The Genie Out of the Bottle
What's a pacifist's answer to Nuclear proliferation?
Sure, I know the U.S. is often held exclusively responsible for letting that genie out of the bottle. (Or, opening the Pandora of all Pandora's boxes?)
I would argue that German scientists working for Hitler were certainly feverishly at work, before and during WWII, God only knows what would have happened if Einstein had fallen into the hands of the Nazis. And in the aftermath of WWII, the efforts of the Russians and Chinese to acquire the Bomb certainly strategically altered forever our nuclear destiny, and forced our hand in many respects from a strategic planning perspective. And yet, Nuclear Brinksmanship and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) arguably kept the two superpowers from fighting anything other than proxy wars with conventional arms.
More and more nations joined the Nuclear Club, and now emerge the threats of non-state actors with Nuclear Weapons, with the potential to detonate a dirty bomb or even a nuclear explosion as an act of terrorism. Regardless of how we got here, what's the proper response?
And as a side note, were the Rosenbergs guilty of treason, or if they did commit the acts attributed to them, was their act patriotic? Is an act of that kind a potentially acceptable Pacifist response?
LiberalAvenger response #1:
Nuclear weapons are bad and I wish that they had never been invented.
They were invented, however, and we must accept that. There is no need to point figures at who/when/why was responsible. The bomb was a product of a very dark time and indeed, we can be thankful that the United States secured the first working versions ahead of Hitler or Stalin. I also believe that the use of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the best decision at the time given the circumstances and mankind's general naivité as to the full implications of the existence and use of the bomb.
The very idea of a nuclear bomb is absurd. That human beings would create something so poisonously destructive runs counter to any enlightened sensibilities. We've heard factoids that the world's existing nuclear arsenal is capable of killing every living creature on the face of the earth several times over or turning the entire surface of the earth into glass from the heat. Whether or not these precise statements are indeed "the truth," the destructive potential of nuclear weapons is mind-boggling and evil.
Conventional devices that exist to kill people or destroy property and infrastructure are evil. Devices to kill and destroy indiscriminately on a massive scale are even more so.
As you've pointed out, Pandora's box is open. Tragically, we cannot undo this.
In light of the fact that these devices exist, the general strategy of non-proliferation makes sense. It is, in fact, our only hope to save ourselves from armageddon.
That being said, the Bush Administration has failed us on the non-proliferation front. Distracted from the world stage by the Iraq folly, we have allowed North Korea to acquire between 6 and 8 nuclear devices and Iran to move their own program further along. This is inexcusable. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has squandered American credibility internationally with the Iraq misadventure which will make it all the more difficult to keep North Korea and Iran in check.
Thank you, GW Bush and friends for making the world all the more unsafe while we become the mockery of the diplomatic world by engaging in a war of choice in Iraq.
Furthermore, Bush Administration insistence in moving ahead with battlefield and bunker-busting nuclear weapons is unconscionable and adds to our general lack of credibility while undermining the worldwide non-proliferation effort. It is the height of arrogance and is inexcusable.
Update from LiberalAvenger:
I forgot to answer the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg question.
I am under the impression that Julius Rosenberg was guilty. Treason is a crime. He should have been imprisoned. I do not believe in capital punishment and find the fact that he was executed to be barbaric. Civilized societies should not be executing human beings.
I do not think it is clear whether or not Ethel Rosenberg was guilty. Regardless, she should not have been executed.
Additional update from LiberalAvenger:
This article by Robert S. McNamara in Foreign Policy is excellent and relevant.
I think this sounds partisan. (But that's okay, I expect us to be, even if we're trying to be civil.)
I hear this argument a lot, that Iraq is a distraction from greater dangers, and I don't think it's sincere. Or better, it's a handy argument used almost "marriage of convenience-like," usually by people who would be equally aghast at any of our probable responses to whatever strawman alternative danger they set up.
I worked many years in Intelligence. Within military and civilian intelligence, defense, and diplomatic establishments are thousands and thousands of analysts, each with their own assigned targets and areas of interest. What's on the budget is gargantuan; what's black ops (invisible) is even larger. The idea that some portion of our military or intelligence or diplomatioc corps being focused on Iraq, would have any consequential (negative) impact on analysis or casework elsewhere is naive. There's plenty of capability and focus to go around. We even have time to be attentive to non-immediate threats and not-yet-but-potential threats. Just as there are plenty of resources devoted to the hunt for OBL.
North Korea and Iran are bad examples for the point in any case; both countries were aggressively developing nuclear weapons capability throughout the Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton years, and U.S. Foreign Policy (and U.N. Security Council responses) were completely unsuccessful at preventing their eventual transition to nuclear statehood.
And what response now would you propose? What response in 2000 or 2001 or 2002 or 2003 would you have supported? If you don't like or can't support a(n) (relatively easy) overthrow of Saddam in Iraq, how would it be possible for you to support anything that would have succceeded in Iran or North Korea? If you mention anything to do with arms control, or U.N. Weapons Inspectors or Agencies, you really can't be serious. If there is one thing that should be accepted as fact on all sides by now, is that WMD wannabees and U.N. sanctioned regimes can very easily game (and make a total mockery of) whatever system the U.N. puts in place.
American standing in elite world opinion has been low for a long time, Iraq is merely the latest of talking points for a continuous stream of anti-Americanism with 9/11 only a very brief respite. This, in stark contrast to the overwhelming popularity of American culture, ideas, innovation, and technology.
But we are in fact, very credible. The leaders of countries all over the world are quite sure that, under the current administration, if we promise (or threaten) something, we will follow through. The fact that this was quite the opposite just 5 years ago, and how Islamic Terrorists were convinced we would not defend ourselves, speaks volumes about the value of saying what you're going to do and doing what you said you were going to do. That is true credibility. I think what you really mean is popularity. We are unpopular, but I would argue there is more evidence for this being the result of jealousy and envy and resentment over our power and influence. Much of the world would be very happy indeed if we were to suffer grave harm financially and militarily. If that's the cost of us gaining credibility as you mean it -- which I think we will never earn in any real sense -- than I would say the cost is too high.
Our national interest must always be national first, and international only when it is in our interest.