TFF logo TFF logo
T r e a s u r e s 2009
TREASURES Sitemap Areas we work in Resources Columns and art


About TFF

Support our work

Search & services

Contact us


What future for nuclear weapons?

Farhang Jahanpour

May 8, 2009


During their first meeting on the margins of the G-20 conference in London on 1st April 2009, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the start of negotiations on a new strategic arms-control treaty that would cut each nation's long-range nuclear arsenal further than previous agreements.

In his first major foreign policy speech in Prague, the president went further and introduced an ambitious vision of getting rid of all nuclear weapons, although he said that this might not happen in his lifetime. He rightly stressed the danger of the existence and ultimate use of nuclear weapons. He also set a four-year target for 'locking down' all loose nuclear material scattered around the world to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists. While the president referred to North Korea's satellite launch and Iran's nuclear programme, he significantly failed to mention Israel's nuclear weapons, or America's nuclear collaboration with India and Pakistan, neither of whom have joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Although the president's initiatives are very welcome and significant, it remains to be seen how these ideals are translated into action, whether their implementation is selective or universal, and whether this is yet another way of maintaining the monopoly of nuclear weapons in the hands of a few countries, while depriving others even of enrichment activities. The aim should be to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely as envisaged by the NPT. As the first step, one should see drastic reduction to the vast US and Russian arsenals and a concerted attempt to bring the nuclear countries that are not members of the NPT (Israel, India and Pakistan) under international safeguards and supervision.

During the past few years we have witnessed many wars in different parts of the world – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Lebanon and recently in Gaza. We have had the financial meltdown, and despite trillions of pounds, euros and dollars that have been spent on it the situation seems to get worse.

All this brings to mind the words of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats who portrayed The Second Coming (1921) in a different light from the one that is normally imagined. He wrote:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

In February 2009, two nuclear missile submarines — one British, one French — armed with more than 100 thermonuclear warheads collided under the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a terrifying reminder of how many of these hugely destructive weapons are still routinely deployed in different oceans and how little thought is given to keeping them as safe and secure as possible. Fortunately, this time the damage to the British and French submarines was minor, and apparently the warheads were not compromised. But a stronger impact could have sent both subs and their crews to the bottom of the ocean and possibly dispersed plutonium into surrounding waters.

The warheads on the two submarines that collided, if ever launched, could kill millions of people. Yet, Britain and France together have far fewer than 1,000 nuclear warheads in their arsenals. The United States and Russia still have more than 20,000. More than 95 per cent of nuclear warheads are kept by those two countries. Meanwhile, the US Department of Defence currently lists 725 official U.S. military bases in over 130 countries and 969 within the 50 states (not to mention numerous secret bases). It is not clear how many of those bases have a nuclear capability.

The four nuclear navies operating in the Atlantic — American, British, French and Russian — refuse to disclose any information about which parts of the ocean their missile submarines operate in. It is like aircraft refusing to say in which lanes they wish to fly. The outcome would be utter chaos and collision. As long as we depend on nuclear weapons for our security, we will have to live with the nightmare of their possible use. Of course, you do not need nuclear weapons to kill a lot of people, but they are the ultimate weapons. On 23rd February 2009, the New York Times in an article admitted that there are an estimated 740,000 widows in Iraq. You can guess the number of people killed in that war-torn country.

Two decades after the end of the cold war, all nuclear powers have been inexcusably negligent about rethinking nuclear strategies, sharply reducing their arsenals and eliminating needlessly risky practices, including some that contributed to the latest collision.

