Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Loathsome money pits"



Writing for Reuters last week, former and final president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, did an op/ed piece that expressed what some would call an objective worth persuing and others an idealistic dream.

The notion is nothing less than a world free of nuclear weapons.

"Critics present nuclear disarmament as unrealistic at best, and a risky utopian dream at worst," Gorbachev writes. "They point to the Cold War’s 'long peace' as proof that nuclear deterrence is the only means of staving off a major war.
As someone who has commanded these weapons, I strongly disagree."

What Gorbachev argues for is a world where the U.S. finally signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and after that an earnest reduction of nuclear stockpiles on all sides, especially between the U.S. and Russia commences.  He goes on, describing nuclear weapons and their conjoined support and security systems as "loathsome money pits" in today's economy.  Gorbachev is correct on that point.  He is also right in asserting that a world without nuclear weapons is a safer world.  No one except perhaps Reagan knew better than he on this matter.  Referring to the historic Reykjaic summit of 25 years ago, Gorbachev argues that, "Our efforts 25 years ago can be vindicated only when the Bomb ends up beside the slave trader’s manacles and the Great War’s mustard gas in the museum of bygone savagery."

Great idea.  Not too sure how it will work. 
The genie is out of the bottle.  Let's say that by one diplomatic miracle or another both the U.S. and Russia dismantle all of their long range and tactical nuclear weapons.  By a similar stroke of pure divine intervention, we manage to get India, Pakistan, China, and all other nuclear powers to do the same.  The knowledge of nuclear physics and the very process by which these ferly weapons can be built still exists.  You cannot kill an idea. 
Second of all, the weapons themselves are also a great and sad equalizier.  They can keep a small nation state feeling securing when threatened by a larger and more belligerent one.  An Israel will always want such weapons with an Iran nearby and calling for Israel's destruction.  I don't say this is any kind of support for detante, rather stating an unfortunate fact that appears hardwired into human DNA.  For evidence of this need for keeping a tactical edge, Mr. Gorbachev need only look at his fellow countryman, Vladimir Putin.

As a result of my choice and consumption of fiction, I have been terrified of nuclear armageddon from about age seven.  All of those images of the world rendered a wasteland, similar in appearance to the surface of Mars, society rendered to little more than a loose collective of murdering and raping thugs...those cautionary tales stay with you.  I would love to say that Gorbachev isn't dreaming and certainly hope that he isn't.  But let's just say that his regard for human nature must be a great deal higher than my own.



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