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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nuclear shootout

Why do we even play this game if it's just gonna end in a shootout?

9 Comments:

Anonymous Adam said...

So are you suggesting that maybe non-proliferation isn't going to work...ever?

I often find myself leaning toward that position, but that's a long-winded tyrade for which I would need a soapbox.

Draw me one!

Anonymous P. Pirx said...

Recent and past experience indicates that when you play for a draw, it ends with shootout, yes.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

"Play for a draw"—perfectly put! You've got five countries who are "allowed" to have full nuclear capabilities (the five UN Security Council permanent members), and 200+ who aren't.

So considering this game has no end, how long do you expect the score to remain 5-0? Even now, we're looking at 5-4 (with India, Pakistan, Israel and now possibly North Korea), and Iran on the way. What's the world gonna look like when it's 5-6? 5-17?

Anonymous Adam said...

What's the world gonna look like when it's 5-6? 5-17?

Here's a puzzler: What if those countries who currently aren't "allowed" to have nuclear weapons don't actually use them. So instead of being in a loss column, the weapons have the same effect we saw with the space race: research benefits boosting economies and standards of living.

(Note: I'm arguing that by preventing nuclear weapons we essentially prohibit all civilian nuclear technology, desperately needed in some developing countries.

Geopolitically, the U.S. becomes more muted in its cowboy diplomacy stance and war and military incursions become less of an option.

And think if Iran or Pakistan could have electricity 24 hours a day for everyone, even in the most remote villages. Citizens of those countries are less likely to be bitter and angst-filled toward, oh, I don't know, the U.S. or their immediate neighbors because of the prosperity wrought by simple energy generation.

I agree an arms race is stupid and dangerous, but Pandora’s Box has been opened and you're not putting WMD back in. Instead of concentrating on foreign policies that in truth only limit the have-nots ("can't have civilian nuclear program because it's too dangerous, and we'll sanction you for trying") and foster disparity and promote the elite nuclear club, why not focus on eliminating the need for nuclear weapons?

I will continue to argue that only happens through economic progress -- and for much of the world finding the energy to drive industry. It's easy to reject nuclear technology when we don't need it, but what about those who really do?

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

There is a big difference between developing nuclear capabilities for energy use (which involves low enriched uranium) and expanding those capabilities for weapons-grade nuclear power (highly enriched uranium). You can check out the details of how that all works here, but the gist of it is that there exists an internationally-agreed red line that has to be crossed before all the flags go up—and too many countries have crossed that line without serious repercussions.

So while I agree that the world is better off when developing countries have access to large quantities of energy (particularly an alternative to oil), the dream of giving everyone a chance at nuclear utopia without checks and balances is civilization suicide. The fact is, we have checks in place: the IAEA keeps an eye on anyone willing to let in their inspectors, and sometimes we even have nuclear powers offer to enrich uranium for non-nuclear countries (like when Russia offered that service to Iran).

Problem is, very few of the nations pursuing nuclear power have earned the trust of the international community, which should always be the first prerequisite. And yet, a violation of trust is generally the first thing to go.

Anonymous Adam said...

I realize I'll ultimately disagree with many people on this, but to clarify: I realize that civilian nuclear technology and developing weapons-grade material are different, but the processes are not entirely isolated and differ technically only in how many levels are built into the cascade(in Iran's case a centrifuge network).

And the red line isn't so much of a line, as a warning light. Regardless of its intentions, Iran is right: starting uranium enrichment doesn't mean one will enrich to the point of weapons-grade. And that litmus (+20% of Uranium 235) is something considerably more difficult for IAEA inspectors to actually determine.

Science aside, quite frankly, it's the following political reality that I decry.

Any country that hasn't "earned the trust" of the international community is automatically suspect when it comes to civilian technology. India, the current nuclear deal offered by the U.S., and the public opposition coming from even respected international thinkers is my case in point.

The declared powers -- and many other non-nuclear countries whose energy, political and economic situations make a nuclear program unnecessary or infeasible -- would likely also object to Venezuela, Columbia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, most of the former Soviet Bloc, etc. having even a civilian nuclear outfit, no matter how sophisticated.

I'm not denying that both N. Korea and Iran are pursuing nuclear weapons. And from a U.S.-centric stance on diplomacy, it's in this nation's interest to control those programs.

Nonetheless, no small part of me rejects the idea that countries should be sanctioned, denied access to the global marketplace or pressured by the diplomatic establishment for solely pursuing a nuclear program (civilian or military), particularly when entrance to such aforementioned arenas could negate the need for nuclear weapons by building economic interdependency among nations.

That, and the fact that the "declared" powers make little effort to reduce their own stocks, make me think non-proliferation efforts as they stand today are a nice idea that advanced by high-minded progressives that are simultaneously exploited by nationalist politicians.

I got mine, you can't have yours, right?

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

Here’s the reality of our world’s power structure: the “declared” powers are also the only five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and are the only Security Council members with the right to veto. They’re also what remain of the “Allies” that won the Second World War—and last I checked, they won the war with weapons and armies, not paperwork. So despite what many people believe today, might still makes right (whether you agree with it or not).

Case in point: since the issue of non-proliferation comes down to “international law and order” (which I put in quotation marks because it doesn’t really exist yet), what’s right is determined by those with might. And since a country like India or Israel can slip through with the help of the right ally (the US), Iran and North Korea can certainly do the same with help from China and/or Russia.

I realize that certainly doesn’t make for “justice” (which I put in quotation marks because it doesn’t really exist yet). In my opinion, determining which countries should be sanctioned is an effort in futility. India broke every rule there was, but I trust them in helping to support our dwindling American empire. Iran’s leaders publicly swear to wipe Israel off the map, which I believe would be bad for America (and Israel) in the long run. Hypocrisy, perhaps, but reality as well.

But you’re dead right about one thing: if there is to be a global marketplace for nuclear power, it does need to be strictly regulated and controlled. And the sooner America helps establish such a system, the better. What would the world be like with nuclear energy regulated and distributed like any other resource?

Anonymous adam said...

I haven't really gotten this in a long time -- the debate about metapolitics. Most of my friends aren't into geopolitical/socioeconomic issues.

They make fun of me for reading The Economist.

Damn you Meron! You and your whimsical drawings. And insight. Definitely the insight.

You make me miss college.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

Amen to that, Adam.

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