In response to the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan, Henry Kissinger provided new insights into his “realist” view of rationality. Referring to Indian and Pakistani tests, he said: “They live in a rough neighborhood. They don’t think the number of bombs makes war more likely. In a perfectly rational world, you’d think more nuclear weapons makes war less likely.”Self-proclaimed “realists,” including Henry Kissinger, have argued that nuclear weapons cannot be eliminated. But these same realists have been responsible for creating and maintaining some basic nuclear fictions that have been with us for decades. The first of these, a legal fiction, was written into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. This fiction said that the only states to be considered nuclear weapons states were those that had detonated a nuclear device prior to January 1, 1967; in other words, the only nuclear weapons states were the US, USSR, UK, France, and China.
The fiction proclaimed by the “realists” was that only these five states were nuclear weapons states. Israel, India, and Pakistan, all widely understood to have nuclear weapons, were referred to as “threshold” states, meaning states with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
Another fiction of the “realists” was that it would be possible to simultaneously promote the peaceful atom and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In fact, nuclear programs for supposedly peaceful purposes have served as the cover for efforts to develop nuclear weapons in Argentina, Brazil, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, South Africa and elsewhere. These efforts succeeded in India, Israel, South Africa, and possibly North Korea.
With the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan, it has become far more difficult to maintain these fictions. It cannot be denied that India and Pakistan are nuclear weapons states, regardless of the date set forth in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Conducting nuclear weapons tests is a solid indicator that a state has nuclear weapons. And Israel, as has been adequately revealed, is a nuclear weapons state with or without tests.
So where does this leave us? On one level, we are in an Alice in Wonderland world of “realists” who create fictions to serve their view of reality. On another level, most people in the world can now clearly see that the number of nuclear weapons states is growing.
We have reached a crossroads. The choice before us is to continue to live in the world of make believe, as the “realists” would encourage us to do, or to work for an unequivocal commitment from all nuclear weapons states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals under strict and effective international controls.
The unrealistic dream that the “realists” profess to believe in is that the nuclear weapons states can keep their arsenals forever without these weapons ever being used by accident or design. This view was implicitly criticized by the prestigious Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which stated in its 1996 report, “The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.”
The good news is that the Indians have made clear that they would prefer a world with no nuclear weapons states, and that they are willing to work for this. The Chinese have also made this commitment. Leadership is lacking primarily from the three Western nuclear weapons states and Russia. It is in these countries that the so-called “realists” have maintained their grip on the national security apparatus.
What is real for the twenty-first century is what we will make real. If we choose to continue to maintain the fiction that nuclear weapons provide for our security, this will be our reality right up until the time a nuclear weapon explodes in one of our major cities or until a nuclear war breaks out.
On the other hand, if we choose to accept the reality that a nuclear weapons-free world is possible, we will take the necessary steps to achieve such a world. We will begin the good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament promised in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We will negotiate a plan for the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons on Earth, and we will begin “systematic and progressive efforts” to implement this plan.
Moving ahead to achieve this new reality are eight nations, led by Ireland, calling themselves the New Agenda Coalition. They have urged us to enter the third millennium with an unequivocal commitment in place to achieve total nuclear disarmament. The call of the New Agenda Coalition is in line with the goal of the more than 1100 citizen organizations around the world supporting the Abolition 2000 Global Network’s goal of a treaty banning nuclear weapons by the year 2000.
There is no doubt that this path is the one that humanity must choose to assure its future. The choice should be easier now that the fictions of so-called “realists” have been exploded along with the detonations by India and Pakistan.