Nuclear disarmament, as well as nonproliferation

Late in June, on the last day that Tony Blair was in office in Britain, his Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett made a notable speech at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington in which she called on both the US and Russia to make deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
Beckett recalled that at the heart of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970 there was a “grand bargain” between the recognized nuclear-weapons states and the non-nuclear states, under which the nuclear-weapons states undertook to engage in complete and general disarmament, in return for the non-nuclear states foreswearing the pursuit of nuclear arsenals. And she noted the key linkage this established between nuclear (non-)proliferation and nuclear disarmament:

    Our efforts on non-proliferation will be dangerously undermined if others believe – however unfairly – that the terms of the grand bargain [between nuclear and non-nuclear states] have changed, that the nuclear weapon states have abandoned any commitment to disarmament.

This is an excellent point to make– though I don’t currently see any need for that caveat about “however unfairly”. So here are my two main questions about the Beckett speech:

    1. To what extent did the position she laid out actually reflect anything about the positions to be taken by the soon-to-take-over government of Gordon Brown?
    2. Which people of similar political stature within the US are equally ready to speak out publicly about the need for nuclear disarmament?

Regarding the first of those questions, I detected a faint echo of the “Beckett position” in the speech that new Foreign Secretary David Miliband made for Chatham House and Avaaz.org earlier this week. (Video from Avaaz, here.) Miliband spoke quite a lot there about nuclear nonproliferation, and the need to achieve this in cooperation with other countries, etc.– all pretty boiler-plateish stuff, really, unless you come from a John Bolton-like position of rampant unilateralism.
But he did also say at one point:

    We need to find similar ways of leading thought on other areas, whether this is concrete and immediate challenges such as nuclear disarmament and proliferation or longer term challenges such as the future of global institutions…

So I guess what I’m seeing there is that he thinks nuclear disarmament is a concrete and immediate challenge (and one that may be linked to nuclear proliferation)– but it is still only something we need to find ways to start thinking about, not something we actually need to do anything about at this point?
And it was indeed quite appropriate that Miliband didn’t commit his government to doing anything about nuclear disarmament right now… Especially since, as Paul Rogers has laid out at depressing length here, the Brown government last Wednesday announced plans:

    1. “to allow the US base at Menwith Hill in north Yorkshire to become a key component in the new national missile-defence system Washington is now developing” [maybe that should be a global missile-defence system? ~HC] and
    2. “to build two huge new aircraft-carriers for the Royal Navy, much bigger than any other ship the country has ever deployed… The military purpose of the two new carriers is to give Britain a global expeditionary strike capability that it has lacked for decades… ”

Yes, certainly depressing.
Rogers notes, too, that the new carrier-building program is intimately linked to the program had Blair started, to upgrade and replace Britain’s arsenal of Trident, submarine-launched nuclear missiles. He analyzes Brown’s decisions in these fields at some length, noting that the timing of the two announcements, “was in the best tradition of British democracy: in a familiar pattern for decisions that governments seek to ‘bury’, they arrived at the end of the parliamentary session as MPs prepare to leave for the summer recess, thus ensuring an absence of debate and (in the main) media discussion…”
He comments,

    What is really dismaying at this early stage of the Gordon Brown government is the missed opportunity to take a hard look at Britain’s defence policy and engage in a fundamental review of the country’s long-term security needs. Instead, it seems that in this key area of Whitehall – notwithstanding the rhetoric of change from the new prime minister – it is business as usual.
    There is a remote possibility that wiser counsel will prevail, perhaps after the next election…

And talking of elections, here we are in the United States, and what do our presidential candidates here have to say about nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament?
On the Democratic side, both Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gov. Bill Richardson have articulated what look to me like excellent positions.
Kucinich’s, as expressed here is as follows:

    It is practical to work for peace. I speak of peace and diplomacy not just for the sake of peace itself. But, for practical reasons, we must work for peace as a means of achieving permanent security. It is similarly practical to work for total nuclear disarmament, particularly when nuclear arms do not even come close to addressing the real security problems which confront our nation, witness the events of September 11, 2001.

And Richardson’s, as expressed on his own website here, is this:

    Getting all nations to agree to a stronger nonproliferation regime will require skillful diplomacy and new thinking. Which brings me to the second task: the nuclear states must stop making new weapons and must reduce the size of their existing arsenals.
    The Non-Proliferation Treaty commits non-nuclear states to forego nuclear weapons, and it also commits the nuclear weapons states to the goal of nuclear disarmament. To get others to take the NPT seriously, we need to take it seriously ourselves. We should re-affirm our commitment to the long-term goal of global nuclear disarmament, and we should invite the Russians to join us in a moratorium on all new nuclear weapons. And we should negotiate further staged reductions in our arsenals, beyond what has already been agreed, over the next decade.
    In a world in which nuclear terrorism rather than war with Russia is the main threat, reducing all nuclear arsenals, in a careful, orderly way, makes everyone safer.
    Negotiations to reduce our arsenal also are our diplomatic ace-in-the-hole. We can leverage our own proposed reductions to get the other nuclear powers to do the same — and simultaneously get the non-nuclear powers to forego both weapons and nuclear fuel enrichment, and to agree to rigorous global safeguards and verification procedures.
    The United States also should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, not only because it is good policy, but also to send a signal to the world that America has turned a corner, and once again will be a global leader, not a unilateralist loner.

