Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A silver lining?

Climate of austerity creates window of opportunity for nuclear disarmament
Last week, the United Kingdom was under the spell of the coalition government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which unveiled the biggest cuts in public expenditure in decades. Announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in the House of Commons last Thursday, the Spending Review proposes a £81bn ($127bn) cut in public spending over four years. These measures have been both applauded as necessary to tackle Britain’s deficit and condemned as leading the country into a double-dip recession. Time will tell where the truth lies.

What is certain is that departments will undergo cuts averaging 25%. Although substantially less, the 8% cuts (or £4.7bn) that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) faces still translates into 42,000 service personnel and civil servants losing their jobs over the next five years and the cancellation of high-profile equipment.

A day ahead of the Spending Review, Prime Minister David Cameron presented in the House of Commons his government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review to clarify the strategy behind the MoD cuts. The first wide-ranging analysis of British defence spending since 1998, the strategy takes some steps toward recognizing Britain’s diminished standing in the current world order and associated security and military requirements. For example, it makes clear that the UK will not be able to mount large scale operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan for at least a decade and emphasizes the importance of conflict prevention as opposed to military intervention. Unfortunately, however, it does not go far enough in shifting resources accordingly. It still envisions the UK as a global player and proudly portrays the country as “punching above its weight” in conventional military terms. Fortunately, it seems the review process has opened the door to allowing more realism in further assessments of Britain’s defence policy and force structures.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Need Some Cash? Saudia Arabia Now Buying Weapons

The United States just announced its biggest arms deal EVER: a $60 billion sale to Saudi Arabia. The biggest US arms sale ever - that's saying a lot. We export weapons to countries all over the globe; it's nothing new. Fighter jets here, helicopters there. What really blows me away about this deal is the US government's inability to understand that history tends to repeat itself.

The US Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro, said that this deal with Saudi Arabia is intended in large part to counter the threat that Iran poses to the Saudis. 

OK. It's 2010. Saudi Arabia is a US ally. Iran is an enemy. But let's go back for a moment to the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Iran, under the autocratic rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was a major US ally. We encouraged Iran to develop a nuclear (energy) program and turned a blind eye to the repressive tactics of the Shah.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Critique of Nuclear Deterrence in The New York Times

On Saturday, October 9, my letter to the editor of The New York Times was printed. The letter was in response to an earlier editorial from the Times that essentially called on the UK to scale back its plans for replacing its Trident nuclear weapon system and rely on the United States for a full "nuclear deterrent."

Before joining the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, I worked for two years with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the UK. CND has worked tirelessly for over 50 years against nuclear weapons in the UK and around the world. Trident replacement was a huge issue when I worked there in 2006-07, as it continues to be now.

Typically I only write letters to the editor when an article or editorial gets me so fired up, I have no choice but to respond. This was one of those cases. Here at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we are working hard to debunk the myth of nuclear deterrence, like in our new 5-minute animated video. Combine that with my history and passion for preventing the UK from replacing its nuclear weapon system and you have a perfect story for me to comment on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Iran Is Unphased by the Saber Rattling

Regarding nuclear weapons, the US message to Iran has been “do as we say, not as we do.” We tell Iran that they cannot have nuclear weapons, but we do so in the context of relying upon these weapons for our own security and being silent about Israel’s nuclear arsenal. This is clearly an irksome double standard for Iran, one that would be far easier to tolerate if the US showed it was serious about eliminating its own nuclear arsenal and pressuring the other nuclear weapons states, including Israel, to do the same.

Further, Iran was one of three countries, along with Iraq and North Korea, named by George W. Bush as belonging to an Axis of Evil. We invaded Iraq, which had no nuclear weapons, and negotiated with North Korea, which does have them. Our behavior, on its face, would seem to be an incentive to countries not on friendly terms with the US to develop nuclear arms and justify their actions in the name of national security.

US saber rattling must give pause to Iran and, for that reason, Iran will likely stop short of actually creating nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it seems that Iran is motivated to continue to push the envelope. Its leaders most likely believe that the strategic costs to the US of attacking Iran would be too great for the US to actually initiate an attack, particularly since it is still engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bigger danger to Iran is an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, but it is doubtful that Israel would act without approval by the US. A preventive Israeli attack on Iran would be far more complicated and far less likely to succeed than its 1981 attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor. An attack by Israel could result in a more general war in the Middle East, which would be disastrous for the region and would almost certainly lead to restricting Middle East oil exports with consequent global economic chaos.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...