Before examining 'What Future for Nuclear Weapons', we must briefly review the history of the use of nuclear weapons to give us a clue about what might happen in the future, and also to see whether these weapons have military or other purposes. In the past, most wars were between one country or at most one empire and another. At the beginning of the 20th century, we had a number of major empires, including the Ottoman, the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the French, the Japanese and, the greatest of all, the British empires. The economic and geo-political rivalry between these empires, now armed with unprecedented weapons, resulted in two World Wars that spread to the entire globe and resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people. They turned the 20th century into the most deadly in human history, a century of mechanised slaughter and industrialised barbarism.
The wars devastated the traditional empires both in Europe and the Far East, destroyed their industries and brought them to their knees. They also changed the balance of power in the world and first the United States and then the Soviet Union emerged as the two super-powers in the second half of the twentieth century. The end of the Second World War witnessed the use of a new category of weapons by the United States that had the potential to end human civilisation as we know it. It made the United States for a few years the uncontested power on the world stage. Grotesquely called 'Little Boy', the bomb that flattened Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, was a uranium bomb and killed between 130,000-140,000 civilians instantly, and many thousands later. 'Fat Man', apparently code-named after Winston Churchill, that blasted Nagasaki three days later, was a plutonium bomb and killed about 70,000 instantly.

There has been a great deal of debate about whether the use of those bombs was necessary to force Japan's surrender and to end the War. While these debates seem archaic and a part of history, nevertheless, it is important to see whether those weapons were necessary from a military point of view, or whether they had other purposes, something that would have relevance for us today.

First of all, it is remarkable that those two bombs were dropped on two non-military targets, and the vast majority of those killed were civilians. The two bombs were of two different types, one was a uranium and the other a plutonium bomb. They constituted the two most horrendous single instances of mass slaughter in the history of the world, yet there has been very little debate about whether their use was justified or not.

The Germans have apologised to the Jews and to the Poles for Nazi atrocities. The Japanese have apologised to the Chinese and the Koreans, and even to the United States for failing to break off diplomatic relations before attacking Pearl Harbor. The Russians have apologised to the Poles for atrocities committed against civilians, and to the Japanese for abuse of prisoners. The Soviet Communist Party even apologised for foreign policy errors that "heightened tension with the West." Pope John Paul II apologised for the Catholic Church's past behaviour towards the Jews. Britain has apologised for slavery. The Australian prime minister has apologised for the treatment of the aborigines.

Yet up till now there has not been an American apology for the use of those two horrendous acts of genocide in Japan. In his speech in Prague, President Obama noted that as the only country that has used nuclear weapons the United States holds a special responsibility. Although this falls way short of an apology, nevertheless, it is the strongest admission of guilt by a US president for the use of nuclear weapons.

The normal explanation for the use of atomic bombs is that they shortened the war and saved many American lives. Therefore, it is important to analyse this claim a bit further. It is now clear that the Japanese had openly sued for surrender before the use of nuclear weapons. As early as July 12, the Japanese emperor notified Russia: "It is His Majesty's heartfelt desire to see the swift termination of the war". He sent an envoy "to communicate to the [Soviet] Ambassador that His Majesty desired to dispatch Prince Konoye as special envoy, carrying with him the personal letter of His Majesty stating the emperor wished to end the war." (1)

On July 18, he called for "Negotiations... necessary... for soliciting Russia's good offices in concluding the war and also in improving the basis for negotiations with England and America. (2) There are many more such communications. On July 26, Japan's Ambassador to Moscow, Sato, wrote to the Soviet Acting Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Lozovsky: "The aim of the Japanese Government with regard to Prince Konoye's mission is to enlist the good offices of the Soviet Government in order to end the war." (3)

Not only the emperor and the Japanese government, but even Japanese military were ready to surrender. As early as May 11, 1945, the American intelligence had intercepted military intelligence indicating that the Japanese military were ripe for surrender. One document kept in US military archives reads:
"Report of peace sentiment in Japanese armed forces: On 5 May the German Naval Attaché in Tokyo dispatched the following message to Admiral Doenitz:
'An influential member of the Admiralty Staff has given me to understand that, since the situation is clearly recognized to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavor an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard, provided they were halfway honorable.' (4)

We also know that President Truman knew of the content of Japanese messages to Russians, noting, for instance, in his diary on July 18, "Stalin had told P.M. [Prime Minister Churchill] of telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace." (5)

It is sometimes argued that an unconditional surrender and the removal of the emperor was absolutely necessary for the purpose of keeping allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, committed to participation in the Pacific war. But Churchill had reservations about requiring Japan's surrender to be unconditional. He stated them to Truman on July 18, 1945: "I dwelt upon the tremendous cost in American and to a smaller extent in British life if we enforced 'unconditional surrender' upon the Japanese." (6) Churchill came away from his conversation with Truman believing "there would be no rigid insistence upon 'unconditional surrender'." (7)

