Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rules To Prevent Proliferation of Nuclear Arms Must Apply to All Nations

Every now and then in the life of a nation and in our collective life as a community of nations, we must stop to ask ourselves the following question:  Do our laws, institutions and policies serve our best interests and promote the well-being and happiness of our people?  It is important to ask this question because our laws, institutions and policies are there to serve us.  We must not unwittingly sacrifice our collective well-being and happiness for the sake of our attachment to their preservation. 
An example that comes to mind relates to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, also known as the 'NPT.'   This Treaty was designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms while encouraging the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  And yet, as leaders of thought and experts in the field attest, it is a fragile system that is falling apart at the seams: Nations are ignoring their commitments under the NPT or withdrawing completely from it.  New dangers, such as the international terrorist networks and easy dissemination of military technology are compounding the problem.   It is clear therefore that this Treaty and the system of which it is a part must be either fixed or replaced if we are to keep our world safe from the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons.  

No matter how we go about strengthening the nuclear proliferation system and the quest for a viable, effective and efficient system that can keep us safe from the scourge of nuclear weapons, we must apply two key principles:  The first is that all nations must be treated as one, in other words even-handedly and fairly, without favor or discrimination.  This means that all international rules relating to the safety and security of the world as a whole must apply to all nations across the board without exception and must be equally enforced.  The second principle is that the advantage of the part can only be truly guaranteed by assuring the advantage of the whole.  

Applying these two principles it becomes clear that the time has come to make all rules and treaties for the prevention of nuclear proliferation apply mandatorily to all nations.  We can no longer afford to have an arms control system in which participation by states is voluntary as there is too much at stake.  It seems ludicrous for instance that a treaty intended to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms would make the participation of nations known to have nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan, India and Israel, optional.  Having such a voluntary system simply invites states to consider their short-term self-interest at the expense of the long-term security of the international community as a whole: while it serves their interests, they join the NPT and benefit from it - for example by gaining access to civilian nuclear technology - while possibly developing the ability to make nuclear weapons in secret.  Then, when it no longer serves their interests to be subject to the NPT rules and restrictions, they withdraw from the Treaty by giving a mere 30 days' notice to the other NPT parties and to the Security Council   

The same is true with respect to the safeguards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is tasked with monitoring compliance with the NPT.  It makes no sense that 30 members of the NPT should not be subject to any monitoring safeguards.  Again applying the principles articulated above, the program of safeguards established by the IAEA should mandatorily apply to all nations without exception.

In addition, it is time to abolish the right of nations to withdraw from treaties such as the NPT that are so fundamental to maintaining the safety and security of our world.  It is preposterous
that a member of the NPT should be allowed to withdraw with only 30 days' notice for reasons that are blatantly self-serving, including jeopardy to its supreme interest, and without suffering any consequences.  Such a rule serves only as an invitation to expedient behavior.  

It is time that the laws and institutions we craft to ensure the safety and security of our world are firmly grounded in principle rather than driven by expediency.