"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Monday, December 1, 2008

Iran And THE Bomb

That's right - one lousy bomb! That's how much enriched uranium the experts believe Iran has; enough to build one bomb. Ooh! I'm about to faint. But really folks - ONE nuclear weapon. Besides the relatively small nuclear arsenals of Pakistan, India, China, Israel, France and the United Kingdom, you have to admit that it's pretty impressive to consider that just the United States and Russia combined have an estimated 19,400 nuclear weapons . And when you add in those other nations' nuclear weapons, the total is around 20,000.

All right, even one bomb IS significant. But what is staggeringly evident as the world (led by the Bush Administration) has focused so much attention on Iran's drive to get the bomb is that it has shifted the focus from the most critical issue to resolve in order to convince countries like Iran to give up the bomb, namely real global disarmament efforts. For all the talk about non-proliferation, the only way we will ever see any real progress is by the major powers undertaking a serious effort to reduce their arsenals with the goal of total disarmament at some (reasonable) future date (with a specified timeline with verifiable goals).

Let's face it; there are some very basic aspects of human behavior involved here. When you have the bully on the block running around brandishing its brass knuckles and pushing everyone around, you can bet that not everyone is going to start paying protection money. Someone (or two or three) is going to go out and buy a pair of those cool brass knuckles and show them off. When it comes to nuclear weapons, however, the stakes are way too high. And it's time for the bullies on the block to disarm and play nice.

Now, that is not to say that the U.S. and Russia should just get rid of all their weapons at once and hope that everyone will follow. Of course it isn't as simple as that. But it has to start with a concerted effort at reducing the numbers of weapons along with serious diplomatic efforts to convince other nations to do the same. Strengthening the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (and establishing target dates) will be a key element; the next NPT Review Conference is scheduled for 2010.
One might counter that the United States has significantly reduced its stockpile of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, and they would be (partially) correct. The U.S. has "dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear weapons since 1988." But if you read the fine print , nearly all of those weapons are either outdated, or (as is the case with some warheads) have been replaced by newer models. Let's get real here (just a couple of examples) - "naval nuclear depth bombs"? "Nuclear artillery shells"? And, I'm sure we didn't need those "suitcase bombs" anymore.

Who needs all this old stuff anyway when you have silos spread across the American heartland bristling with roughly 500 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, in addition to those 18 stealthy Trident nuclear submarines, each one loaded with 24 of the new and improved Trident D-5 nuclear missiles. These are the big boys! Just one Trident sub carries enough missiles to destroy an entire (large) continent.

As for Iran; lets not get too excited just yet. However, let's also remember that they aren't the only new kid on the block trying (or thinking about trying) to join the prestigious nuclear club. If we deal with them the old fashioned way using military force (and President-elect Obama has not yet ruled out this option), we will just be sending a message to nations like North Korea that they had better ramp up their programs or they will be next. Military action must NOT be on the table.

For an interesting perspective, watch The Folly of Attacking Iran: Lessons From History produced by Just Foreign Policy below.

You can read the recently issued Joint Experts Statement on Iran from Just Foreign Policy. If you agree with their five step strategy for a new relationship with Iran, consider sending an email to your members of Congress asking them to support direct diplomacy with Iran (without preconditions).

Fortunately for Iran, our nation and the world, we will soon have a new administration in Washington, D.C. But don't let that lull you into a false sense of security; the hawks are already descending on The White House (stay tuned for more on that). Our voices will be needed to help convince Congress and the Obama administration that the only way to avoid having Iran build nuclear weapons is through direct diplomacy (as well as meaningful progress in disarmament by all the nuclear nations, led by the U.S. and Russia).


Note: The top photo is of a "cascade" of centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium to separate out the isotope of Uranium needed to build a nuclear weapon.

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