Nuclear Zero: Let’s Think out of the Box

Many thanks to President Obama and the 50+ world leaders who came to Washington for the international nuclear summit on how to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. Efforts to accomplish that goal are certainly to be lauded.

Nevertheless, I wish that all our world leaders could do more "out-of-the-box" thinking. Why do these nuclear weapons and materials even exist? I think that it is rather evident that like all the weapons of war, they have been created by national governments in order to dominate other national governments or to protect their own nation against possible attacks by other nations.

Why is the situation so different within our country? Why don't some states have to have nuclear weapons to protect themselves against a possible attack from another state? When we put the issue this way, it becomes evident that the problem is not really nuclear weapons or cruise missiles or drones or cyber warfare or any other kind of weapons. Rather, it is the need of national governments to be ready to use military actions and war because of the absence of another, better way of resolving international conflicts.

Let's think out of the box. If we look at what is happening within our own country, we can see that there are many intense conflicts based on ideological views or religious views or racial differences or economic advantages and disadvantages. We are soon going to have an election, and who gets elected (not only for President but for many other political positions) will make a great deal of difference. In our democracy, these elections along with the courts provide a nonviolent alternative to war and weaponry. We also enjoy the democratic advantage that the winners in elections are in policy-making positions of power for only a limited period of time.

At the core of warfare is the notion of unlimited national sovereignty, of wanting to be a national community that can do as it wishes with no concern for the broader global community. At one time in this country we had the Articles of Confederation, where each of the 13 newly independent former colonies had unlimited state sovereignty with its own legislature, its own army, its own currency, its own local loyalty, and so on. In the short period after the Revolutionary War and before the adoption of the federal U.S. Constitution, these colonies had economic and military battles against each other. There was no higher authority to resolve conflicts, just as in our ultimately lawless world today.

Fortunately for us, men such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and other "Federalists," led us from that unstable confederation of the 13 colonies to the United States of America, a new system of federation where each state would retain some sovereignty, but it would be limited by the sovereignty of the larger national community. Unfortunately, it took the Civil War to determine that the Union would remain a federation rather than retreat to a confederation again.

If we want to get rid of nuclear weapons and war, we should think out of the box. Let us do at the global level what our Founding Fathers did for our country. Carl van Doren wrote in The Great Rehearsal, "In 1787 the problem was how the people could learn to think nationally, not locally, about the United States."  Now the problem is how the people of various nations can learn to think globally, not nationalistically, about the long-term welfare of all the inhabitants of planet Earth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

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