No Nukes is Good Nukes

The United States hasn’t designed and developed a new nuclear
bomb for more than 20 years, and that’s making some people very
nervous. Powerful voices in the United States are calling for a
Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program to trade out aging nukes
with newer ones — a move that would skirt the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by updating old weapons instead of
creating new ones. John R. Harvey, the director of policy planning
for the National
Nuclear Security Administration
, speaks for RRW proponents in a
wide-ranging package on the subject in the
of the Atomic Scientists
(article not available online).
Harvey writes that the program would make the nation’s nuclear
arsenal ‘much more efficient, responsive, smaller, and, we believe,
cheaper.’ Opponents contend that the new warheads could end up
pushing the world closer to nuclear war.

Programs like the RRW are taking the world ‘in the wrong
direction,’ Hans Blix, former executive chairman of the United
Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, writes
in the Boston Review. Developing new kinds of
nuclear weapons in the United States could undermine international
efforts to keep nuclear weapons away from countries like Iran. It
would be easier to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program,
according to Blix, if the United States and its allies ‘were ready
to do the same.’

The idea that the United States needs to update its nuclear
weapons ‘strikes Middle Easterners as ludicrous,’ Saideh Lotfian,
associate professor of political science at the University of
Tehran, offers in a counter argument to Harvey in the Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists
. US foreign policy is already seen as
‘duplicitous’ in the region, and attempts to modernize the nuclear
arsenal while continuing to preach disarmament would only reinforce
that perception. The way to stop the spread of nuclear arms
worldwide, Lotfian argues, is a ‘devaluation of nuclear weapons in
the US national security strategy.’

Or it may be time for the United States to abandon its current
disarmament strategy all together. Retired Lieutenant General
William E. Odom argues in
Foreign Policy (excerpt available
online) that ‘US policies for preventing proliferation have
actually accelerated it.’ In response to the Bush
administration’s tough stance against the ‘axis of evil,’ North
Korea and Iran have started working harder to achieve their
nuclear programs. The best way to stop the spread of nuclear
weapons is to make countries feel like they don’t need them. In
other words, we’d do better to promote stability in tinderbox
regions. ‘Preventing nuclear proliferation,’ Odom writes,
‘requires making states feel secure.’

The issue is beginning to resonate outside foreign policy and
government circles. In another roundtable conducted by the
Bulletin, Lawrence S. Wittner, a
history professor at the State University of New York at Albany,
points to recent protests inside the United States as evidence
of a resurgent anti-nuclear arms movement. In May, students at
the University of California organized a hunger strike to
protest the University’s nuclear programs. Actions like these
point to ‘the possibility for a dramatic upswing in anti-nuclear
weapon activism,’ writes Wittner, and will continue to grow
should the United States continue with its plans for newer and
cheaper nuclear weapons.

Go there >>
Nuclear Freeze

Go there too >>
A Modest Revival

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