Is the bomb really here to stay?

Todays Globe and Mail responded to President Barack Obama’s Prague speech on nuclear disarmament with an editorial entitled, “The bomb is here to stay.” Mr. Obama, the editorial declares, “cannot seriously believe that a world without nuclear weapons is possible.” The following was sent to the G&M as a letter to the editor.

The American commitment to “a world without nuclear weapons” is not the invention of President Obama (The bomb is here to stay, April 6); it predates his Prague speech by a full four decades.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), negotiated in 1968, mandates the elimination of nuclear weapons. In 2000 the US and other nuclear weapon states again pledged “the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

Rather than “Obamaian Utopiansim,” detailed measures to reduce and eliminate nuclear arsenals are a belated nod to hard core realism. For there can be no credible expectation that the measures your editorial applauds – a test ban, an end to the production of weapons-grade fissile materials, effective controls over existing nuclear materials – could be sustained in a world where some states continue to refine and deploy nuclear arsenals.

It is not Wilsonian idealism but “Kissingerian realism” that your editorialist should invoke. A year ago Henry Kissinger, with such icons of mainstream American security thinking as George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, concluded that “without the vision of moving toward zero, we will not find the essential cooperation required to stop our downward spiral” toward greater insecurity.

You welcome a plan to strengthen the NPT, but it is utopianism of the worst order to believe this can be achieved while ignoring Article VI of the treaty – that is, the disarmament article.

That is why, for example, the UK Government has undertaken a major 6-step initiative “to accelerate disarmament amongst possessor states, to prevent proliferation to new states and to ultimately achieve a world that is free from nuclear weapons.” Among the steps is a full examination of the verification measures and institutions required for complete nuclear disarmament – that is, for nuclear weapons to be subject to the same prohibitions as chemical and biological weapons. Would that the Canadian Government would join the effort (Halting Nuclear Madness: Where’s Canada?, April 6).

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