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First-Use Folly.

For fifty years, this magazine has opposed the nuclear arms race. But that race goes on, as does Washington's willingness to use nuclear weapons--and to use them first.

This has been central U.S. and NATO doctrine since the dawn of the Cold War: If the Soviet Union had sent ground troops into West Germany, NATO commanders would have been authorized to rain down the nukes. It was an immoral policy from the start, since it threatened a nuclear world war. But now, almost ten years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, whatever justification--no matter how immoral--for that policy is now obsolete.

Germany understands this. The new coalition government of Greens and Social Democrats suggested in November that NATO should rescind its first-use doctrine. The German dissent, according to The Washington Post, "shocked and angered the Clinton Administration," and German officials, under heavy pressure from Washington, began to backtrack.

The U.S. government has dreamed up new purposes for nuclear weapons now that they are no longer needed to deter the Soviet Union. The current favorite is to threaten to use them against any country that might deploy chemical or biological weapons. But the United States has plenty of might at its disposal without leaping the firewall and hurling nuclear weapons at much weaker nations.

By upholding the first-use doctrine, the United States makes the world a more dangerous place. It increases the possibility of an accidental launch of the world's most horrendous weapons. It gives nonnuclear countries and near-nuclear countries a strong incentive to join the club. And, above all, it further antagonizes the nationalists in Russia. They know that the NATO doctrine was originally aimed at Moscow, and they may fear that Moscow may yet be in the cross hairs. With the instability that is roiling Russia right now, the United States should be doing whatever it can to make sure that a new Cold War does not erupt--or worse, a nuclear conflict.

That is the real threat to our security. Brandishing the nuclear sword at this delicate moment can only exacerbate that threat.

To make the world a safer place, the United States must renounce the use of nuclear weapons. As Albert Einstein wrote on January 22, 1947: "The basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms. For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world."
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:The Progressive
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:417
Previous Article:The Psyche of Empire.
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