Sunday, April 05, 2009

Obama's nuclear plan naive and premature

I can foresee a world without nuclear weapons. It will be a world with no terrorist organisations, and one where all countries operate as closely as those in Western Europe, when war is inconceivable. Considering recent history, it is worth remembering that Germany today is a very close ally of France, the UK and the USA - for those past a certain age, this is a difficult concept to grasp (it was for Margaret Thatcher for example).

However, Barack Obama's declaration that he will convene an international summit to look at the elimination of nuclear weapons is hopefully just posturing, because the global environment to abolish nuclear weapons is far from benign.

Start with Russia, which has a government that is anything but transparent, and which could not be trusted to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons any better than the old Soviet Union. As long as Russia remains an aggressive mini-power that seeks to exercise power outside its borders rather like the USSR did, then it would be wholly wrong to remove the nuclear deterrence. It would be a brave politician who predicts an economically beleagured Russia could not threaten its neighbours again.

Then there is China. You think it would abolish nuclear weapons? Not with Russia having them of course, nor India. China also is far from having a government that could be trusted to verify abolishing its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea's existing nuclear capability, and Iran's planned capability both do not bode well. It would also be madness to remove the nuclear deterrent from the Korean peninsula, nor to remove the ability to deter Iran. Finally, will India or Pakistan blink first? While Pakistan remains an unstable state, that risks falling to Islamism, you must wonder why India would remove its arsenal?

I need not state why Israel would never abolish its nuclear option either, given the existential threat it faces from Iran and others.

John Key and Phil Goff have parroted support for it. Sadly neither noted that nuclear weapons kept the peace in the Cold War between those countries that held them. New Zealand included of course.

As long as there remain state enemies of open transparent liberal capitalist societies, nuclear weapons should be held by the Western allies. The alternative are those who execute political opponents, censor opposition and wish to command control over the West having a monopoly on nuclear weapons. That is utterly unthinkable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

President Obama's plan for nuclear-free world is not just naive or premature. It is predicated on plain ignorance of the science involved in the nuclear weapons.

With conventional weapons, you can get rid of them by destroying the ammunition/explosive contained in them by controlled detonation. But with nuclear weapons, this is not the case. It is the fissile material encased in the nuclear warhead which is the real weapon and not the missiles that deliver them at the targets.

This fissile material is radio-active and has a half-life stretching over millions of years. There is no way you can destroy this fissile material. Even if the delivery vehicles from which they are taken out are destroyed, the nuclear warheads themselves with the fissile contained in them will have to stored in an extremely secure facility and fiercely guarded till Kingdom come so that the fissile material does not fall into wrong hands because it can be shaped into a functioning nuclear device in a very short time by a group of knowledgeable individuals.

It is sheer nonsense even to talk about "reduction" of nuclear weapons. How do you reduce the fissile material you already have?

At best, efforts can be made, by using carrot and stick, to stop or slow down nuclear proliferation, with what success only future can tell. But, nations which already have a stockpile of fissile material for nuclear weapons have them for good, let us have no illusions about it.

It is understandable that Obama, with his academic background only in law, is not educated on the basic facts related to the longevity and indestructibility of nuclear fissile material outlined above. It is, therefore, high time that someone in the scientific establishment in the White House hierarchy beefs up his knowledge on this subject so that he tones down his rhetoric and sticks to what is practical and achievable in this matter.