Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nuclear Stewardship Treaty

We have to come to terms with the awesome responsibility of being able to split and fuse atoms. There's simply no choice. And it's pollyannish to think we can just eliminate and disallow the production of explosives based on fission and fusion with the stroke of a few more bilateral treaties.

Looking back...at the Future.
Elie Wiesel is asked in 1988 the impossible question: If you had to choose whether you would do with the science of the 20'th century and its atrocities, or without the benefits of the science of the 20'th century and its atrocities, which would you choose?'
And the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main multilateral treaty to control nuclear arms, although noble in its intent to safeguard us against this frightening and yet fascinating knowledge, did not provide us with the societal mechanisms needed to bridle these sub-atomic abilities of ours. The NPT was simply an attempt to freeze the world in a 1960's state and work backwards from there. Humanity never works backwards, if it can help itself. Humanity is hopelessly progressive. Which is why I have proposed a new treaty which takes into account that, despite our best efforts at disarmament, nuclear weapons will be part of our human condition for some time to come. I have called this new treaty the Nuclear Stewardship Treaty.

The treaty would still embrace the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weaponry as safeguards for national sovereignty. But, unlike the NPT, it would establish criteria for being a worthy steward of this dangerous technology; an incentive for not being a steward of nuclear explosives to begin with; foster cooperation among those who despite such incentives harbor nuclear weaponry; and establish the goal of eventually integrating all arsenals into a tightly safeguarded joint operation.

Its preamble would acknowledge the dangers posed by nuclear technology, whether peaceful or military. It would then state that those who choose to use and develop such technologies have awesome responsibilities for all of humanity. And that its military use poses a threat not only to those engaged in any given conflict but to all nations of the world.

The treaty itself would state that those who have chosen to be so called stewards of nuclear explosives must have appropriate national structures to prevent the use of nuclear explosives except under the most extraordinary of circumstances. Such threats would be defined as acts or events that truly threaten the very existence of humanity as such. There would be no mention of nuclear explosives as legitimate means to simply defend national sovereignty.

The appropriate national structures would be defined as:
  • A military and civilian infrastructure that can effectively safeguard its nuclear technology against those intent on harming others
  • A military that is under the command of a civilian government
  • A civilian government that has been chosen by the people through fair, honest and regularly recurring elections
The treaty would require stewards to cooperate in securing and safely deploying their nuclear explosives and formally establish an organization that oversees such cooperation. This organization would be the seed for a joint military command that provides not local but global security.

The last part of the Nuclear Stewardship Treaty would impose a form of tax on the stewards of nuclear explosives: stewards would be obligated to supply high grade fissionable material that can be used for civilian purposes to a common pool. Signatory nations that are not stewards would be entitled to a share of that pool based on some formula that takes into account their population and other relevant factors (such as GDP and capacity to produce energy). This last aspect of the treaty would establish a clear incentive to not develop and maintain nuclear arsenals.

Such a treaty would still embrace disarmament but recognize the reality that we live in an often extremely hostile universe . The ability to cause explosions through fission and fusion will not disappear from our body of knowledge without some catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions. And, yes, I recognize that a self-inflicted nuclear holocaust could be such a cataclysmic event. But this is the conundrum that we must live with as long as we continue to deepen our scientific investigations of the microcosm.

Why international trust and disarmament is not enough – The real threat of human insanity:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Religious perspectives on nuclear weaponry:

Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Assessing the threats and the constant uncertainties:

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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