The world loves a rogue

Children of war: the real casualties are the poor and the marginalised

Published: Monday 15 April 2002

World opinion has been like a pendulum where us president George W Bush is concerned. If last week Bush was a rogue because of his extremely crazy nuclear policy, this week he is seen as a good guy after he promised at the just ended Monterrey conference on Financing for Sustainable Development to give a token contribution. This when his nuclear deterrent plan, contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, promises to spin the world out of control.

This scheme is part of a new Pentagon planning paper that became public last month. The paper, the Nuclear Posture Review, proposes lowering the overall number of nuclear warheads, but it widens the circumstances thought to justify a possible nuclear response and expands the list of countries considered potential nuclear targets.

Which such a policy, non-nuclear countries may conclude that they have no motive to stay non-nuclear. In fact, they may well decide that they need nuclear weapons to avoid a nuclear attack. Moreover, the addition of new weapons to America's nuclear arsenal, which is also what the review proposes, sends wrong signals to countries like North Korea and Iran, which have so far been restrained -- at least publicly -- in their nuclear weapons programmes. Amazingly, even Europe, whose policy has been stridently anti-nuclear, is suddenly appeasing the us by maintaining a quiet front.

War is not the answer our world needs today. Nuclear weapons are not just another part of the military arsenal. They are different, and lowering the threshold for their use is reckless folly. The term 'war' carries great potential for political, economic and military mobilisation, which the us has used to full effect, but it also has great responsibilities. These cannot be evaded, despite us avowals that this is a "new kind of war".

In this context, the build-up towards the September meet, World Summit on Sustainable Development (wssd), is faced with a big question mark. A follow-up to the Rio Earth Summit, wssd is all about cooperation to live together, learning to share resources and development to fight injustice. Then, how does this nuclear weapon pile-up and war mongering justify this effort?

If the strategy is to look at the events of September 11 and seek answers in heightened global terrorism and more armed intervention, instead of renewed efforts at global cooperation and development then what is the new world we are looking towards? A chimera?

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