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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Follow up on North Korea Discussion

I asked Dr. Wade Huntley, Director of Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research at UBC and one of the panelists of the discussion on October 13th, the following question:

The question that I had which I did not have time to ask you afterwardswas about your comment that the world had to move away from using the nuclear weapons as perceived currency of power because they had never served the purposes that they were believed to serve. How come these intelligent state leaders have not learnt from these past experiences and still cling to this 'currency'? How can we help the world leadersb ecome aware of this contradiction and act on its awareness?

Dr. Huntley's answers were the following:

' A full answer to your question would be long; indeed, one could write abook on it. In brief, I think there are several factors explaining thecontradiction:

  • Because nuclear weapons really can't be used, the extent and limits of their influence on international relations is still not exactly clear.
  • Adding to this difficulty, that influence changes as the world situation evolves; it's not the same now as in the Cold War.
  • Different values and objectives about the world also influence how youlook at nuclear weapons. If you seek national security and believerelations are always defined by power, you think about nuclear weapons strategically. If you seek world peace and believe ideas can create change, you are more disposed to see the fallacies. Equally intelligent people (including state leaders) can draw different lessons because they have different values and different conceptions of how the world works.
  • Some state leaders are not aware of the lessons other states have already learned. The US has in fact learned some important limits and costs of nuclear weapons, but probably Kim Jong il won't believe this --he will have to learn these lessons himself.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, even if everyone believes a certain thing should be done, it can still be a challenge to do it. In international relations, this is known as the "security dilemma." Even if everyone sincerely agreed on the desirability of a nuclear-free world(which today they do not), it would still be a major challenge to get from here to there without risking conflict and maybe violence along theway. '

Dr. Huntley's comments raise some key questions for the future of the human kind. If all nations have to learn the costs of having and using nuclear weapons in the way that US has, there won't be much hope for them to learn the lesson before this earth collapses. 'EVEN IF' all people believe that the earth would only survive by a nuclear-free world, to act on that belief would involve conflict and violence - possibly with nuclear weapons? I think the responsibility of nuclear-weapon holders of the world and their allies are to proliferate the lesson to the world and to themselves that nuclear weapons are too costly and not even effective currency of power, rather than imposing non-proliferation rules on the nations who don't have nuclear weapons or are about to have them. 'I have money so you can't.' 'I have oil so you can't.' ' I have nukes so you can't.' ' I polluted the air so you can't.' This is the message that the industrialized nations are sending to the rest of the world, and it simply won't work.

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