Iraq’s possible possession of nuclear weapons has put a scare into every American. It is thought that a country that has used chemical and biological weapons in the past will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons, should they get their hands on them. Iraq could also facilitate the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups, should they wish to reek havoc on the United States through a third party.
The United Nations and the United States are right to seek a stop to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iraq. However, there are still eight other nations with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, capable of making the entire world a veritable Hiroshima. The United States should spearhead an effort to drastically reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons around the world, starting with their own.
The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, signed in May between Russia and the United States, was a step in the right direction. Both countries promised to pare their nuclear stockpiles to about 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear warheads each, thus reducing the size of their arsenals by two-thirds. However, as some critics have noted, the treaty does not call for the destruction of a single nuclear weapon. Rather, the warheads are disassembled and stored in underground locations, allowing for possible future use. Even if the United States and Russia limited their nuclear arsenals to 100 nuclear warheads, they could still destroy the world with one push of a button.
Nuclear weapons in unstable countries like Pakistan pose the most daunting peril to mankind. Since 1993, the Pakistani government has changed hands five times, wavering between democracy, anarchy and dictatorship. In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf seized control of the government in a military coup. Radical fundamentalist groups have made inroads in recent national elections, riding the wave of anti-American sentiment into parliament. Government officials have stated that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda have attempted to acquire nuclear weapons. What better way for a terrorist group to acquire nuclear weapons than to take control of Pakistan?
The United States must take measures to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear hotbed in South Asia turning into a worldwide nuclear holocaust. These include economic incentives to discourage weapons research and eliminate existing unconventional weapons.
Stockpiles of weapons in countries allied with the United States, such as Israel and Great Britain, must also be drastically reduced. As seen with Russia, countries will only reduce their stockpiles if the United States does the same. Politicians have neglected to deplore the presence of nuclear weapons in “freedom loving” countries, citing a stable government as an impediment to any rash decision to use nuclear weapons.
However, Israel has threatened a nuclear strike against Baghdad should Iraq attack Israeli targets with Scud missiles. Former president Richard Nixon considered using “baby” nuclear weapons in Vietnam. In January 1995, Russia was on the precipice of launching a nuclear strike against the United States, after mistaking a Norwegian scientific weather rocket for a nuclear weapon. A nuclear strike against the United States would have precipitously escalated to full-blown war, in which both countries would have been destroyed.
Possession of nuclear weapons by “rogue states” and terrorists presents a grave threat to the rest of the world. However, nuclear weapons, in the hands of any country, pose a grave threat by themselves, because their deployment carries the specter of indiscriminate annihilation.
-The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.