Finny's News and Views.: Now the US Poses A Nuclear Threat: by Keith Suter    
 Now the US Poses A Nuclear Threat: by Keith Suter1 comment
20 Jan 2002 @ 13:42, by John Finn

Some in the United States want to start nuclear testing again. The previous President Bush imposed a moratorium on underground nuclear testing in 1992. Now the military wants to lift it and resume underground testing. That would be disastrous.

First, the world is gradually reducing the superpower nuclear threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a country whose gross national product is less than the state of California's. Russia has become the world's first developed country to have declining life expectancy, and shows little sign of ever having the wealth needed to become a superpower again.
But the Russian military would like to have another go. The US hawks are giving ammunition to the Russian hawks: if the US want to resume nuclear testing, why shouldn't Russia?
Second, the resumption of US testing would show that the US still has not learned the lesson of September11. This is a new warfare era, with low-intensity warfare and not sophisticated nuclear weapons.
Having the world's largest nuclear stockpile did not protect the US on September 11. Nor will it do so if guerrilla groups resort to other forms of low-intensity warfare, such as putting a nuclear device on a cargo ship and sailing it into the port of New York city.
The US has a supply-driven defence policy and not a demand-driven one. A supply-driven policy starts out with the weapons at hand and then asks: what do we do with them? In the meantime, this requires periodically updating the weapons. By contrast, a demand-driven policy would start with the question: who threatens the US? What do we need to combat those threats?
It may well be that some of the best ways to protect US interests are not so reliant on weapons but on more creative strategies based on international cooperation.
Third, the new US policy erodes the work done on outlawing nuclear testing. The peace movement of the 1950s grew out of the fear of what nuclear testing was doing to human health. The first treaty stopped testing in the atmosphere. That 1963 Partial Test Ban, we were assured, would soon lead to a complete ban on all nuclear testing. The peace activists felt assured and went home.
But the testing by the five main nuclear powers went on underground for another quarter of a century. A later peace movement, energised by the resumption of French nuclear tests in the mid-1990s, forced the completion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Australia, incidentally, played an active role in all of this effort.
President George Bush senior, to his credit, helped the process along by introducing a moratorium on US tests in 1992. But when President Bill Clinton put the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate in October, 1999, it was refused in one of the biggest defeats for a US president since the US Senate decided 80 years ago not to join the League of Nations.
Finally, the world is close to a nuclear war on the Kashmir border. The US and USSR (except for Cuba in October, 1962) never clashed head-on in the Cold War. They always competed against each other in someone else's territory (such as Korea, Vietnam and Africa). But India and Pakistan have a common border. A flare-up over Kashmir that gets out of hand will automatically spill over into a retreat for one side on to its own territory, and in that moment of desperation there is a risk that nuclear weapons would be used.
It is of little consolation to the next-of-kin to be told that their relatives were killed in an accidental use of nuclear weapons rather than in a deliberate attack. That sort of distinction has little importance for the dead.
Meanwhile, if the US resumes nuclear testing, it has no credibility to tell the Indians and Pakistanis not to expand their own nuclear weapon stockpile. Nuclear testing debases the currency of diplomacy.
To conclude, the US has expected the rest of the world to rally around its war on terrorism. Cooperation should be a two-way street. America's allies should say that further cooperation in the US campaign should be done on the basis of enhancing international cooperation. This means, among other things, ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Rome Treaty for an International Criminal Court and the creation of a protocol to augment the Biological Warfare Treaty.
Keith Suter is a senior fellow of the Global Business Network Australia.
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1 comment

20 Jan 2002 @ 17:15 by maxtobin : and so say all of us
Wouldn't it be wonderful, walk a while in anothers shoes. Not long enough to get blisters, but just to see another point of view and thereby obtain greater clarrity over what it is we see. We live in fine times, thanks for this.  


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