The present Iranian government recently announced that it would be hosting a nuclear-disarmament conference in Tehran later this month.1 “Iran,” the Guardian article on the question quotes the secretary for the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili as saying, supports “global disarmament”; it hence “invites the world to disarm and prevent proliferation.” The summit has reportedly been entitled “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for No One.” It is slated to begin on April 17 and continue for two days.
Global nuclear disarmament is undoubtedly a decidedly worthy aim. The abolition of nuclear weapons would remove one of the most serious present threats to present and future human welfare and survival, and hence could free up energy that could be directed toward the resolution of other such threats. Disarmament must not however stop at nuclear weapons; the dismantling of extant militaries and the weapons-systems that support them should surely not be excluded from such considerations.
However enthralling the promise of a disarmed and de-militarized humanity may be, it is evident that the prevailing state of affairs hardly seems to be progressing toward the direction purportedly sought by the Iranian government. The amount of money requested by U.S. President Barack Obama for the 2010 U.S. ‘defense’ budget is $527 billion—$40 billion more than that spent by Bush in the last year of his term.2 Indeed, the Obama administration just yesterday released a nuclear-weapons policy that the Guardian has rather misleadingly said to amount to a “radical review”3: whereas Bush’s doctrine allowed for nuclear strikes against societies whose governments possessed chemical or biological weapons, Obama’s policy puts an end to this; under his policy-review, however, the U.S. is not to “use or threaten to use” nuclear arms against “non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”4 A first-strike employing nuclear weapons against Iran, then, is not considered to be “off the table” by the current U.S. administration.
The prospect of the absolute regression that would accompany a war against Iran—what John Pilger recently referred to as the specter of a Third World War5—notwithstanding, it should be said that the development of nuclear-energy sites hardly seems to be a legitimate engagement, whether it take place in Iran, France, the U.S., or wherever else. Whatever the potential advantages of nuclear energy may be (for it must be admitted that there exist quite a few, particularly given the fossil-fuel based energy infrastructures that are precipitating the present climate crisis), there seems not to have to date been any reasonable proposals regarding what is to be done with the waste by-product produced by nuclear fission. Given the very serious risks such materials pose to the future of life on Earth—and in particular, the history of their being dumped on massively impoverished societies, in particular Somalia,6 or in the open ocean—it follows that their development and use should be discontinued as soon as possible. The same analysis goes of course for all technologies that imperil human welfare and survival—be they nuclear weapons, small arms, nuclear reactors, or mass air-transport.
1 “Iran to hold nuclear disarmament conference as new sanctions loom,” The Guardian, 4 April 2010
2 Glenn Greenwald, “The ‘defense cut’ falsehood from the Washington Post and Robert Kagan,” 3 February 2009
3 Ewen MacAskill, “Barack Obama’s radical review on nuclear weapons reverses Bush policies,” The Guardian, 6 April 2010