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For Peace, Work at Global Disarmament

For Peace, Work at Global Disarmament

UCLA Today, April 10, 2008

The need to guard against terrorists and rogue states will hardly require aircraft carriers or a new generation of nuclear weapons.

This article was first published in UCLA Today.

By Ajay Singh

The Iraq war, it's widely said, has changed the world. Had the Bush administration listened to Hans Blix instead of rushing to war, the catastrophe in Iraq might have been averted.

Hans Blix is, of course, a household name. A Swedish diplomat and longtime votary of disarmament, he was the executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, which searched in vain for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the war. Blix's reports were at odds with the U.S. contention of a nuclear-armed Iraq — and history has proved him right.

On April 3, six days before the fall of Baghdad, Blix was on campus to deliver another of his pertinent messages: That nuclear disarmament remains an urgent issue and that the major powers, with the U.N. playing a central role, must begin planning for a nuclear-free world.

In a well-attended lecture sponsored by the Burkle Center for International Relations and held at the Kerckhoff Hall Grand Salon, Blix argued for a new arms détente. Nuclear powers are retreating from their commitments to disarmament, ostensibly because of threats from terrorists and so-called rogue states, Blix said. But "the need to guard against terrorists and rogue states will hardly require aircraft carriers or a new generation of nuclear weapons," he added.

"Why Nuclear Disarmanent Matters" — primer and plea

The title of Blix's lecture, "Time for a Revival of Disarmament?" mirrored the title of his latest book, "Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters," published just this month by the MIT Press. Blix signed copies of the compact, 95-page hardback, both a primer on disarmament as well as an eloquent plea for it.

Echoing the words of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi two years ago that the world was sleepwalking into new arms races, Blix cautioned that although the cold war is over, "we have entered a cold peace." Worldwide military expenditure is about $1,300 billion annually — and about half of that is spent by the United States alone, he pointed out.

Blix is currently the chair of the Swedish government's Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, which has stated that the best way to keep nations from dueling with nuclear weapons is to make them feel that they do not need nuclear weapons for their security.

"Cooperative foreign, security and economic policies may be the most important means to reach that result and promote peace," Blix said, adding: "The arms race is a symptom of tensions but it may also be a cause of tensions."

Most world nations committed to nuclear non-proliferation

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), forged in 1968, remains the central instrument for global disarmament, Blix noted. That treaty commits non-nuclear signatories to desist from acquiring nuclear weapons — and nuclear powers to work toward disarmament.

Although the nuclear club has expanded since 1968 and there are still tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, the treaty has not yet breached its aims, Blix said. Critics have pointed to several violations of the treaty in past years, most notably by Iraq, North Korea and Libya, and warned of its possible collapse that could lead to a cascading of nations developing nuclear weapons.

"This is too alarmist a view," Blix said, pointing out that President John F. Kennedy's warning in the 1960s that "dozens of states might develop nuclear weapons has not become reality, fortunately."

Despite the fact that India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have not signed the NPT, "it should be recognized that the vast number of states in the world remain committed to the treaty and respect it," Blix said, adding: "The world is not milling with would-be nuclear states."

Moreover, a vigorous nonpartisan movement for disarmament that includes large numbers of the U.S. foreign policy elite has been afoot in this nation for years and has argued for a phased elimination of nuclear weapons, Blix observed.

During the Cold War, members of this movement say, nuclear powers justified nuclear weapons as a necessary deterrent. "Today, they say that deterrent between them is not needed and their continued arsenals may be an incentive for others, including terrorists, to acquire nuclear weapons," Blix noted.

"This is an important and fruitful discussion in your country in the year before a new administration takes over," he said.

Click here to listen to a podcast of this event.

Burkle Center for International Relations