An Objectionable Proposition. (Letters to the Editor)

Harvard International Review, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

An Objectionable Proposition. (Letters to the Editor)


Jayantha Dhanapala's "A Disarming Proposition" (HIR, Summer 2001) is an extremely disappointing discussion of disarmament. Its rhetorical con struction yields only vacuous assertions. Following his introductory paragraph, Dhanapala describes the ways in which disarmament is misunderstood, including the dictionary definition. This is acceptable, but although the article states what disarmament is not, it does not state what it is.

The remainder of the article does little to dispel the clouds. Dhanapala's next foray deals with the UN Charter, which addresses the need for self-defense in the context of disarmament. Again, this is acceptable, but he provides only a vague background: "The treaty language was the product of an evolving process of international law and organization going back hundreds of years." This is an awfully broad statement to accept without question. What laws? What organizations? What events and agreements led to the treaty language? How are we to know that this was not all developed in an entirely arbitrary fashion?

The entire article is notable in its lack of supporting evidence. Witness the discussion of the "Sustainability Factor." Where does Dhanapala offer any support for his arguments? No speeches are quoted, no documents are cited, and no events are analyzed in the context of his theme. In discussing nuclear disarmament, the author does actually offer a quotation, but it is empty of useful meaning: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament." No doubt the obligation is self-evident to morally elevated people, but what of those who feel no such obligation, who consider it in their best interest to maintain and develop these arms? Self-interest drives disarmament, not moral obligation. Should we all have a sense of moral obligation? Of course we should, but it is a poor foil in international arms negotiations. …

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