Tuesday, April 10, 2012

For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based "Doomsday" Missiles

This article was originally published by the Christian Science Monitor. We think it is extremely important, though, which is why it is on our blog as well.

David KriegerPresident Obama and other world leaders gathered at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this week to address threats posed by unsecured nuclear material. If Mr. Obama is truly concerned about nuclear safety, he should seriously consider doing away with the 450 inter-continental ballistic missiles deployed and ready to fire at Russia on a moment's notice.

Last month we were among 15 protesters who were arrested in the middle of the night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 70 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif. We were protesting the imminent test flight of a Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile.

The Air Force rationale for doing these tests is to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent force; but launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction – as a result of a false alarm.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nuclear Terrorism is in the Eye of the Beholder

This guest blog comes from NAPF Board member Robert Laney.

The “Seoul Communiqué,” issued by the United States and other governments attending the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit this week, begins with the following preamble:

We, the leaders, gathered in Seoul on March 26-27, 2012, renew the political commitments generated from the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit to work toward strengthening nuclear security, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism, and preventing terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials.  Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security.  Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation given its potential global political, economic, social, and psychological consequences.

The purpose of this communiqué is to summarize and reaffirm these various  governments’ common understanding of the components of “nuclear security” and their commitment to make progress toward achieving them.  Key to their notion of “nuclear security” are the words, “preventing terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials.”   In other words, “nuclear security” means ensuring that non-state actors do not acquire nuclear weapons or the means to develop them.  What nation-states may do or not do with nuclear weapons is beside the point of this communiqué.

I am all for keeping nuclear weapons and the means to develop them out of the hands of non-state actors.  Indeed I believe that a robust international effort to secure weapons-grade materials from the hands of non-state actors is long overdue after years of relative inaction by the previous U. S. administration.  In any case, who can be against “preventing terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials?” 

But I find a peculiar irony in defining “nuclear security” in terms of non-state actors only, without regard for those nation-states which for decades, by maintaining vast nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert with a “first strike” option, have implicitly threatened millions upon millions of ordinary men, women, and children with indiscriminate annihilation.  Viewed objectively and from a disinterested standpoint, do not those nation-states which in the 21st Century continue to threaten mass, “omnicidal” annihilation also qualify as “terrorists,” “criminals,” and “unauthorized actors,” only more so than do non-state actors because of their potential to put an end to civilization?  And if that is so, does not one’s concept of “nuclear security” derive from his particular place, situation, and perspective on the world?
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