Sunday, March 07, 2004

A luxury that we cannot afford.

Following the development of the nuclear weapons, the world changed forever. At those times, few people understood the seriousness of this change and how was it going to affect the world’s future. One of the few people who had a very clear understanding for that drastic changes the bomb had imposed, was not a politician nor a military man, he was a scientist and in fact the greatest scientist ever.

Albert Einstein was not a dreamer scientist as the politicians of his times described him; on the contrary he had what was probably the best understanding for the world after the bomb. He saw the ensuing threats and predicted the results and even suggested a solution for them which although impractical at that time -and still so in our time- there seemed no better alternative for it to deal with this serious problem.

He saw that the world after the bomb is nothing like the world before the bomb ( a fact at that time was not as clear as it is now) and that the American administration at that time made 2 grave mistakes:
-They thought that they could keep the ‘secret’ of the bomb confidential and he saw that this was a very wrong assumption and he was right and they were wrong.
-They thought that the bomb was just another weapon, much more destructive and lethal, but still just another weapon, while he saw that the bomb was a real threat to the existence of humanity with no possible comparison to other weapon as that between the cannon and the sword for instance. Again he was right and they were wrong.

Einstein and some of his colleagues tried to explain that to the American administration at that time and proposed that efforts should be made to either get rid of these weapons or forming a really active single universal government that controls these weapons and prevent their spread. Politicians and thinkers laughed at the idea of that great man. Of course it’s not like they didn’t agree on the principle, but the growing communism left them with very limited options.

Today, after more than 5 decades from the time Einstein showed his vision*, his prophecy is clearer than ever. At least 7 countries other than the USA gained access to the (ring), and an unknown number are developing, seeking or trying to buy it. The necessity of controlling the spread of WMDs has become of major importance and this fact- when we put in mind the growing power of terrorism and the mad dictators governing a considerable number of countries- cannot be overemphasized.

Still this critical task, which was delayed due to the cold war and its complications, is far from being easy, and when the US made her 1st step on this road (a step that had other motives beside this) the world went crazy and demanded solid proves that Saddam had those weapons or was at least developing them. Neither I nor anyone can deny the people and governments of the world their right to question such an ‘illegal’ act by the government of the USA.

But the danger is still there and we can’t simply wait until Saddam, Gaddafi or any other mad man develop these weapons, use them or hand them to a terrorist organization. So, let’s assume a neutral stance and try to offer some solutions without criticizing any part.

Should we agree that there is a real danger of the (ring) reaching the wrong hand (and there are so many of those wrong hands and the ring is not that rare anymore), then we should try to see what can be done to prevent it. But before doing that and while we all agree that WMDs are dangerous wherever they are, we can say without exaggerating that some WMDs are relatively less dangerous and others are relatively more dangerous.

Some examples:
Despite the fact that the USA and Russia posses the largest number of nuclear weapon, it seems that there is no real danger of either of these countries using them. The same can be applied to the UK, France and Israel. The only country that I think at least most of us agree that had made us restless about her WMDs seems to be Pakistan, which in turn will affect the safety of the Indian WMDs and probably the Chinese and…who knows.

Another valid question is: who are the countries that we are afraid of their plans to develop WMDs and who can decide which country is more dangerous or is actually developing or trying to buy technology of WMDs?
We cannot convince all the countries possessing those weapons of getting rid of them, nor is the UN or the Security Council capable of monitoring and applying full and endless inspection process upon all other countries.

We can however, be more realistic in our plans and stop sorting actions as evil and good with nothing in between. We should search for the best possible and reliable method of making the world a safer place. How can that be done?