Echoing the concern of Assistant Sec. of War John McCloy and Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence Captain Ellis Zacharias that the Allies became overly dependent on military means, Leon Sigal writes, "At worst, withholding force might have prolonged the war for a while at a time when little combat was taking place; it would not have altered the final result. Yet restraint could have significantly reduced the gratuitous suffering on both sides, especially for noncombatants." Leon Sigal continues: "It could be argued that the United States behaved as if the objective of inducing Japan to surrender was subordinated to another objective - in Stimson's words, that of exerting 'maximum force with maximum speed.' American policy was guided by an implicit assumption that only the escalation of military pressure could bring the war to a rapid conclusion." (8)

It didn't take long after the atomic bombings for questions to arise as to their necessity for ending the war and Japan's threat to peace. One of the earliest accounts came from a panel that had been requested by President Truman to study the Pacific War. Their report, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, was issued in July 1946. It declared, "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." (9)

According to Barton Bernstein and Philip Nobile who studied the judgement "...the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945...up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; ...if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs." (10)

What is distressing is that there was very little desire for the use of nuclear weapons by military commanders. Norman Cousins was a consultant to General Douglas MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes: "When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor." (11)

In a February 12, 1947 letter to Henry Stimson (Sec. of War during WWII), Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew responded to the defence of the atomic bombings Stimson had made in a February 1947 Harpers magazine article:

" the light of available evidence I myself and others felt that if such a categorical statement about the [retention of the] dynasty had been issued in May, 1945, the surrender-minded elements in the [Japanese] Government might well have been afforded by such a statement a valid reason and the necessary strength to come to an early clearcut decision.

"If surrender could have been brought about in May, 1945, or even in June or July, before the entrance of Soviet Russia into the [Pacific] war and the use of the atomic bomb, the world would have been the gainer." (12)

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was reported to have said in a press conference on September 22, 1945, that "The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia’s entry into the war." (13)

In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war." (14)

In his book, Mandate for Change, President Dwight Eisenhower who was the commander of the Allied forces in Europe wrote:

" [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..." (15)

Also on or about July 20, 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower’s assessment was "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime." (16)

Admiral William D. Leahy (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman) wrote:

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children." (17)

So if the use of the nuclear bombs did not have a military logic what were the reasons for dropping them? Some have suggested that it was just an opportunity to test those awful weapons for real. On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was extensively quoted as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a "toy and they wanted to try it out . . ." He further stated, "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment… It was a mistake to ever drop it."

Albert Einstein in an article in The New York Times entitled "Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb", tried to defend his fellow scientists. He wrote: "A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb." In Einstein’s judgement, the dropping of the bomb was a political-diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision.

So, the first reason was the desire of the scientists or the military to test the new toy. The second reason was to take revenge against Japan. As the critic and literary historian and World War II veteran Paul Fussell reminded us in (18) Wartime (1989) about his study of the psychology and emotion of the United States at war,

"For most Americans, the war was about revenge against the Japanese, and the reason the European part had to be finished first was so that maximum attention could be devoted to the real business, the absolute torment and destruction of the Japanese. The slogan was conspicuously Remember Pearl Harbor. No one ever shouted or sang Remember Poland. (19)

The third reason, as comes out of the remarks by Einstein and many military leaders, was that the use was primarily a political and diplomatic decision not a scientific and military one. The political calculation involved the belated Soviet entry into the conflict through Manchuria, Korea, and Sakhalin and declaring war on Japan. Russia was in a position to occupy Japan and make it surrender before US forces arrived on the scene. As it happened in Europe where any bloc that occupied a country first claimed hegemony over it, thus the Soviet Union getting Eastern Europe and East Berlin and the America Western Europe, the same would have happened in Japan and it would have fallen under the Russian sphere of influence.

