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The hidden stumbling block to progress on nuclear weapons

The hidden stumbling block to progress on nuclear weapons, Bulletin of the Atomic SCientists,By Ward Wilson, September 16, 2020  ”……………………Eliminating nuclear weapons is an especially important subject these days because there’s a confrontation brewing. The United States and the other nuclear-armed states are upgrading their weapons (and some are even increasing the size of their arsenals). But many non-nuclear-armed states seem to be taking the opposite position. In 2017, the United Nations passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and more than 60 percent of the world’s countries voted for it—122 nations in all. The treaty will go into effect when 50 nations sign and ratify it. Today, there are 84 countries that have signed and 44 that have ratified. With only six more countries to go, entry into force will likely come in 2021 or, at the latest, 2022.

Once the treaty is in effect, elimination will become the center of a contentious worldwide debate. The majority of the world will have a new legal argument for pushing toward global zero, but the nine nuclear-armed states are sure to resist. So it makes sense to think a little about whether eliminating nuclear weapons is even possible.

Nuclear weapons are both weapons and symbols…….

Weapons are essentially tools to achieve a particular task. The effectiveness of a tool is objective and quantifiable—how well does it get the job done?

Symbols, on the other hand, are psychological. They can inspire and change beliefs. ……

Nuclear weapons are, in some ways, like these ceremonial swords. Their symbolic value is more important than their military utility. For example, one of the roles of nuclear weapons is as a symbol of prestige. ………

The people who make nuclear weapons policy seem to believe that they have enormous power, conflating their symbolic meaning with their practical usefulness.

But in reality, nuclear weapons are not terribly valuable as weapons. They have not been used in war for more than 75 years. And although numerous occasions have arisen since 1945 when their use was considered, each time, decision makers declined………

Once the symbolic layer has been peeled away, the remaining task will be to evaluate the military utility of nuclear weapons objectively. If it becomes clear that nuclear weapons are dangerous and have almost no military uses, it may be much easier to take [them] off.

September 17, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war

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