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Five Cold Warriors who’d like to ban nuclear weapons.
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Second, absolutely confident verification of a clandestine stockpile of warheads and missiles is simply impossible at present, and likely will remain so for a long time. We failed to find a dozen jet planes Saddam hid in the sand, until after his overthrow. Concealing cruise missiles with nuclear warheads would be, by comparison, child’s play.
Finally, there is no justification for confidence in the UN’s ability to stop any determined nuclear aspirant. The worst nations will simply ignore entreaties and evade inspections. What can work — the only thing that can — is positive regime change. The Soviet Union evaded arms treaty obligations for years, and concealed the full size of its massive strategic buildup; only with the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev late in the Cold War did things change for the better. Until similar change comes to Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, expect abolition to remain what Schlesinger obliquely hinted it is: a hallucination masquerading as a vision.
It was precisely this opportunity — positive regime change — that President Obama spurned in June 2009 when the Iranian opposition formed in fury at the stolen election that returned Islamist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Iranian presidency. Instead of siding with the demonstrators and uniting a coalition to put maximum pressure on the mullahs Obama stood aside; he contented himself with feeble verbal sallies. He pursued arms talks with a leadership that had never honored an agreement made, and clearly was determined to pursue its nuclear ambitions. And he allowed Russia and China to water down several rounds of sanctions. Only in the past two months have sanctions against Iranian oil and financial interests become strong enough to bite.
Which brings us to the emerging showdown in the Persian Gulf, as Iran defiantly marches forward, Israel prepares to strike if, as is likely, sanctions fail, and America and Europe prepare for the convulsions likely to follow, which could include multiple wars in the Mideast and global economic disaster.
Nuclear zero creates another danger: that public desire for abolition trumps practical obstacles to verification and pushes Western nations to disarm first. Were a nuke to detonate anywhere on the planet, momentum for unilateral disarmament could snowball. Nuclear zero advocates fan such emotional flames.
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