A Skeptic’s Case for Nuclear Disarmament
Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution Press, 2010, 166 pp.
In A Skeptic’s Case for Nuclear Disarmament, the Brookings Institution’s Michael E. O’Hanlon suggests that advocates of “global zero,” the phased, verified elimination of nuclear weapons, may have to lessen their expectations, and he warns against allowing passion to override pragmatic assessments of what is achievable. Although supportive of the global zero movement, he argues that “not only is permanent, irreversible abolition unwise, it is also probably impossible.” O’Hanlon’s counterproposal is a treaty that would require countries to dismantle all nuclear warheads, but allow for rearming if and when necessary. O’Hanlon argues against attempts to define a clear timeline for a disarmament treaty, saying that unforeseen events may require the United States to rearm with nuclear weapons, even if only to serve as a brief deterrent. He suggests “the right time horizon” for the push for global disarmament is after the remaining serious international disputes have been settled. As a result, global zero proponents should ensure that their efforts remain firmly connected to and cognizant of worldwide politics, he says. A Skeptic’s Case is a cautionary reminder to disarmament advocates that there will be serious political and security ramifications from absolute disarmament. Yet, O’Hanlon concludes by saying that nuclear weapons “are horrible instruments of death, not respectable and usable weapons, and we need to seek a world that puts them in their proper place.” —MATT SUGRUE
Cultivating Confidence: Verification, Monitoring, and Enforcement for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
Corey Hinderstein, ed., Nuclear Threat Initiative and The
This collection of essays addresses the key technological, political, and diplomatic issues that must be addressed in order to move toward and get to a world free of nuclear weapons. The book’s nine chapters cover a wide range of topics, including fissile material, dismantlement, tactical nuclear weapons, and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The book is intended to serve as a guide for policymakers; most chapters conclude with “options,” “recommendations,” or “possible approaches.” These approaches involve physical steps and the continued development of normative and legal frameworks. Corey Hinderstein, the book’s editor and the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s vice president for international programs, writes that “the international community already knows how to do much of what we anticipate will be needed” in verifying a nuclear-weapon-free world. She highlights a number of common elements spanning the essays in the collection: that all states have a stake in verification and the movement toward disarmament, that human fallibility can be overcome by constructing verification systems, and that success in verifying disarmament will depend on creative answers to the difficult questions that the task presents. Because of the diversity of topics covered, a concluding chapter drawing together the main ideas of each essay might have made the book even more useful. It makes a valuable contribution to the debate over nuclear disarmament by going beyond the “why” to the more complex and practical specifics of “how.” —DANIEL