ballistic missiles with biological or nuclear payloads pose a growing threat to the United States, its deployed forces and its friends and allies."
Despite repeated assurances by U.S. officials that an NMD wouldn't be designed to protect the United States against a Russian attack, the Russians aren't convinced. From their perspective, an NMD would …
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Publication information: Article title: Stopping the New Nuclear Arms Race. Contributors: Krieger, David - Author. Magazine title: The Humanist. Volume: 61. Issue: 2 Publication date: March 2001. Page number: 8. © 1999 American Humanist Association. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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