Monday, February 4, 2008

Pablum re a Nuclear Free World

On January 4th George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal endorsing the eventual goal of a nuclear free world, and proposing "...a series of agreed and urgent steps that would lay the groundwork for a world free of the nuclear threat." See:

Unsurprisingly enough, this did not include the one thing that might really jumpstart the process and move this from the realm of "chatter" to the realm of possibility - the elimination of the British and French nuclear weapons.

The British make much of the fact that they have reduced their nuclear warheads to 160, and have cut back from three to only one delivery system (submarines). However apparently they can not actually eliminate this residual capability since it is "needed" given that they can not "... be sure that a major nuclear threat to our vital interests will not emerge over the longer term..." per

It is exceedingly difficult to imagine any scenario in which the British would employ these weapons without the acquiescence of the U.S. Britain could as easily reside under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, with no need for its own weapons. Clearly they maintain these for reasons of national prestige, an illustration (were it needed) to all the "non" nations that possession of these weapons confers significant benefits in this regard. While the British may have no incentive to denuclearize, the United States should force their hand. Ditto with regard to the French. This would be evidence of real commitment and have an outsize psychological effect. Unfortunately I don't see this happening while platitudes from 'notables' are apparently deemed sufficient.

On a lighter note: The British white paper has some canned responses to arguments against the British deterrent. In response to #5 in Box 3-1 Responses to Counter Arguments "The UK retains nuclear weapons because of the international status that this might bring, in particular the UK’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council", the reasoned and weighty response of Her Majesty's government is:

"We maintain our nuclear forces as a means of deterring acts of aggression against our vital interests and not for reasons of status."

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