Monday, May 12, 2008

Shoving the Genie Back In The Bottle

With all the problems facing the world - global warming, resource exhaustion, freshwater depletion and desertification, species extinction, overpopulation and migration, terrorism and security - you would think there wouldn't be room for anymore. But there is.

Also on today's menu is nuclear proliferation and, according to a report in today's Washington Post, it's a problem on the verge of getting out of control:

"At least 40 developing countries from the Persian Gulf region to Latin America have recently approached U.N. officials here to signal interest in starting nuclear power programs, a trend that concerned proliferation experts say could provide the building blocks of nuclear arsenals in some of those nations.

At least half a dozen countries have also said in the past four years that they are specifically planning to conduct enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear fuel, a prospect that could dramatically expand the global supply of plutonium and enriched uranium, according to U.S. and international nuclear officials and arms-control experts."

The list includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. There are already seven nuclear plants underway in Egypt and Turkey. Even Yemen wants one.

"We are concerned that some countries are moving down the nuclear [weapons] path in reaction to the Iranians," a senior U.S. government official who tracks the spread of nuclear technology said in an interview. He declined to speak on the record because of diplomatic sensitivities. "The big question is: At what point do you reach the nuclear tipping point, when enough countries go nuclear that others decide they must do so, too?"

Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency and a winner with the IAEA of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for his work preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, has likened the pursuit of "latent" nuclear capability to buying an insurance policy.

"You don't really even need to have a nuclear weapon," ElBaradei said at a recent international conference of security officials in Munich. "It's enough to buy yourself an insurance policy by developing the capability, and then sit on it. Let's not kid ourselves: Ninety percent of it is insurance, a deterrence." I

Although they don't like to admit it, it was the original nuclear weapons powers that made a joke out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under which lesser nations were supposed to give up the right to nukes while the nuclear weapons states undertook to disarm. With decades of indifference to their NPT obligations by the United States, CCCP/Russia, China, France and Britain, the rest of the world saw no reason they shouldn't ignore the treaty either. Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea so far and there'll undoubtedly be more to come.

I suppose a recommitted nuclear disarmament agreement might be theoretically possible but don't count on it. There's a global arms race underway involving the US, China, India and Russia that will almost certainly preclude any agreement on disarmament by the nuclear powers.


Anonymous said...

I had an uncle pass away a couple of weeks ago...WW11 Vet, Korea and Cyprus. We would talk world politics and of course the Cold War and nuclear proliferation. He said something to me that I've never forgotten, he said that a single man alone can do the most evil of deads, but, a nuclear event takes many evil men and, there are not that many evil men with that much power in the world. In other words, he meant for me to have faith in my fellow man...because really, what else do we have?? billg

The Mound of Sound said...

Your uncle is right, we must have faith. If nothing else, faith can liberate us from the grip of fear. Good point.