America wished to pre-empt that by forcing Japanese surrender by dropping the bombs, thus Japan came under US control. The U.S. did not even consult with her allies the Soviets on the Potsdam Proclamation, which contained the proposed terms of surrender, before sending it out. Not surprisingly, the Soviets were angered by this, but Truman decided to accept Japanese surrender without Soviet agreement. (20)

The fourth major reason was that in fact it was the first shot in the Cold War. The Second World War had ended, long live the war! One enemy is vanquished, now is the time to confront the Soviet Union. This mentality started a nearly fifty-year confrontation between the two super-powers during the Cold War.

It is clear that even the use of the nuclear weapons at the end of the Second World War did not have any military logic. At the moment, with the proliferation of such weapons to at least eight countries the use of those ghastly weapons would defy logic and their possession is merely a means of achieving political supremacy and for five original nuclear powers a seat at the Security Council. Another reason for the maintenance of nuclear weapons and the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars that are spent on the military must be sought in what President Dwight Eisenhower warned against, namely a military-industrial complex; which today should be defined as a military-industrial-congressional-media complex.

With the end of the Cold War, there was the opportunity to move seriously towards peace, to dismantle the Warsaw Pact and the NATO, to get rid of all nuclear weapons and lay the foundations of a new world order based on collaboration and multilateralism. However, the warmongers and the empire-builders had different ideas. In the United States, we had new triumphalist statements about the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the 'End of History'. Of course, others immediately tried to find a new enemy, and they put forward the concept of a 'clash of civilisations', and presumably war without end.

Before the collapse of former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev reached agreement with President George H. W. Bush that as a quid pro quo in return for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from former Soviet satellites, NATO would not expand to those territories. Under President Bill Clinton that promise was broken and a policy of expansion of NATO to former Soviet territories started. Meanwhile, former Yugoslavia was dismantled after some bloody wars. This process was accelerated under President George W Bush and American bases were established in most East European countries.

Under the previous administration, the so-called neocons advocated a " (21) New American Century " in which the U.S. military enjoys "full spectrum dominance" and makes use of "pre-emptive strikes" against potential rivals. This doctrine was based on three main principles:

1) Pre-eminence, meaning that no country or group of countries would be allowed to threaten the United States in the future.

2) Unilateralism in order to ensure pre-eminence and to get rid of any potential enemies that might pose a threat to US power.

3) The disregard of international law and UN regulations. As it would be impossible to get UN or Security Council approval for those unilateral policies, the new wars would be fought with the help of a 'coalition of the willing'. In other words, the United States can wage its wars with the collaboration of a few powers or countries that agree to join the coalition in the hope of achieving some of the booty in the form of oil deals in Iraq or access to pipelines in Afghanistan.

The neoconservative groups included some influential figures who were instrumental in the war on Iraq and the desire to impose a new order on the Middle East. They lay great emphasis upon the refashioning of the Middle East to ensure the security of Israel and to enable the United States to dominate the energy resources of the region. Weakened by the unexpected difficulties in their pet project – the conquest of Iraq – they nevertheless remain powerful and continue to pursue their regime-change programme in the Middle East, this time against Iran and Syria and any other country that might question Israeli expansion and US domination of the Middle East.

If President Obama's promise of change is not to sound hollow he must tackle the rise of the military-industrial-congressional complex and must put an end to militarism. The United States of America must be powerful enough to defend herself and protect her ideals, but this can be done without having hundreds of military bases all over the world and spending as much on her military as the rest of the world put together. An end to militarism would be good not only for the countries that have been the victims of US military operations, but also for the people in the United States. If a portion of roughly one trillion-dollar war budget were spent on rebuilding the infrastructure and creating jobs for Americans the present recession would come to an end much sooner than if the present military campaigns continue.

Would you be reading this now,
if it wasn't useful to you?

Then please support TFF's work for peace
and make an honour payment to this site

After the end of the Cold War the West treated the former Soviet Union as a defeated foe. Not only it dismantled the Warsaw Pact, but it also expanded NATO, and tried to make all the former Soviet satellites members of NATO. Even the small Baltic states with long history of association with Russia were brought into NATO. These days, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is not limited to North Atlantic and is not dedicated to defending Europe against Russia. Its forces are now fighting in Afghanistan, and are intent on presumably keeping an eye on Iran, Pakistan, China and Central Asia. The West has placed its bases in most former Soviet bloc countries and is planning to install its anti-missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. This has understandably angered the Russians. The West is trying to bring even Ukraine, which has a very large Russian-speaking population, and the tiny Georgia, the birthplace of Stalin, into NATO. On the start of the Olympics in Beijing when the attention of the world was diverted, Georgia – a poor Caucasian state of four million inhabitants – was encouraged to attack the two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia that have mainly ethnic Russian populations.

