We are seconds away from nuclear disaster. That’s at least what Noam Chomsky told Times radio. The doomsday clock, which used to be measured in minutes, is now measured in seconds. Fall out is imminent and global rulers simply aren’t doing enough. In this article, I’ll be exploring why things have come to this and what needs to be done moving forward.
Nuclear Weapons – The Story So Far…
Nuclear warfare’s a headache. It’s been with us since Hiroshima and it hasn’t gone away. Along with Communism, it was ‘the thing’ to be feared during the 1940s and 50s. In 1963, the nightmare became real. Soviets tried to deploy missiles in Cuba, posing a direct threat in the U.S backyard (The Cuban Missile Crisis). Whilst fall out was just about avoided, it sent shimmers throughout the world and gave rise to the hippy and anti war movements of the late 60s and 70s.
It was during these decades that policy makers did their best to avoid catastrophe. Strategic Arms Limitations Talks were carried out first in 1969 and then again in 1972.
By 1980, Ronald Reagan made “a world free of nuclear weapons” his personal mission and changed the goal from limitation to reduction. When the U.S.S.R imploded in 1989, many anticipated a new era of nuclear disarmament.
But then something happened. On the 11th of September 2001, terrorists attacked the world trade center (9/11). George Bush declared a war on terror and pulled away from anything that limited his nuclear stockpile.
Since then the United States has only increased its nuclear arsenal. With other members of the international community following suite, the situation has become a grave one. North Korea and Pakistan pursue their own nuclear policies. And after leaving the JCPOA in 2018, Iran is now also free to develop it’s own nuclear programme.
Cause For Concern
Having historically been measured in minutes, the doomsday clock, specifically used to measure our proximity to nuclear destruction, began being measured in seconds during the Trump
Trump’s unpredictability may not have been the only cause for this, but it certainly played a part.
In 2019, he withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing Russian non-compliance. Since then, Russia has suspended talks over a new strategic arms reduction treaty. (START).
The state of affairs looks grim with Washington mouthpiece foreign affairs giving up on arms limitations all together. The journal has instead began promoting decent behaviour with nuclear weapons.
And yet, it’s not just the acceptance of nuclear weapons that’s given Chomsky cause for concern. In his interview with time radio, he called this era the more dangerous than the one he grew up in, not just because of our attitude to nuclear weapons, but because of climate change. For Chomsky, we’ve never faced a threat like this before and it’s the combination of this and weapons that makes our time so dangerous.
The case for establishing greater harmony within the international community has never been stronger. Russia, China, Britain and even the United States, have shown greater state centrism and understandably so. Much of what has gone wrong seems to have occurred because of our obsession with globalization and our drift away from nationalism.
But to give up on the liberal institutional dream would give the tragedy of great power politics too much credit. We must believe in better. We must believe in our ability to leave the world in a better state than we found it, if not for our sake, then at least for our children.