Negotiations regarding a global nuclear weapons ban began on March 27 at the United Nations, however, the US government is boycotting the talks and is against any nuclear disarmament deal “leading toward their total elimination.” This is a foolish position to take, even for a government that routinely stakes out poor policies.
Although the intricacies and obstacles involved in negotiating a global nuclear arms ban are complex, the solution is simple: our long-term security, prosperity, and liberty are dependent upon the abolition of the nuclear weapons arsenals possessed by the US government and other countries around the world.
Boycotting the Negotiations
US officials and their international counterparts, led by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, are on a mission to cajole states under America’s nuclear umbrella to boycott negotiations and maintain the present precarious US role as global military hegemon:
Standing outside the UN General Assembly Hall where the conference was getting under way Monday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley led a group of envoys from U.S. allies including the U.K. and France to voice their opposition. “As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing that I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Haley said. “But we have to be realistic.”
For those participating, “you have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people? Do they really understand the threats that we have?” she said, adding that almost 40 countries are boycotting the conference. She said North Korea would be “cheering” for such a ban and Iran also supports the move because both countries have no intention of complying with it.
Never mind Haley’s fear of destitute North Korea and compliant Iran launching a nuclear strike. The paramount issue is that the US government – the only state to launch nuclear weapons to annihilate two cities – is opposed to abolition. Regardless of stated intentions by officials, the policy is not complete disarmament, as demonstrated by recent attempts at nuclear weapons reduction:
Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency in large part for what the award panel called his “vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons.” But he couldn’t deliver on that idealistic goal. While Obama reduced the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in negotiations with Russia, he also announced a plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear bombs and missiles over 30 years, a move that may cost as much as $1 trillion.
But unfortunately, talks have not progressed since Obama left the White House, and the Trump Administration has taken a hawkish position at the start of the nuclear ban negotiations:
“You are going to see almost 40 countries that are not in the General Assembly today,” Haley said. “In this day and time we can’t honestly that say we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them.”
The Trump administration is reviewing whether it will reaffirm the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, a White House aide said last week, referring to an aim embraced by previous Republican and Democratic presidents and required by a key arms control treaty.
As Antiwar.com’s news editor, Jason Ditz, points out, “President Trump has sent mixed signals about his intentions on nuclear weapons, talking up the need for major new expenditures on such weapons, but also at times urging the world to ‘come to its senses’ about the weapons.”
Regardless of what administration occupies the White House, nuclear abolition should be a top priority, because the results of a deliberate – or more worrisome, an unintentional – nuclear detonation would be catastrophic.
As outlandish as it might sound, we have a significant opportunity to guide and amplify the nuclear disarmament discussion today, especially under the contentious Trump Administration.
Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) have introduced the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017” in Congress this session, H.R.669 and S.200, respectively. The bill “prohibits the President from using the Armed Forces to conduct a first-use nuclear strike unless such strike is conducted pursuant to a congressional declaration of war expressly authorizing such strike.”
This limitation is a good first step on a much longer path to disarmament, but it is one that must be pursued immediately. Perhaps libertarians are uniquely positioned to comprehend and object to the inherent danger of delegating such devastating capabilities to the state – an institution we don’t entrust to successfully deliver the mail, much less hydrogen bombs.
William J. Perry, Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997 under Bill Clinton, is distinctly qualified to address the crisis, and he has made opposition to the present nuclear weapons consensus his focus, having contemplated hypothetical nuclear disaster scenarios throughout his career. Perry’s memoir, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” is a cautionary tale of what catastrophic consequences await us if we do not act now. Considering the current antagonistic relations between the US government and Russia, Perry’s remarks in the New York Times last year reverberate like a detonation:
Russia and the United States have already been through one nuclear arms race. We spent trillions of dollars and took incredible risks in a misguided quest for security. I had a front-row seat to this. Once was enough. This time, we must show wisdom and restraint. Indeed, Washington and Moscow both stand to benefit by scaling back new programs before it is too late. There is only one way to win an arms race: Refuse to run.
History will not look favorably upon those individuals and states who work to maintain the nuclear weapons status quo of mutually assured destruction, which is effectively a balance of terror, punctuated by the Cold War, proxy wars, and a revived arms race. The entire nuclear weapons industry is an aberration of the free market and wholly dependent upon the government for sustainability.
Until the nuclear arsenals of governments around the world are abolished, the continuation of civilization as we know it forever rests on the integrity of politicians, bureaucrats, and chance – a frightening thought, indeed.