Nuclear disarmament: a dream or an imperative?

Obama outlines disarmament plan

Under a hazy spring sky, before a swelling Czech crowd, U.S. President Barack Obama called for an international effort to lock down nuclear weapons materials within four years, one of a host of steps he said would move the globe to nuclear disarmament.

Speaking just hours after North Korea launched a controversial multistage rocket, the U.S. president took to the stage in Castle Square here, testifying “clearly and with conviction” to an audience of at least 20,000 of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

“We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can,'” he said, reprising a battle theme recognizable to a crowd a continent away from his campaign victory. [continued…]

Many obstacles to Obama nuclear dream

President Obama’s hopes for a world free of nuclear weapons may just be a dream.

Despite his rousing rhetoric in Prague that “we can do it”, huge obstacles are in the way and even he gave himself two escape clauses.

The first was that he did not necessarily expect this to happen in his lifetime. He is 47 years old, so, given that the life expectancy in the US is about 78, that means another thirty years or more in which the goal might not be realised. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — A goal is just a dream unless there’s a deadline. When JFK announced his plan to send a man to the moon, he didn’t add the caveat, “but it might not happen in my lifetime.”

In a single breath, Obama inflated hopes and then let them drift away. To turn a dream into a reality will require a clearly defined strategy, a set of intermediary goals and deadlines, and genuine political commitment. If Obama becomes really serious, this could actually be the easy route for him to make history.

Gone are the days when nuclear disarmament could be dismissed as a lofty goal only entertained by dreamers. The CND marchers from the 50’s led by the likes of Bertrand Russell have been replaced an unlikely band of elder-statesman realists. Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn made appeals for disarmament in 2007 and 2008 that drew a favorable response by pointing out that the risks in failing to disarm are now far greater than the challenge of taking on this goal.

But how can disarmament be easy? Of course it won’t be — but everything is relative. Placed alongside objectives such as tackling climate change, ending poverty or eradicating terrorism, nuclear disarmament is a much less complex undertaking. Whether Obama is ready to lead the way may come down to whether he has the courage to take on a bold political strategy that ties together nuclear disarmament with Middle East policy.

The effort to press Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program would acquire a moral legitimacy that has so far been lacking if this particular objective was an integral part of a wider campaign for disarmament. At the same time, if Iran is to be persuaded then pressure must simultaneously be placed on Israel to both sign the non-proliferation treaty and commit to its own disarmament.

Benjamin Netanyahu says that stopping Iran becoming a nuclear power is a global imperative. Fair enough — but what is Israel willing to give up to make that happen?

If Obama wants to take a small but highly symbolic step in the right direction, he could tell the Israeli prime minister during his first trip to Washington, that the United States will no longer afford Israel the privelage of colluding in Israel’s policy of “nuclear ambiguity”. Robert Gates already chipped a crack in the foundations of that policy during his confirmation hearings. Now it’s time to drop the pretense altogether.

Challenging Iran’s nuclear aspirations requires acknowledging Israel’s nuclear realities.

US may cede to Iran’s nuclear ambition

US officials are considering whether to accept Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment, which has been outlawed by the United Nations and remains at the heart of fears that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

As part of a policy review commissioned by President Barack Obama, diplomats are discussing whether the US will eventually have to accept Iran’s insistence on carrying out the process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons- grade material.

“There’s a fundamental impasse between the western demand for no enrichment and the Iranian dem­and to continue enrichment,” says Mark Fitzpat­rick, a former state depart­- ­­ment expert now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There’s no obvious compromise bet­ween those two positions.” [continued…]

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