Let Them All Have Nukes!
George Szamuely
New York Press


If ever a treaty deserved to go down, it was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The objection to it is not that the United States would no longer be able to possess whatever weapons it wanted in its armory. It is that there is something profoundly wrong about trying to limit the nuclear club to a handful of supposedly responsible states. After the demented destruction of civilian life in Yugoslavia, only a fool would put his trust in U.S. professions of good faith and reticence about resorting to extreme violence.

The patent dishonesty of the Treaty was apparent in the arguments of its champions. We were told that because of the ban on tests no state other than one of the club of five would be able to acquire nuclear weapons. "Unless proliferators are able to test their devices, they can never be sure that any new weapon they design or build is safe and will work," announced Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac in an excruciatingly self-important article in The New York Times.

However, it turns out that the restriction on tests would not really apply to the United States. Americans apparently have this terrific computer capability that enables them to go on testing, but without making use of nuclear devices. In other words, Americans could go on testing and also claim that they were not really testing.

The Treaty was thus yet another instance of international law that applies to everyone but the United States.

President Jiang Zemin of China expressed the concern of many when he pointed out that "Disarmament should not become a tool for stronger nations to control weaker ones, still less should it be an instrument for a handful of countries to optimize their armament in order to seek unilateral security superiority." The argument in favor of limiting nuclear weapons to a handful of states has lost its validity, if it ever had it. Countries will want to acquire nuclear weapons for the same reason that Americans came to rely on them. It is the best and cheapest form of defense money can buy. If you have nuclear weapons no one messes with you. If Sudan had had nuclear weapons it would still have a pharmaceutical factory today. If the Serbs had nuclear weapons Belgrade would still be intact and cargo ships would still be happily cruising along the Danube. If Indonesians had had nuclear weapons there would be no Australians strutting around in East Timor. (Australians have no nuclear weapons, but have a security arrangement with a power that does.)

There is no evidence whatsoever that there exist certain countries that are inherently more "responsible" than others and can therefore be trusted to use nuclear weapons wisely. The only country in the world that has ever used nuclear weapons is the United States. It was the first country to build them. And the moment they were ready they were in use. If the bombs had been ready a few months earlier the Germans would also have gotten clobbered with them. If more than two bombs had been available in August 1945, other Japanese cities would have been hit. Our much-touted "responsibility" came only after other powers started acquiring nuclear weapons.

Ask yourself: Would the United States have gone on fighting for three years in Korea without resorting to nuclear weapons if there had been no threat of retaliation from the Soviet Union? Would the United States have accepted defeat in Vietnam while there remained the possibility of resolving things swiftly by the dropping of a few H-bombs? Resorting to nuclear weapons is particularly tempting to powers that enjoy a vast technological superiority over others and are extremely reluctant to take any casualties. Obviously, it is the threat of getting hit oneself, not some inherent "responsibility," that prevents nations from letting fly. Even in the throes of the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s China was not about to do anything crazy with nuclear weapons.

Ah! But what about the so-called "rogue states"? Would it not be the end of civilization as we know it the moment they got their hands on nuclear weapons? Possibly. However, all the evidence suggests that the "rogue states" are nothing if not shrewd in the way they juggle their few resources to acquire greater standing in the world than they would have were they to go down the approved U.S. government-IMF-World Bank path. In repeatedly threatening to develop a nuclear capability, North Korea, for instance, has very skillfully blackmailed the United States into making all sorts of concessions. It received a commitment to help to build a nuclear reactor as well as a promise to lift economic sanctions. Iraq – yet another one of the rogue states – is also far from displaying pathological symptoms. Saddam used SCUD missiles during the Gulf War in the hope of provoking an Israeli retaliation, thereby breaking up the coalition arrayed against him. The ploy failed, but it was a gamble worth taking. On the other hand, packing chemical and biological warheads on those missiles would definitely not have been a gamble worth taking. American retaliation would have been swift and devastating. Saddam wisely avoided going down that path.

According to Chirac, Blair and Schroeder: "As we look to the next century, our greatest concern is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… We have to face the stark truth that nuclear proliferation remains the major threat to world safety."

Now, Messrs. Clinton, Schroeder, Blair and Chirac have been doing plenty of mass destruction themselves lately. It is hard to see who today poses a greater threat to "world safety" than this bunch of feebleminded politicians animated by the insipid "Blair Doctrine." The Blair Doctrine, enunciated earlier this year, holds that there exists a right of humanitarian intervention anywhere in the world. This right, however, is to be exclusively exercised by powers equipped with nuclear weapons. And it is to be exercised against powers not equipped with nuclear weapons.

This right, moreover, is to be exercised in a distinctly nonhumanitarian way. There is something nauseatingly hypocritical about nations that are fully stocked up with nuclear weapons lecturing others on the horrors of weapons of mass destruction. Shortly after India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1998, the hideous harridan of Foggy Bottom read the riot act to both countries: "[A] nuclear exchange of even a limited nature would kill not thousands, but millions… Each faces the risk of nuclear missiles being pointed at their cities." Pointing nuclear missiles at cities! What kind of barbarian would do a thing like that?

Moreover, India and Pakistan had so much to look forward to had they eschewed the nuclear option. Why, only "a month ago," she lamented at the time, "India and Pakistan could look forward to improved relations with the United States and other major powers; to steadily increasing outside investment and beneficial trade… Today, those prospects have been demolished." That nations may have interests other than enjoying "improved relations with the United States" is a notion too complex for her to grasp.

Shortly after the tests, the Indian government announced, "[T]he pursuit of non-proliferation in an arbitrary selective regional context remains the fundamental flaw in the global nuclear disarmament regime. The Government of India cannot consider any prescriptions which have the effect of undermining India’s independent decision making."

Exactly. This is why neither India nor Pakistan bothered to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The two countries want what other powers want: respect and the certainty that they will not be subjected to the depredations of self-righteous aggressors.

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