Richardson has considerable experience in the nuclear-weapons field. In the Clinton administration he occupied at different times the positions of both Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of Energy. The latter position involves a lot of oversight over the country’s nuclear arsenals. I am really delighted that he has adopted the clear and persuasive position that I read there.
But how about the two Democratic front-runners, and how about the main Republican candidates for president?
With a fairly rapid search, I have been unable to find any noteworthy statements any of those others have made on the topic of real nuclear disarmament (i.e., including by our side), as such.
If any of you readers out there can find good records of these other candidates’ positions on the topic, could you post a link to it here? Thanks!
Also, another point. When citizens or journos get a chance to ask questions of all these candidates in the weeks ahead, shouldn’t we all be asking them some very well-phrased questions about the need for “all-points” nuclear disarmament?

8 thoughts on “Nuclear disarmament, as well as nonproliferation

  1. Joshua

    The only thing I remember about Obama is that back when he was running for Senate in 2004, he was a proponent of increasing Nunn-Luger funding to collect and dismantle the “stray” weapons from the Soviet Union. I remember reading this in a speech he gave to the Council on Foreign Relations but I can’t find it.
    Richardson does not look like he is gaining momentum in his campaign, but he would be a very good cabinet member or diplomat for a future administration.

  2. Michael Murry

    The persecuted scapegoat nuclear scientist, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, would most likely give you a different assessment of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and his penchant for political witch hunts as a cover/distraction for lax management of America’s nuclear research facilities. What the Cheney/Bush administration did to ruin Valery Plame’s career, the Clinton/Clinton administration did with equal viciousness to Wen Ho Lee, and for similarly scurrilous reasons. Whatever else Bill Richardson may have done to advance his own bureaucratic career, he certainly hasn’t hesitated to destroy the lives of innocent others if he thought that would get him off the hook for his own f*ck-ups.
    At any rate, corporate America has already anointed — and invested heavily in buying — two sitting Democratic senators to replace the two Texas tar-patch Republican malefactors now busily ruining America and the Middle East in service to oil, domestic politics, and Israeli apartheid zionism. Governor Bill Richardson has no more practical chance of changing this situation than Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel have — although Governor Richardson has lately seen it politically opportunistic to mimic the more-genuine anti-war proposals of these far-more-sincere and dedicated proponents of peace in America’s true national interest.
    And we really don’t want to get into Governor Richardson’s loyal support of “fellow Hispanic” Alberto “Alzheimer’s” Gonzales, now do we? Racial loyalty to a flagrant liar and apologist for torture and “disappearing suspects” doesn’t normally recommend one for high political office — except, I suppose, in America.
    On the other hand, as an understudy assistant to the currently serving Chris Hill, perhaps Bill Richardson could help a little in negotiations with North Korea, assuming that the next adminstration retains Hill and retrains Richardson so that the North Koreans don’t break out in hysterical laughter when Richardson starts to lecture them and the Chinese on managing their nuclear research facilities.

  3. KDJ

    Nunn-Lugar is our greatest hope; As much as I absolutely think the world of Dennis Kucinich, I am convinced that his important bid for the presidency will not be successful; I have opted to fully support someone I always have-John Edwards-I wrote his campaign just now about this very issue-will report back!
    KDJ

  4. Salah

    KDJ,
    We lived in ME for decades each US election we hope that will brings more humane and justices administration in regards to our problems in ME not biased, what the time prove that it was just a dreams, we lost the hope that one day US will be not biased or deal with our region in faithfully and honest manner showing caring about peoples as humans and as a nation that suffer dramatically either from regimes supported by US or wars US fingers behind them

  5. kdj

    I hear you, Salah. For me, John Edwards represents real hope-as he is a grassroots guy, who publically recognizes the massive influence lobbies have on our government-and the limitations which these lobbies place on our capacity to move toward hope as the cornerstone of our foreign policy-Although, we must acknowledge it is not the US only-look at the brewing row btw France and Germany over Libya-all regarding what? Nuclear development schemes and shares of corporate wealth!
    Of course, with Libya all too willing to play along-

  6. Inkan1969

    My Ph.D. thesis adviser has frequently worked at Los Alamos. One day I asked him about Wen Ho Lee. He pointed out that Dr. Lee had committed serious violations of the rules on handing sensitive materials. Spy charges or not, Dr. Lee had apparently still been careless with his duties. So I don’t feel very much sympathy for him.

  7. Susan - NC

    RE: Edwards – he was my senator in NC from 1998 to 2004. In 2002, he co-sponsored the bill to allow bush/cheney to invade Iraq. He was also on the “intelligence committee”
    way too serious of a decision failure to allow him any more changes at mistakes like that
    wrote him LOTS of letters in 2002, 2003 – after the invasion started I wrote “I hope you find those WMDs so you can justify this illegal invasion” – I knew they won’t. And I believe they knew it too.
    It also seems to me that he did nothing much in the US Senate beyond run for President.
    It looks like the corporate elites have picked Clinton or Obama, Clinton has the same failings as Edwards. So, I hope Obama does something for world peace…..

  8. Kyle Atwell

    I appreciate the posing of candidate quotes on nuclear weapons… nice work. I posted a comment by Edwards in early June where he says, “we should aspire to a nuclear-free world”, found here: http://nukesofhazard.blogspot.com/2007/06/john-edwards-aspires-for-nuclear-free.html
    I think Nunn-Lugar is great, but not the only hope for disarmament. Another major issue is ensuring that the US does NOT build a new generation of nuclear weapons or a new nuclear weapons complex through the Reliable Replacement Warhead program.
    If we do build new nukes, I fear it will send a message to the world that the US–the most powerful country in the world–still thinks nukes are essential to it’s national security. This clearly violates the NPT, and other countries may begin wondering if nukes are essential for them as well.

Comments are closed.