When the first atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in
1945, it could hardly have been imagined that sixty years later more than 30,000
nuclear weapons would be in existence. The Cold War is long over, but
still half the world population lives under a government brandishing
nuclear weapons. More than $12 trillion has so far been spent on these
instruments of mass murder, which is a theft from the poorest people in
the world. The present nuclear weapons crisis has, in fact, led to the
opening of the Second Nuclear Age.
First, we must understand the dimensions of the crisis. The
long-standing nuclear weapons states, the United States, Russia, the
United Kingdom, France, and China, are making nuclear weapons permanent
instruments of their military doctrines. India, Pakistan and Israel
have joined the "nuclear club." North Korea has tried to get into it.
Iran is suspected of trying to convert nuclear fuels for peaceful
purposes into nuclear weapons. NATO is maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons
on the soil of six European countries and the U.S. is preparing "reliable replacement" warheads with new military capabilities. Russia is also modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia said their nuclear
weapons were only for deterrence purposes; now they are part of
war-fighting strategies. The nuclear weapons states refuse to give up
their nuclear arsenals, and feign surprise that other nations, seeing
that nuclear weapons have become the currency of power in the modern
world, are trying to acquire them. So are terrorists. No major city in
the world is safe from the threat of a nuclear attack. The risk of
accidents is multiplying daily. All these are the characteristics of
the Second Nuclear Age.
Thinking that the nuclear weapons problem went away with the end of the Cold War, much of the public is oblivious to the new nuclear
dangers. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is trying to warn
governments and the public, but few are listening. In the case of many
politicians, they don't even know that they don't know about this
greatest threat to human security the world has ever faced. The
continued existence of so many nuclear weapons, most with a destructive
power many times greater than the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, is not understood.
Nuclear weapons are instruments of pure evil. A nuclear
explosion, either by design or accident, would kill massive numbers of
people, create international chaos, and cripple the world economy.
Nuclear weapons are devoid of the slightest shred of moral
legitimacy. Prominent jurists consider their use illegal in any
possible circumstance. The nuclear weapons states are deliberately
undermining the rule of law in maintaining them. It staggers the
imagination to consider what the enormous sums spent on nuclear weapons
could have done for education, health, and other requisites for the
development of peoples everywhere.
But a historical momentum towards the elimination of nuclear weapons is occurring. We stand on the threshold of the construction of a viable plan for a nuclear weapons-free world resulting from the active cooperation of knowledgeable leaders of civil society working with those politicians and officials of like-minded governments who truly want to move forward.
The day will arrive when nuclear weapons abolition takes effect or the world will be devastated by a nuclear attack. One or the other with happen. No person, informed on the gravity of the situation, can deny it.
Many groups are working on the nuclear disarmament agenda. One of these is the
Middle Powers Initiative. See the links list for a full list of relevant organizations. My book Beyond Hiroshima provides an overview of the nuclear weapons situation. The writings section of this website provides ongoing analyses.