Furthermore, President Bush was planning to place anti-missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, contrary to the wishes of the majority of Polls and Czechs. Many Russian military strategists see this as a great danger to the former concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction), thus ending the nuclear deterrence against the West. They argue that anti-missile shield could enable the United States to wage a nuclear strike against Russia and hope to emerge unscathed by Russian response. They claim that the United States could destroy more than 90 per cent of Russian nuclear weapons with a first strike, and if she has the ability to deter the remaining Russian missiles Russia would be committing suicide if she decided to use them, thus opening herself to the whole array of US nuclear weapons.

This may be a far-fetched scenario, but US claims that the shield is aimed against 'the rogue states' are clearly unconvincing. First of all, neither Iran nor North Korea, which have been given that insulting title, has the ability to strike even Europe, let alone the United States. Secondly, if any missiles are fired from those countries, Poland and the Czech Republic would not be on the flight path of those missiles, thus the defence shield will not be able to stop them. Thirdly, the West rejected a Russian offer to build a joint defence shield against the so-called rogue states. Fourthly, if the missile defence shield was not aimed against Russia, why was it that during the Georgian crisis the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Poland and hurriedly signed an agreement for the deployment of the anti-missile shield? Certainly, the United States would not tolerate the stationing of Russian missile shields in Cuba or any other country in its neighbourhood. It was very disappointing that, contrary to all evidence, President Obama again stressed that he would go ahead with the stationing of missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic so long as 'the threat from Iran' persists.

One may not fully approve of the democratic credentials of the former Russian President Vladimir Putin, yet one should certainly be able to understand the reason for his anger. In his long and unusually blunt press conference prior to the G8 summit in Munich in June 2007, President Putin referred to the “unipolar” world model as “a world in which there is one master, one sovereign, one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making. At the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within… What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilization.” Putin continued: “Unilateral and illegitimate military actions”, the “uncontained hyper-use of force”, and the “disdain for the basic principles of international law” would result in a world in which “no one feels safe!” (23)

Until recently, and especially in the wake of the Georgian crisis, the situation had grown worse and the two super-powers were heading towards a new Cold War. However, the new Obama Administration promises to press the reset button on the relationship and reach far-reaching agreements with Russia. The reduction of nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia would be a first step. What is needed is that both United States and Russia as the two leading nuclear powers lead a campaign to persuade all other nuclear powers to get rid of their weapons on the basis of the NPT in a verifiable manner.

The next step would be to establish a world bank for nuclear fuel, free from the influence of any of the big powers, that would provide fuel to the countries that wish to produce nuclear energy under strict supervision. Ultimately, what is needed is to move away from nuclear power to other forms of clean energy, such as wind and solar power and investing money on the development of fusion. None of this would be possible without achieving some form of universal agreement, an end to superpower domination and bullying, and the shunning of any form of military conflict. We either learn to lay the foundations of a new world order based on peace and respect for other countries, or the only logical outcome of the present drive for supremacy will be a major global clash, this time with nuclear weapons.

The most urgent step that needs to be taken in the nuclear field is to get Israel to openly admit to her possession of nuclear weapons and to get rid of them under international inspection. In view of the repeated open threats by Israeli officials on almost a weekly basis to attack Iran and many reported preparations for such attacks, it is essential to make sure that Israel does not use nuclear weapons in any possible attack on Iran. After the Israeli atrocities in Lebanon in 2006 and more recently in Gaza where a captive and largely defenceless population was subjected to the full onslaught of F-16 aircraft, helicopter gunships, tanks, and frigates firing missiles, bombs, artillery and even white phosphorous on the besieged residents, killing over 1,400 people, mainly women and children, and injuring thousands more, the international community should not allow such a regime to have access to nuclear weapons.

