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A modest proposal on WMDs

October 24th, 2003

Things are not going very well as far as the proliferation of nuclear weapons (the only real weapons of mass destruction) are concerned. They are also not going brilliantly for Tony Blair, whose professed concern on this subject with respect to Iraq now looks pretty bogus.

I offer a proposal that might make a contribution in both directions. The United Kingdom should unilaterally abandon nuclear weapons. This would make little practical difference since Britain’s weapons are effectively under American control. But symbolic actions are important.

During the Cold War, the symbolism of unilateral disarmament was problematic, to say the least, since Britain had a major potential adversary that was bristling with nuclear weapons and had plenty of them targeted at British cities. Disarmament was seen as a sign of weakness in the face of this threat.

In the current situation, however, Britain has no nuclear-armed enemies and no reason for keeping them, except national pride and a feeling that they might come in handy some day. Since these are precisely the motives that are driving India, Pakistan, Iran etc, a British decision to disarm could have a big psychological impact in discouraging proliferation.

Of course, as the title of this post indicates, I’m dreaming. But perhaps someone could explain why this proposal doesn’t make sense.

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