How (not) to drop the Bomb

How (not) to drop the Bomb

The Obama administration recently has just restarted the process toward nuclear warheads reduction in the world. Following his speech last year in Prague, Obama tried to put his commitment against the threat of nuclear weapons into action by organizing the Nuclear Security Summit last week. With the introduction of New START-stands for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty-between the US and Russia, the number of nuclear warheads will be gradually reduced to 1,550, which is about two-thirds from the original START treaty.

Indeed, this might be the sign of new approach of security and foreign policy of the US, especially in terms of the usage of nuclear weapons. Under Obama administration, the US has step by step tried to eliminate the role of nuclear in its national security. Classical approach of nuclear deterrence will not be applied even though some particular states attack the US using chemical and biological weapons – the Bush administration, on the other hand, still upheld the right to use nuclear weapons against such actions. Nuclear option will only be launched if the attacking state is a nuclear state, or a violator of the NPT.

This is why the latest summit still left unanswered questions of North Korea and Iran-the former definitely owns and possesses nuclear weapons while the latter is alleged to develop nuclear weapons.

The biggest challenge for this talk, then, is to proof itself how different it is compared to previous treaties. This will also define the future of nuclear states and the role of nuclear-centric security policy, especially in the era of changing global constellation.

Some complexities have been added to the discussion process in regards to the inexhaustible issues of North Korea and Iran. What should be taken into consideration is the fact that North Korea and Iran are the by-products of Western unilateral foreign policy.

The fear of so-called nuclear terrorism is another hot topic of the summit. When nuclear weapon goes into the wrong hand, then the world might face a catastrophic future. But, we should remember that it takes an industrial capacity of state to create and maintain nuclear weapons and facilities in a sustainable way. Global terrorist networks, unless publicly and formally supported by some particular states, have little to no possibilities of acquiring or producing nuclear weapon. It should be noted that in the battlefields, conventional weapons are far more popular in the circle of terrorists. In fact, probably the only actor that can kick-off the establishment of nuclear warheads is military-industrial complex of a particular nation.

Nevertheless, the strongest argument against nuclear weapon is its uselessness. Post-WW II world has never witnessed any war using nuclear weapons. The principle of “use by non-use” itself has no direct effect except to perpetuate fear.

Moreover, what the world really needs right now is a sound and carefully-researched foreign policy of the West. Dialogue should be at the forefront of foreign policy, as well as cooperation with international institutions.

Therefore, the latest Nuclear Security Summit deserves to be praised as a concrete solution towards a nuke-free world. Yet, it takes more than a summit to accomplish this goal. A firmer political commitment is essential, not merely to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, but to abolish the existence of nuclear warheads.

This principle should not merely serve as a slogan of be taken for granted. We have seen enough of structural violence in international politics. In order to address this issue, progressive and radical change of our worldview is the key.

First of all, tactical and pragmatic foreign policy strategies are needed in dealing with the NPTS non-signatory states. With its strategic allies in East Asia and the Middle East, the US should be able to handle the nuclear issue more effectively. North Korean case might be a bit difficult, especially talking about the extremely authoritarian nature of the regime, but for Iran the process might be different, especially considering strategic interests of Arab states who do not want to see Iran possessing nuclear warheads.

Secondly, regional issues, especially in the Middle East, should be settled at the same time. While the Western powers are still in Afghanistan and Iraq, the nation-building process of these countries must continue. Western policymakers, especially US, should also pay attention to the current issue of Israeli settlements which potentially can be another obstacle of the peace process and interests of involving states. If these two challenges can be resolved, then the possibility of growing terrorist groups which may try to get nuclear weapons or Iran’s ambition to be a nuclear power can be significantly lowered.

Thirdly, Obama should clearly show and explain his position while at the same time take a firmer stance toward unnecessary disturbances caused by lobbying groups at domestic levels. Lobbying groups do not represent the voice of citizens, but rather vested interests of some groups within society. It requires a committed leadership for nuclear abolition against domestic political pressure.

This policy is not an attempt to create utopia or earthly heaven. This is simply an attempt to create a better world for humanity and our children. Even though it is not possible to achieve the goal, at least we can make a difference for a more peaceful, tolerant world, no matter how small it is.

Iqra Anugrah (APS3, 2011) Published in The APU Times, 8 May 2010