Monday, September 19, 2005

A humanist case against the use of preventive nuclear strikes

Ok, so here is my follow-up to this post.

As a self-described secular humanist and global democrat I find this draft paper cited in the article to be a cause of great concern. Looking at this doctrine from a framework of humanist prinicples I find it to be deeply troubling.

One such principle is that the rule of law should apply equally to all people and nations. This doctrine seeks to make the use of nuclear weapons conventional ... for the US. Combine this with the unilateral pre-emptive war doctrine and you have a policy which amounts to might makes right; do as we say, not as we do. It should be obvious why the rest of the world would be weary about the US claiming the sole right to nuke other countries ... just imagine if we had put this policy into practice before the invasion of Iraq.

Secondly, this philosophy would seem to be a self-fullfilling one, in that countries fearing US dominance might step up pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means of self-defense against American agression (consider North Korea to be a potential case in point.) Where in the past the rationale was that the threat of nuclear weapons would deter nuclear use, this policy goes a step further in this line of thinking and argues the use of nuclear weapons will deter nuclear use. This just seems to me to be a form of fatalistic nihilism. Have we already forgotten just how close MAD brought us to the brink of disaster? Considering those close calls, how can anyone possibly feel at ease about even lower thresholds for nuclear weapon deployment?

Some might object on "practical" grounds that by the nature of the US's unique status as the world's only superpower it is necessary for the US to impose itself on the rest of the world. This argument fails on three levels:
1. It is not democratic. If America represents democracy then it must support democratic institutions.
2. This is not a policy that would be in America's interests if we ceased to be a superpower.
3. Extremist (such as Islamic terrorists) have no fear of retribution so the threat of nuclear force will not serve to deter them. However, a world in where nuclear weapons are allowed to proliferate among the US and its allies creates a world where access to nuclear material is likelier for said extremists.

In order to best protect ourselves we should support a policy that can be most universally be accepted, and that policy would be that the use and pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable by any nation.

Additional concerns are that the use of nuclear strikes can not be justified because of the lasting effects nuclear weapons have on the environment and that civilian casualties will most likely result from the use of nuclear strikes, however "precise" they are.

But what is most disturbing of all to me is the apparent Orwellian nature of this doctrine. The paper cites a desire to prevent the use of nuclear weapons as a justification for using nuclear weapons, but the more astute will notice that what the paper affectively does is make nuclear weapons a form of conventional weapon to be employed as any other weapon would be.

UPDATE - This is tangential, but it appears that North Korea may have agreed to abandon its nuclear program. Hopefully the deal will work.


John Lombard said...

That's blatent -- they've been working to tear down the wall between nukes and the conventional arsenal for a while now. They've been developing "tactical" nukes for just this reason.

My main worry is that if there's another terrorist attack the Administration will use it as a pretext to make a nuclear stike, as this policy paper now states they will should it happen. It would instantly establish a new international norm of the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists.

Remember the outrage at the French for their nuclear tests? Ah, memories.

gawker said...

I guess the mushroom cloud is ok as long as the US is the one who creates it