Beyond our nuclear march of folly

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The planet and its national and international institutions are far from ready to face the realities we face. Instead, we live in a fantasy la la land, or what Greta Thunberg would call blah blah land. No one is more deluded than Vladimir Putin, who has unleashed a horrific and needless war in which he could unilaterally choose to use nuclear weapons at any time, based on resentment and an obsolete nostalgia for empire.

Real men and women who come into contact with reality do not kill children. Part of this reality is growing tendencies toward autocratic rule. Dictators, some of whom possess nuclear weapons, try to distract their citizens from the loss of freedom by putting enemies on the outside. We rely on a nuclear deterrent-based security system that can collapse at any time, intentionally or unintentionally.

And we face a multitude of challenges, such as the global climate catastrophe, which can only be solved through a new level of transnational cooperation. Wars between nations are not only supremely irrelevant to these realities, but also tragic setbacks to forward movement. India is experiencing killer heatwaves that give us a sense of what’s to come if we don’t pull ourselves together. In Siberia, the frozen tundra is thawing and releasing large amounts of methane. Certainly that would be a more relevant focus for Mr. Putin’s attention.

Even if wars drag on in Ukraine, or Yemen, or South Sudan, and too many other places, we can either take the fatalistic route and say thank God we have nuclear weapons to stop dictators from doing even worse things, even if we continue to rely on weapons, unless we change—or we can think of deterrence as a bridge to new thinking leading to transcending the nuclear age—almost inevitably it will take us somewhere in the timestream .

The nine nuclear states spend trillions on weapons based on the illusory premise that only if “we” have them will they never be used. But we refuse to spend a tiny fraction of that amount on a permanent conference of senior officials who can discuss the insanity of the current system and collectively consider how to overcome it.

How much does the deterrent system itself increase tensions between nuclear superpowers? Can national leaders be persuaded to see how much it is in their interests to forge treaties that initiate a verifiable nuclear arms reduction cycle? The conference should include those countries that do not have nuclear weapons but would like to have them, as well as those countries that already agree that nuclear weapons are worse than not having them. As a step, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is waiting for the first signatory among the nine nuclear powers.

A Roman general once said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” If we want peace in the nuclear age, we have no choice but to pre-emptively prepare for peace. This requires building agreement on fundamental principles in different political systems.

So far, the global Internet has been something of a double-edged sword. While spreading hate and misinformation, it can also help build a shared vision grounded in truth. There is tremendous potential in the networks connecting across the world, neurons connecting a kind of global brain that can share scientific knowledge and creative solutions applicable in many places. This sharing may one day become even more powerful than national governments, because it will reinforce all that people have in common and transcend the hyped enemy stereotypes that are the commodity of authoritarian nationalism. The truth will always manage to sneak past their filters at some point.

A few big truths remain a good starting point for building an agreement: We have much more in common than what separates us. We share a single planet and life support system, a common evolutionary history, a collective desire to leave our children a better life than ours, and an interdependent future where our survival depends on one another.

We see this interdependence of survival most clearly in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But even if these are not built, the interdependence between people and between people and the biosphere will remain our inescapable condition – a reality on which we can build a more workable international security regime.

Crossposted by PeaceVoice.

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