Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Nuclear Peace

The North Koreans are right. Why should the United States be permitted to have nuclear weapons when they are not? The current standard for whether you should have nuclear weapons is quite simple: if you do, that's fine and dandy, if you don't, the Wrath of God will fall upon you if you move in that direction, but once you've got them, then it's fine and dandy.

Why should we have nuclear weapons at all? Nuclear weapons have created a "nuclear peace" or the end of great power war. Nuclear peace is rather simplistic in its most common form, because it doesn't take into account the conventional power of the states. A superpower, of which the U.S. is the only current example, has risen above nuclear weapons. If all the nuclear weapons disappeared tomorrow, the United States would still be able to handle all comers in a conventional war. Nuclear weapons are not an essential part of a superpower's arsenal. They are, in essence, diplomatic tools. By maintaining nuclear weapons, the United States avoids nuclear bullying. Great powers, such as France and Britain, or India and Pakistan, use nuclear weapons to prevent major wars with each other. Neither is strong enough that it doesn't fear the other member, but both are powerful enough that an all-out war is unthinkable. The small powers, however, are where the problem with nuclear peace really happens. Small powers are unable to defend themselves through conventional means, so they play nuclear brinksmanship to shore up their security situation. It is from these powers that the risk of nuclear war occurs.

Yet the problem is that, to develop nuclear weapons, small powers must develop precisely the wrong characteristics. We want countries that develop nuclear weapons to be stable, peaceful, prosperous, and civilian-controlled. To develop nuclear weapons, one has to be secretive, militaristic, authoritarian, and poor (since a rich nation tends be integrated into the global economy, which makes secrecy difficult). Therefore, I propose that we make the nuclear club a true nuclear club. To join the nuclear club, and earn the right to develop nuclear weapons, one must meet the following criteria:

Political:
1. The state must have a free press. No inspection regime can do what a free press can do.
2. The state must have regular, free, and fair elections. A regime that does not change is more likely to act in its own interests than in the interests of its people.
3. The military must be under civilian leadership.


Military:
1. The state must have a stable domestic security situation. There can be no insurgencies, porous borders, or the like. For obvious reasons, the ability to secure a nuclear arsenal from domestic threats is essential.
2. The state must be able to project force. If, for example, there were an incident of ongoing genocide on the opposite side of the world, would the state be able to make a significant and timely contribution? The ability to project force is necessary because it demonstrates the availability of other military options. Currently, Russia's military is so weak that it could not handle much more than a border skirmish. What are its options? It has an under-strength military and nukes. The ability to handle routine military threats (of which the ability to project force is a measure) is thus needed by a nuclear state.
3. The cost of a nuclear program must form no more than a small percentage of a state's military budget. Some states are simply too small to support a viable nuclear force and still maintain the conventional forces necessary to provide security and options.


Economic:
1. The state must have an economy on par with the rich nations of the world. Nukes are expensive to build, secure, and maintain.
2. The distribution of economic resources, measured by the gini coefficient, must be below a certain level. A nation that does not have a substantial middle class is not a stable society. The last thing we want are nukes in the middle of a revolution.


Social:
1. Corruption must be brought under control. A corrupt society, however prosperous, is one in which criminals and terrorists can have access to nuclear materials.
2. The state must not have any systematic human rights abuses. Human rights abuses lead to insurgencies, which means a state is not stable.


All of the previous criteria should be maintained for a substantial length of time. The nuclear club should also have some enforcement mechanism, both means of punishing negligent members, and rewards for entering the club. Using these criteria, only three, the U.S., France, and Britain, of the nine nuclear states (U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan, France, Britain, assumed North Korea, and assumed Israel) meet all of the criteria. Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea fail them all. China fails all but the domestic security situation (which is questionable, as there are separatist movements in Tiber, Xinjiang, and Inner-Mongolia). Israel is the opposite of China, failing only in the domestic security situation. India fails in the domestic security situation and in the economic criteria. All in all, not a good record. However, there are more nations who could be allowed to go nuclear (I don't know whether some of them are big enough): Germany, Japan, Spain, Italy, Australia, Canada, the Scandinavian nations, and Austria. Not that they would have to, but when a rogue state argues why shouldn't they have nuclear weapons, we can rebut that they can, so long as they prove their ability to use them responsibly.

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