When American officials, generals, and politicians are asked about relations with Iran and North Korea, too often they reply threateningly, “No military option is off the table.” That is an implicit threat to use nuclear weapons and a violation of The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
One of the politicians making such a statement is Senator Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for President. In a recent national security speech, he declared “We must never take the military option off the table” in trying to stop the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Does he realize that that includes nuclear weapons? Do his supporters tell him not to threaten?
Terrorism is not confined to nonstate actors but is regularly used by nations. In 1958, Albert Wohlstetter, an influential cold warrior, said that the chief purpose of nuclear weapons is to terrorize. Since the dawn of the nuclear age, all of the nine nuclear powers; The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, have threatened to use nuclear weapons. That must stop. It could lead to nuclear war by accident, inadvertence or error with the most tragic consequences for all humanity. Most immediately, it encourages the spread of nuclear weapons to more nations.
The world needs a “No First Strike” commitment and the elimination of present policy of keeping nuclear weapons on hair trigger alerts ready to be launched within minutes at any perceived threat; real, imagined or mistaken.
To this day, the United States has never established a policy of “No First Strike” or “No First Use”” for nuclear weapons. Of all the nuclear weapons states, only China has publicly stated a “No First Use” policy.
In 1982, the Soviet Union declared a “No First Use” policy, but the successor Russian government retracted the Soviet declaration a decade later. When the Non-Proliferation Treaty was being negotiated in the 1960’s, non-nuclear states sought guarantees that renunciation of nuclear arms would not place them at a permanent military disadvantage or make them vulnerable to nuclear intimidation. This was an important consideration because nuclear intimidation encourages the intimidated to develop their own nukes and not sign the treaty.
While the Reagan administration itself developed nuclear weapons and threatened their use, the President himself said on April 17, 1982 that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” He was right in his rhetoric but wrong in his policies-just as our own nation is today. It is time to match the pious words with pious actions, and take the nuclear option off the table.