A reminder of responsibility

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

EXACTLY after a decade, the Nobel Peace Prize has found a recepienty campaigning directly against atomic weapons. In1985,it had been awarded to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The crusade of this year's awardees, Joseph Rotblat and the Conference on Science and World Affairs - drily called the Pugwash Conferences after the site of the first one in 1957 - is even older and probably much more influential.

Yet, the belated recognition is not the celebration of any great triumph. Influenced by the blithe testing of nuclear bombs this year by China and France, it is more a stately acknowledgement that opposition to nuclear weaponry continues to be the handiwork of a few heroes of peace.

The award also focusses attention on the fact that research, Posting production and deployment of nuclear weapons continues to be one of the biggest potential threats to international owder and global peace. Substance to this is provided, above by the stupendous stockpile of nuclear weapons already in wenion of the five nuclear-haves. Together, these nuclear mm held 26,700 active nuclear warheads in mid-1993, equal 9,700 million tOnneS Of TNT, roughly 1,600 times rde5tructive force of all the firepower used in World War u. At the turn of the century, future nuclear stocks - keeping in mind planned reductions - are expected to contain AW20,000 warheads. Even the lesser figure mM be sufficient to destroy the entire human race and large sections of the world as we know it several times over.

Proponents of nuclear weapons and Kilear utilisation tactics and strategies uml) always dismiss such dire prognosis as odly unrealistic. Indeed, the presence of such weapons is believed by the former group as the key factor in the non-occurence of global con since 1945.

puations The argument, however, constitutes an absolute and deliberate we underestimation of the threat of nuclear weapons. After r demo e of its erstwhile enemy, the former Soviet Union, r us has justified the retention of nuclear weapons in order police other nations from becoming similar threats. Many dowse threats are expected to materialize from allegedly irresponsible countries of the South. Russia uses similar arguments against the smaller states which succeeded the USSR.

However, the danger of use of nuclear weapons is strong m in the North. After all, it produced the most vicious war mgering government of the century in Nazi Germany; Bosnia shows the latency of war even in the so called devel ed world. None of the nuclear arms reduction agreements we been endorsed by France and the UK. More significantly, the nuclear powers who are participating in the ongoing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) negotiations, have already drawn up plans to continue with nuclear weapons research nonetheless.

This reality promotes a powerful case for support and further strengthening of all Northern anti-nuclear opinion, quarters and movements. It must be recognised that the enlightenment of these dissidents has flickered in phases instead of being a constantly illuminating beacon. The most productive years of the Pugwash Conferences were the late '50s and early '60s, when their anti-nuclear drive attracted participation from even behind the Iron Curtain. By the '70s, they had lapsed into oblivion.

These traditions must be built upon by the participation of much larger numbers of laypersons as well as concerned experts, before a serious challenge can be mounted on the nuclear vagrancy of the North. And as Rotblat and other knowledgeable persons have maintained, not a few of these numbers will have to be scientists. This is imperative because significant sections of the most notable scientific effort in the North is directly linked to the development of nuclear weapons. The sophistication that has followed the crude technological innovation since the Manhattan Project - which directly resulted in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - is the outcome of frontier advances in computers and semiconductors, liquid and solid fuels, advanced radio and inertial navigation technologies, electro-servomechanisms and other areas of scientific research.

The effort is reflected in bare figures as well. According to the us Congressional Budget Committee, that country would have spent us $98 billion Of R&D related to the development of nuclear weapons between 1985-2000. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has estimated similar expenditure to the tune of nearly us $30 billion for France and Britain. Of more immediate concern are figures which show that in 1993, while overall expediture on inilitary-related R&D was nearly us $40 billion in the us, it could find only us $1.4 billion to spend on R&D in the environmental and natural resource sectors.

Many leading lights of the scientific community are inclined to think that this is in the nature of jobs. A pity. one of the most proclaimed sources of inspiration to them, Albert Einstein, often said that concern for humans and their destiny must always be the chief interest of all technical effort. He is also acknowledged as a guru by Rotblat and his compatriots. This year's Nobel is surely a reminder of that humane responsibility.

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