Loose Nuclear Ends

At the “other” IPS Thaif Deen reports:

The global civil society campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons could be politically reignited by the phenomenal successes of the grassroots demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia, shadowed closely by Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan.

“Developments in the Middle East [and North Africa] show how fragile ‘stability’ is when people’s needs and desires are ignored,” says Hirotsugu Terasaki, executive director of the Office of Peace Affairs at the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International.

Apparently he’s extrapolating a fragility to the stability of the worldwide nuclear arms regimen, as well. Wishful thinking?

Jeopardy wizard Ken Jennings writing at Slate on playing against IBM computer Watson:

To [the IBMers], I wasn’t the good guy, playing for the human race. That was Watson’s role, as a symbol and product of human innovation and ingenuity. So my defeat at the hands of a machine has a happy ending, after all. At least until the whole system becomes sentient and figures out the nuclear launch codes. But I figure that’s years away.

Author of the new book How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, Ron Rosenbaum, also writing at Slate about a man who trained for work in a missile silo, but was unceremoniously discarded when he questioned the command and control structure:

. . . some might say we can’t give the impression that everyone in missile launch control centers engages in Socratic debate about whether genocidal revenge is justified, or could be seen as “insane” in itself. Such debate, the official line goes, would end up “weakening the credibility of our deterrent” and perhaps inviting a genocidal attack.

Speaking of deterrence, they’re ba-a-a-ck. Who? The four horsemen. Of the apocalypse? Not exactly — ostensibly, in fact, that’s what they seek to head off at the pass. George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, of course, joint authors of Wall Street Journal op-eds calling for nuclear arms control. Their latest, titled Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation, is an attempt to advocate for reducing the number of nuclear weapons needed for deterrence.

Achieving deterrence with assured security will require work by leaders and citizens on a range of issues, beginning with a clearer understanding of existing and emerging security threats.

The op-ed comes with the usual disclaimer, though.

. . . as long as nuclear weapons exist, America must retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile primarily to deter a nuclear attack and to reassure our allies through extended deterrence.

Sometimes I think we won’t make any substantive progress toward nuclear disarmament until we declare a moratorium on phrases such as “our nuclear deterrent” and “a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile.” As long as policymakers continue to resort to them, we’ll continue to view other states (and non-state actors) as a greater threat than the most “existential” of all threats to life on earth — nuclear weapons themselves.