Australian news, and some related international items

The cost of being wrong — Beyond Nuclear International

The price of nuclear deterrence failure is too great a gamble

The cost of being wrong — Beyond Nuclear International

Deterrence cannot fail and is therefore not a foundation for peace

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Arguments around nuclear deterrence can become quickly convoluted. But the basic premise, according to those who advocate it, is that we are safer with nuclear weapons than without them. The possession of nuclear weapons by the world’s major powers, they say, has kept the peace. The lethality of nuclear weapons is such that they will inevitably never be used, thus preventing nuclear war, the argument goes.

To the rational ear this sounds breathtakingly illogical. But try tangling with the deterrence crowd and both sides will quickly find themselves tied up in a semantic knot of double and triple negatives.

However, it’s all really quite simple, or it seems so when listening to Austrian diplomat Alexander Kmentt explain it. Kmentt, one of the chief architects of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), just has a knack for framing the argument against deterrence both clearly and compellingly. Here is how he puts it:

“I can’t prove that deterrence doesn’t work. And I can’t prove that it does. But the price of being wrong if it doesn’t work is too high. It cannot fail.”

Kmentt was addressing an audience of European representatives of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War at their January 2023 conference in Hamburg, Germany. (I was also a presenter there so enjoyed the privilege of hearing Kmentt’s talk, which was delivered live streamed.)

This rationale makes sense. For deterrence to work, it must be 100% foolproof all the time. But anything governed by human beings — and technology invented by them — can guarantee no such thing. And given the price of failure, the choice is obvious: deterrence isn’t worth the risk.

There is a solution to all this and it is contained in the TPNW, of which Kmentt, and many others, can be so rightfully proud. You can indeed guarantee zero chance of a nuclear war if there are zero nuclear weapons in the world. “With the TPNW, deterrence was rejected,” Kmentt said. A first. In another first, “it is the first treaty that recognizes the injustices done.”

Those injustices are invariably meted out to smaller nations, and it was they who lined up in significant enough numbers to both sign and then ratify the TPNW. “If deterrence fails, small states are the collateral damage,” Kmentt pointed out.

In fact, the TPNW is so innovatory — Kmentt referred to it as “an avant-garde treaty”— that it departed from all earlier treaty scripts by encouraging full inclusion and participation. Framing it was “open to outside voices, to civil society and to academia,” Kmentt told the Hamburg audience. “There were observers.” This set it apart from the halls-of-power treaties that preceded it.

And it remains an open process. “We are clear that we are welcoming to whoever wants to engage with us on arguments around the treaty,” said Kmentt. “If countries didn’t show up, it was not a reaction to something we did.”

There has been —and remains — as Kmnett noted, considerable opposition toward the TPNW, particularly from the nuclear weapon countries. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN at the time, Nikki Haley, now apparently running for president on the Republican ticket, was so frightened by the Treaty that, as ICAN reported, “on the first day of treaty negotiations, she hosted a press conference outside the room where negotiations were to take place, criticizing the pursuit of a prohibition treaty.”………………………………… more


April 4, 2023 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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