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People and Politics Forum 17. 04. 2009

"Is a world without nuclear weapons possible?"

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More Information:

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons? -- Why Obama's Proposal is So Popular in Germany

Something unheard of happened in Germany at this year's traditional Easter peace marches: participants took up the slogan of an American president. Just as Barack Obama did this month in Prague, they called for "a world without nuclear weapons." Obama's initiative has been well-received in Germany. Politicians of all political stripes support his vision -- Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, the leader of the Liberal Free Democrat, FDP, Guido Westerwelle and of course the Left Party. The only exception is the Christian Democrats. They want the few American missiles still stored in the Eifel region to remain there as a nuclear deterrent.

Our Question is:

"Is a world without nuclear weapons possible?"

Rolf Bockmühl from the Philippines believes prevailing attitudes are simply too entrenched:

" ... I think not. What would all the old soldiers and politicians do without such weapons? Would they want to fight against one another themselves when they don’t trust one another? No, that’s something this circle has left for the younger, action-hungry set. So, in addition to nuclear weapons, other "messes" will keep on being developed in order to keep the potential to strike – and furthermore, to be able to ensure altogether trusting people that they’ll have security from their enemies ... It’s the same for people of all stripes, religions or attitudes. Military generals will quickly convince politicians to produce more weapons. Perhaps reason will prevail after someone, somewhere fires a nuclear warhead. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee a day without atomic weapons in this century, at least. And I won’t live to see a world without nuclear weapons. Maybe our grandchildren will. But hope dies last."

Herbert Fuchs of Finland says both peace and a world without nuclear weapons are a million miles away:

"Many people believed after the horrible, murderous, awful second World War that there wouldn’t be any more wars. People firmly believed that we had learned something from it. With the establishment of the German armed forces in the 1950s, many people were of the opinion that it was just the "Same old people with new weapons!" ... "We don’t need a military anymore," etc. "It’s all a waste!" Yes, and I’m of the conviction that in the near future it’s hardly likely that the world will manage to rid itself of nuclear weapons. As the great, noble, wise, worldly journalist Peter Scholl-Latour once said, "I no longer believe that man is good!" And that’s why the possession of nuclear weapons is the smaller evil in the world. Because it’s a utopian conception that it would someday be possible for people to live in peace with one another ... As long as the divisions between rich and poor persist, peace on earth is a million light years away. That’s no Fata Morgana."

Gerhard Seeger of the Philippines is skeptical:

"That would be nice but, figuratively speaking, the genie is already out of the bottle: The knowledge to build a bomb is already there, and construction of one can resume at any time. Even students know enough now to build one in a basement lab. So terrorists are able to do likewise. And there are plenty of people with access to the necessary funds who are unscrupulous enough to provide the materials needed. Some nations don’t like the idea of removing these ‘ultimate weapons’ from their arsenals. In Germany, the CDU is not keen on pressuring the Americans to do so. Obama will encounter insurmountable resistance to his efforts at home, which is why he has set timeline goals far out into the future: ‘Not in his lifetime.’ And don’t we already have a treaty against biological and chemical weapons? Some countries, including the USA have continued to secretly develop them. Atomic bombs could be secretly stored, too."

Erwin Scholz responds from Costa Rica with a poetic call to turn swords to plough shares:

"Hatchets and sword fights, hand-to-hand,

once filled small graves across the land,

The use instead of atom bombs,

amass the dead in Hecatombs.

Return the battle ax to war?

-beheading’s something to adore.

But better still, war’s suffering cease,

to take in hand the tools of peace."

Germany’s Hannelore Krause separates lofty goal from reality:

"It would be wonderful if it could only happen. Imagine a world without nuclear weapons in which everyone on Earth could live in peace and security with no hunger or fear. But even in such a world, conventional wars cannot be entirely ruled out. And nuclear weapons are already a fact of life on this planet. Whether or not those who possess them would be willing to give them up is still a question that nobody can answer, largely due to the fact that the primary parties involved do not trust one another. On top of that, it is impossible to assess whether other heretofore unknown parties have obtained the bomb. That’s why I do not give the American President much chance of achieving the nuclear-weapons-free world he is aiming for. It just sounds too good to be true."

Lee Davis from the USA is optimistic:

"We can live without these weapons, and we must. We live in a different world, now that the Cold War is over. Humans need each other more now. People will work together because we need each other, not because of threats."

Mazhar el Shorbagi from Switzerland calls for public support for such initiatives, and trust:

"Yes, it’s possible. At any rate, America and Russia and Britain are telling one another again and again that they want nothing more than to reach an agreement to end the testing of atomic weapons. At the same time, however, they declare that they cannot stop the tests as long as there is no such agreement. Why do they not come to an agreement? The real reason is that in their own countries there is no public opinion asking for it. Nor is there any such public opinion in other countries with the exception of Japan. (...) An agreement of this kind presupposes reliability and trust. There must be guarantees preventing the agreement from being signed by anyone intending to win important tactical advantages foreseen only by him. Public opinion in all nations concerned must inspire and accept the agreement, (...) then the statesmen may reach an agreement to stop the experiments. (...)"

Vietnam’s Nguyen van Hoe points to the absence of a key necessary ingredient:

"A world without nuclear weapons is impossible under the present conditions in the times we live. Obama’s idea will remain a utopian dream because the basic prerequisites are missing, especially the kind of mutual trust that in as good as non-existent across in politics today."

For René Junghans of Brazil, the question is a matter of human survival:

"A world without nuclear weapons isn’t just possible, it’s absolutely necessary! Only this can secure the long-term survival of mankind. There should be no wars, anyhow. Human intelligence should be tasked with finding a way to live in peace with one another, eradicate poverty and improve education and care for the sick, etc. Yet, even as wars continue to be carried out by "purely" conventional means, there is still a shimmer of hope on the horizon that mankind won’t be completely exterminated. It must, however, be possible to solve discord through dialogue. Why do we always resort to weapons? All people are equal – there’s no such thing as a second class people, the constant target of bloodthirsty tyrants driven by pure ignorance. Why has no one yet thought to stand up to the powerful weapons industry, abolish the military and instead spread peace and to use the billions in handouts for military operations for more beneficial aims?"

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