What You Need to Know
About the Most Important Issue
In the World Today

Bruce A. Roth

Chapter 7

Enlightenment or Ignorance?

"A more or less typical strategic warhead has a yield of 2 megatons, the explosive equivalent of 2 million tons of TNT. But 2 million tons of TNT is about the same as all the bombs exploded in World War II—a single bomb with the explosive force of the entire Second World War but compressed into a few seconds of time..." [1]
—Carl Sagan

The U.S. should be a “role model” for the world, and lead by setting an unambiguous example that it is committed to the reduction and ultimately the elimination of its WMD arsenal. That would establish a global norm for other nations to follow. But, the U.S., and to a lesser extent some other major nuclear powers are sending a dangerous message. That message undercuts international efforts to discourage North Korea and Iran from developing and maintaining their nuclear weapons, and weakens the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This could be perceived as a passive endorsement to the offensive use of WMDs. NPT signatories may find no point in meeting their commitments under the NPT or signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. States that have not ratified the NPT, such as Cuba, India, Pakistan, and Israel, see no need to do so. If nations cannot voluntarily take the first small step, ending the testing of nuclear weapons, what hope is there to eliminate them?

Nuclear disarmament in the U.S. and Russia has halted and the number of nuclear powers has increased to 9 (10, including Iran). U.S. rearmament and armament by new members of the nuclear club will cascade into another, more widespread nuclear arms race. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei summarized the problem, “Either we continue to rely on nuclear weapons, and face the reality that in the next 10-20 years, 20 or 30 countries will have nuclear weapons, or each country must cease its nuclear weapons program and destroy existing nuclear arsenals.” (GSN, 14 December, 2005) Having more nuclear states means more chances of errors in judgment, miscalculations, accidental launches, and opportunities for terrorists.

Man has not developed a weapon he has not used, nor has he ever built 65,000 of anything, only to use two of them and throw the rest away. Given the number of WMDs in existence, the furtive efforts of some nations to produce them, the unaccountability for many of them, and the declared intent of terrorists to use them, it is highly probable that another WMD (nuclear or otherwise) will one day be unleashed. If a state or terrorist group uses only one, this would likely result in retaliation, escalating into an uncontrollable chain reaction bringing untold suffering, misery and mass destruction—a global holocaust. Who was right and who was wrong, who started it and who was an innocent victim, will not be worth arguing about then.

[1]Carl Sagan, "The Nuclear Winter," 1983, <http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/sagan_nuclear_winter.html>. March 15, 2005.


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