The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: Possibilities and Practicalities

By Smith, Ron | New Zealand International Review, January-February 1997 | Go to article overview

The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: Possibilities and Practicalities


Smith, Ron, New Zealand International Review


Ron Smith suggests that abandonment of nuclear deterrence might not necessarily have favourable consequences.

There have been persistent calls for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction since the first use of such weapons in 1945. As early as January 1946, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to this effect. In recent times the chorus has been very loud, particularly in New Zealand and Australia. Two questions will be raised in relation to this world-wide clamour for the abolition of nuclear weapons, both of which are more complex than they appear. The first is `how possible would it be to eliminate or abolish such weapons and what would it (could it) mean?' Despite an apparent consensus on the matter, the second question is `should we want to do it, anyway?'

The most obvious interpretation of the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons is that it would entail a state of affairs in which all existing nuclear-weapon-stocks were destroyed and no more such weapons would be made. Who would be affected by this? Present nuclear-weapons states include: the United States, Russia, Belarus (until the end of the year), United Kingdom, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, with some continuing suspicions about North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and possibly Libya and Algeria. How likely is it that all these parties can be persuaded to give up their nuclear arsenals anytime soon? I am assuming that an agreement to abolish nuclear weapons would have to be universal. Given the problems the International Atomic Energy Authority has had in Iraq and the recent compliance difficulties with North Korea, there is plenty of room to doubt whether a satisfactory compliance regime could be established. To take just one example, what are the chances that India, Pakistan, and (to complete the triangle) China would agree to give up their nuclear weapons and accept the requisite degree of monitoring and surveillance? It is hard to resist the conclusion that under present conditions they are slight.

The prestigious Pugwash organisation, in a report published in July 1995, is more optimistic. The abolition of nuclear weapons is considered to be both `desirable and feasible', though it is accepted that the process might need twenty to thirty years to complete.(1) As well as for the dismantling of weapons, disposing of nuclear materials, and the establishment of verification procedures, the time would be required for a programme of public education.

Potential danger

But the nuclear disarmament of present (actual) nuclear-weapons states may not be the biggest difficulty in realising a project to abolish nuclear weapons. Parties which have fissile material and technological know-how can make nuclear weapons very easily, whether or not they have had them before, and the lead time for this process is getting shorter as the years go by. These parties are virtual nuclear-weapons states. Early next century, this lead time will be so short that any such states that got involved in a serious war could introduce nuclear weapons. In this potential sense, nuclear weapons cannot be abolished, unless all nuclear power stations worldwide are subject to regular inspection and audit to make sure that nuclear-weapons material is not being made, or only reactors that cannot breed nuclear material are allowed, or nuclear power generation itself is outlawed.

The agreements implied here are unlikely to be accepted and would be extremely difficult (and fiendishly expensive) to verify. Even Pugwash seems to accept this point: `because [nuclear] weapons could be produced anew, even after being abolished, lasting safety can prevail only when war itself has been abolished.' On the other hand, the possibility of virtual nuclear capability may (at some time) enable some present actual nuclear-weapons states to renounce actual nuclear arsenals in favour of virtual ones. It may be a long time, though, before such an arrangement is seen to offer a comparable degree of security. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: Possibilities and Practicalities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.