One modest attempt is to define our fears: are we afraid of the possibility of, say, Belgium or Switzerland seeking those weapons? I’ll allow myself to answer on behalf of who I think the majority and say: not really. Are we afraid of the possibility of, say Iran, or Syria, seeking those weapons? Again I’ll allow myself the right to say: yes.
Why is that? And what’s the difference between those 2 groups of countries?
The answer lies in 2 parts:
1/The will and effort made by each country to possess these weapons and the nature of the regime in charge, its aggressiveness and prudence.
2/ The inclination to use these weapons once possessed. This applies also to the countries possessing WMDs.
So, if we can’t destroy the (ring), at least we can make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But one may say-without being far from the truth-that no country can actually think of using those horrible weapons or handing them to a terrorist group, as it would equal suicide. And here where I agree totally: no country would think of such a mad action, but when we talk about Iraq at Saddam’s time or Afghanistan at Taliban’s times, are we really talking about countries? Or are we talking about a mad dictator and a small group of mullahs living in the middle ages? The same question applies to Libya, Syria and Iran; with the same answer I’m afraid.

There’s obviously no real need to monitor Japan or Netherlands’ nuclear reactors, because simply we are talking about countries here. Democratic countries that are interested in economic and technological progress, knowing that they will not use nuclear weapons once they develop them. So why spend billions of dollars on a weapon they are not going to use? It’s simply stupid and meaningless.


Once we define our fears, we can see the path that we should follow. We are afraid of totalitarian regimes. They and only they could seek nuclear weapons regardless of their countries real needs, and they (and only they) maybe stupid enough to use them or at least give them to a terrorist group.

The world took 13 years of negotiations AND political, economic and military pressure with S.H. with no much benefit, while it took less than 1 year in case of south Africa with very little pressure for a similar task to be accomplished. What should that tell us?

We will be fooling ourselves and risking everything by relying on weak organizations such as the UN to negotiate with people who understand no language and listen to no sound but the sound of guns.

Something I’ve learned from chess (from Kasparov’s writings) is that making subsequently the safest move is the shortest way to lose. In order to win or at least achieve a draw, one has to make the best move. Politics, of course is not exactly a game, and politicians are not chess players, we can only wish they were! We all know how European and American politicians kept making the safest moves when they were faced with Hitler’s greed and threats prior to WW2.

Should we get prepared for more wars? Maybe, but not necessarily. If the right message is delivered to both dictators and their citizens, then I think we can avoid more wars. The 1st part of the message was delivered and was effective (take the change in Gaddafi’s attitude following the capture of S.H for e.g.). The 2nd part still needs to be delivered clearly. Once that accomplished, the dictators will find themselves crushed between the pressure from the international community and that of their own citizens, and the change will occur almost automatically or at least it will be much easier and less costly. Then the UN and the Security Council can negotiate with the legitimate governments of these nations and war will be discarded as an option.

I think it’s far from reasonable to make the fate of the whole world rely on the judgment of a single person whoever he is, not to mention men like Arab and Muslim dictators. They may not have WMDs at the moment, but everything tell us that at least most of them dream of this and logic tells us that if they are determined, then it’s only a matter of time before they get it. They have the decision in their hands and the resources of their countries almost fully at their disposal and tyrants always in need for more power and more control. When it comes to dictators and WMDs, we should not stop too long seeking evidence. The slightest doubt should force us to act actively and then it would be the responsibility of the dictator in question to provide solid evidence that he had quit his intentions and that he will no longer present a threat to the world peace. In case of Saddam for e.g. we had more than slight doubts and he failed to provide the required evidences.

It’s amazing how westerns and even some Americans still screaming, even after 9/11 “this is a safe world and this is a safe country, so stop trying to frighten us in order to justify your malicious plans!” It’s good to feel safe, but one has to take safety measures first and these are usually risky, but not as risky as sitting idly waiting for the insane to become prudent and the evil to become good. This is a sad and distressing fact that many people refuse to admit, but the world is not safe, not since that bomb was made, and only after the toppling of the last dictator on earth that we can afford the luxury of feeling safe regarding WMDs, although a lot has to be done afterwards but war will most likely become out of the question. We may not be able to achieve Einstein's dream, but we can at least have a unified attitude when it comes to WMDs and dictators pursuing them.

*From an interview with the famous Egyptian writer Mohamed Hasanen Haikal back in the 50s, which he included in his book ”a new visit to history”
-By Ali.

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