In this article for UPI, Rethinking Nuclear Weapons Project Director Ward Wilson counters the argument that we need nuclear weapons to provide us security in an increasingly dangerous world. He writes: "There are actually sound, pragmatic reasons to reject nuclear weapons. The ideas we use to guide us in thinking about nuclear weapons are actually wrong. The assumptions shared by most members of the nuclear community and that they have assiduously taught the rest of us for 70 years are muddled and mistaken.
The fourth of BASIC's 2016 Parliamentary Briefing series relating to the Trident debate focuses on the UK's role in multilateral nuclear disarmament.
David Cameron announced at the NATO summit in Warsaw on Saturday, “a parliamentary vote [to be held] on July 18 to confirm MP's support for the renewal of four nuclear submarines capable of providing around the clock cover”. Theresa May is expected to follow through with this decision.
Nuclear disarmament has been the most desirable objective of global arms control policies since nuclear weapons were invented, along with general and complete disarmament. But it is also one that has generated most contention and conflict. Scientists involved in developing military applications were quick to call for strict controls and the elimination of all nuclear weapons from states’ military arsenals.
Working with the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), UNA-UK hosted a thought experiment event entitled ‘Surviving Nuclear Zero’ to encourage nuclear experts and students to consider the value states attach to nuclear weapons from a new perspective. The project challenged participants to identify how a post-nuclear UK could protect itself and engage effectively in a world where others still possessed nuclear weapons and where grave threats remained.
BASIC collaborates closely with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global Security and Non-Proliferation. The purpose of the APPG is to encourage discussion and debate, on the basis of expert information and opinion from across the political spectrum, on matters relating to global security and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – whether nuclear, chemical or biological. Its clerk, Lorna Richardson, is formally a BASIC employee but is seconded wholly to work with the APPG.
On June 24-25, representatives from Middle Eastern states, including Israel and Egypt, will meet in Geneva for the second time in the past two months to discuss the modalities and possible outcomes of the postponed 2012 Helsinki conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Referring to Israel’s nuclear program as a bargaining chip is not a breakthrough idea. Scholars have argued before that in lieu of having a “deterrence policy that does not deter,” Israel might perceive its nuclear arsenal as a bargaining chip to negotiate with its Arab counterparts over regional security issues, including around a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The third blog in this series will explore, admittedly in a quite speculative fashion, another possible bargaining dimension of Israel’s nuclear program: a bargaining chip with the United States over its unconditional maintenance of Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME).
It is ironic, but not completely surprising, that our desire for nuclear disarmament has its roots in the same principles that drive our continued military investment in nuclear weapons: predominantly the dire humanitarian consequences that would result from a nuclear attack or accident. The potential consequences are what inspire the global community to keep pressing for change. But the belief in deterrence, that our ability to inflict huge reciprocal damage is what keeps others from attacking us, is also what makes proponents of nuclear weapons feel protected.