Israel was the first and so far the only country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, despite the fact that thanks to US support Israel enjoys conventional superiority over all her neighbours combined. Rolling back Israel's nuclear status would be an important way of demonstrating a serious intent towards nuclear disarmament. There are a number of UN resolutions calling for the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. This has been so far blocked by Israeli determination to hold on to her nuclear weapons, and by US support for her position. If the world is really serious about not wanting either Iran or any other country in the Middle East to develop nuclear weapons, it would be essential to establish a military balance in the region and force Israel to also give up her nuclear weapons. Then the talk of a nuclear-free Middle East would not sound bogus and hypocritical.

In his The War of the World, (22) Niall Ferguson argued that three factors made the location and timing of lethal organized violence more or less predictable in the last century. The first factor was ethnic disintegration: Violence was worst in areas of mounting ethnic tension. The second factor was economic volatility: The greater the magnitude of economic shocks, the more likely conflict was. And the third factor was empires in decline: When structures of imperial rule crumbled, battles for political power were most bloody.

Now we see great ethnic tension not only in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many African countries, but also in parts of the former Soviet Union. The second was economic volatility, something that is very clear for all of us to see. As the economic collapse begins to bite, we are likely to see many signs of protest and instability in developed countries and probably riots and disintegration in the developing and poorer countries. The third was the crumbling of military power. Empires in decline are normally at their most dangerous period.

To that I would add religious fanaticism, which is sadly rising in both the East and the West. We are familiar with the rise of Islamic militancy, but we tend to ignore the growth of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the further radicalisation of Zionism, and the rise of the religious right in the United States.

All these factors make for a very dangerous and lethal cocktail. If we are going to avoid another devastating war, it is incumbent upon world leaders to provide real and farsighted leadership and address all the above points. Even more important than that is an attempt by all intellectuals, religious and social leaders, journalists and opinion formers to preach the doctrine of collaboration and non-violence. They must try to change the endemic feeling of militarism and materialism that is gripping the world to one of sustainable peace, stability, reconciliation and economic sharing.

We must change the perceptions of the public to be able to cope with the new scientific, technological and social advances that require a new breed of human beings that are in tune with modern realities. At the moment, we have become technological giants but moral and spiritual dwarfs.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."
In view of the world's precarious situation and a multitude of problems that it faces, we either decide to destroy all nuclear weapons in keeping with the provisions of the NPT, or they will destroy us.

(1) For above items, see: U.S. Dept. of State, Potsdam 1, pg. 873-879

(2) Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/18/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives

(3) Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/26/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives.

(4) Quoted by David Price in "In the Shadow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki", Counter-Punch, August 6, 2004

(5) Robert Ferrell, ed., Off the Record - the Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, pg. 53

(6) Winston Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, paperback edition, pg. 547-548


(8) Leon Sigal, Fighting To a Finish, pg. 219

(9) Bernstein, ed., The Atomic Bomb, pg. 52-56

(10) Barton Bernstein in Philip Nobile, ed., Judgment at the Smithsonian, pg. 142

(11) Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.

(12) Joseph Grew quoted in Barton Bernstein, ed., The Atomic Bomb, pg. 29-32.

(13) Leon Sigal, Fighting To a Finish, pg. 219

(14) ibid

(15) Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380

(16) "Ike on Ike", Newsweek, 11/11/63, pg. 108

(17) William Leahy, I Was There, pg. 441

(18) Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (Oxford University Press, USA, 1990), quoted in by Benjamin Schwarz, "The Real War", The Atlantic, June 2001.

(19) James Byrnes, Speaking Frankly, pg. 207

(20) William Blum, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American empire (Common Courage Press, 2005, paper), pg. 473-474

(22) Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred (Penguin, 2007)



Copyright © TFF & the author 1997 till today. All rights reserved.


Tell a friend about this TFF article

Send to:


Message and your name

Get free TFF articles & updates

TREASURES Sitemap Areas we work in Resources Columns and art
Publications About TFF Support our work Search & services Contact us

The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone + 46 - 46 - 145909     Fax + 46 - 46 - 144512

© TFF 1997 till today. All rights reserved.