Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Nuclear-Free World

US President Barack Obama has expressed his vision of a nuclear-free world. Speaking in Prague, during his first official visit to Europe, President Obama explains that although the goal may not be achieved anytime soon, the United States, as the only country in history to have ever used nuclear weapons, has the moral responsibility to lead the mission and ensure the framework is firmly laid for other countries to follow.

Albert Einstein was the man who was partly responsible for the invention of nuclear weapons. He did not make them of course, but it was his theory of relativity which inspired the idea of such a ferocious weapon of mass destruction. He did however, at the start of World War II, encourage the Americans to develop the bomb. He even exerted some pressure on the Americans to do so as quickly as possible due to his fear of what might happen if Germany and Hitler managed to build it first.

Einstein nonetheless never expected the weapon would be used. He wanted the bomb to be made to scare the Germans off, to prevent them from pursuing their world conquering ambitions. In other words, the bomb was made to make the world safer from the dangers posed by the Germans.

When the bomb was eventually used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein became a very troubled man. He later on said, President Roosevelt (had he been alive) would never have authorised the use of nuclear bombs especially on civilian targets. And a few months before he died, Einstein was quoted to have said that the role he played in the creation of nuclear bombs was the "one great mistake in my life" (quoted in Robert Clark's book Einstein: The Life and Times)

Einstein's initial justification on why the bomb must be made is the exact same logic applied by countries with nuclear weapons today. They acquire nuclear arsenals allegedly not with the intention of using them, but to make their countries safer by preventing others from threatening and attacking them. On a smaller scale, the same justification is used by many countries to build up their military capabilities by allocating billions of dollars annually for their militaries.

Those who are for nuclear weapons and continuous military investment would often argue that the world is infested with bad and evil people. Weapons are needed to battle them. If we don't develop weapons, they will and the world will be in danger. So the good guys must have some weapons to prevent the bad guys from attacking others. And the good guys must also have the most powerful weapon, not for them to use it of course, but to scare the bad guys from causing massive destructions. Therefore, only the good guys must have nuclear weapons, and the bad guys should not.

Problem is, who decides who are the good guys and the bad guys? Who decides that the Indians are the good guys and the Pakistanis not? Who decides that Israel can have nuclear weapons and Iran cannot? What are the criteria used to decide who can and cannot have this and that?

I firmly support President Obama's call for a nuclear-free world. Since we can't really decide on who should and should not have it, everyone should not have it then. Unless of course, some people think we need the bomb to prevent alien invasion!


Sadeq said...

Nice post,
I really wonder what make westerners to have such a discriminating view toward possession of nuclear power while they claim to respect human right and equality... I wonder if it is matter of cognitive distortion or high level of selfishness...

bubu said...

Although it was a joke, aliens (if they invade us, hell if they even exist!) is a symbolic common enemy that people can put their aim to them.

What do you think about creating a common enemy to give country-possessing-nuclear-bomb a reason to use them?

Or are they doing it? (i.e. "terrosism" as a common enemy)

Zaki Samsudin said...

Brother Sadeq,

Thank you for visiting this blog.

Two years ago, when I was part of a foreign delegate visiting the US, we were brought by our host (US State Department) to the Pentagon. Sensing that the discussion was quite open, I asked the officials at Pentagon: 'Who decides who should or should not have nuclear weapons?' While most of them agreed that the answer needs some serious rethinking, a few others kept on stressing on the validity of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. But again, I would fall back to the same question, 'what are/were the criteria?' From that visit to the Pentagon (as well as to a few other US government agencies during the same trip), I think the overall prevalent mindset among Americans is that they seriously believe that the US is the 'sheriff' of international politics. Similar, though not entirely the same with the 19th century British colonial mindset of 'white men's burden'.

I am a pacifist in the sense that I have never understood why any country in the world needs to build up its military especially for the often-mentioned reason 'to make the country safer'!

Brother Bubu,

I believe you have answered you own question about having a common enemy. The talk about the 'axis of evil' and 'either you are with us or against us' from the Bush era are evidence for that point.

Maybe I can agree with the idea of keeping some nuclear arsenals in case aliens, or a a really, really obviously sadistic human regime is threatening the world. But the weapons should not be kept by a single country. They should be kept by the UN or other international agencies, and to authorise the use of it, would require a collective authorisation from a number of world leaders and scientists.