Hoping for a nuclear-free world
It is truly a wonder and wonderful that President Donald Trump and Kim Jon-un will meet in a few days in Singapore in a precedent-setting event, and perhaps an unexpected great deal will happen. But the United States is hardly in a position to ask others to disarm given our own unwillingness to disarm and our continued efforts to keep some 1,800 weapons ready to launch at a moment’s notice. The U.S. possesses some 6,800 nuclear weapons in all and did not participate in negotiating the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, just as did other major power countries that already have nuclear weapons in their arsenals. The U.S. has said it won’t join the treaty and it voted against the U.N. General Assembly resolution in 2016 that established a mandate for nations to negotiate that treaty, which itself was completed a year later.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in 100 countries promoting implementation of the U.N.’s nuclear weapon ban treaty. ICAN, by the way, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts. According to ICAN, nine countries together possess some 15,000 nuclear weapons, and Russia, like the U.S. also maintains about 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status, meaning they are ready to be launched within minutes, while each country has many more nuclear warheads on hand but not ready to launch right away. Most of these nuclear warheads are many times more powerful than the weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
A single nuclear warhead dropped on a large city could kill millions of people with the effects lasting for decades. Since the large nuclear powers have failed to agree to disarm, more countries wish to obtain such weaponry for themselves. Most world leaders express a vision for a nuclear-free world, but they have failed to develop any plans to dismantle their own arsenals.
Following, according to ICAN, are an inventory of nuclear weapons in the world at present: U.S., 6,800, which spends more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined; Russia, 7,000, which is investing in modernizing its warheads and delivery systems; United Kingdom, 215; France, 300; China, 270; India, 115; Pakistan, 125; Israel, 80, although it maintains much secrecy about this; North Korea, fewer than 10. However, to give credit where credit is due, both Russia and the U.S. have dramatically reduced their stockpiles of nuclear weapons from what they had a few decades ago. In fact, former President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize in 2009 was based in large part for his hope that we eventually have a world without nuclear weapons, although the awarding of that prize to Obama has been criticized in many quarters.
We’re a long way from a nuclear-free world, but from my tiny front porch in San Marcos, I can’t understand how we can demand that others disarm if we don’t make a considerable move to do the same. Nuclear technology possesses a great deal to bring good to the world, and we could move toward service rather than threat. Perhaps I’m missing something, and perhaps, just perhaps, a president who doesn’t usually seem well prepared will do a good job in Singapore and help lead that part of the world to a safer circumstance. Let’s hope so.
McCarty is a San Marcos resident