Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

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Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

Rutgers University Press (296 pages)
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Apocalypse Never is a masterful combination of fact-filled cogent argumentation on the urgent need for and the available means to get a world free of nuclear weapons with a passionate presentation of the reality that the fate of humanity requires that this absolutely essential task be undertaken now. Daley’s great writing style filled with memorable quotations makes for captivating reading about this serious subject.

Daley succinctly summarizes the whole book in the sixth paragraph:  “Apocalpse Never reveals why we must abolish nuclear weapons, how we can, and what the world will look like after we do.  I insist that if humanity hangs on to nuclear weapons indefinitely, some kind of nuclear catastrophe will ensue almost certainly. I illuminate the towering hypocrisy behind the nuclear double standard (according to which our nation possesses thousands of nuclear weapons but insists that others cannot aspire even to one) and contend that such a standard is not only morally indefensible, but also politically unsustainable.  I confront humanity’s fundamental long-term choice, bleak but inescapable:  zero nuclear weapon states and zero nuclear weapons, or dozens of nuclear weapons states, thousands more nuclear weapons, and nuclear cataclysm only a matter of time.”

In subsequent paragraphs Daley adds several other specific points he defends—that the present nuclear powers have already “absolutely committed themselves” to getting rid of all their nuclear weapons when they negotiated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), that for all the nuclear weapons states including the USA “nuclear weapons are militarily both unnecessary and useless,” that it is a mistake to believe that if nuclear weapons were eliminated some nation might secretly develop nuclear weapons and hold other nations “hostage,” and that we need to realize “that nuclear weapons abolition can indeed come to pass.”

It is not only the argumetation dedicated to the overall points that is impressive but also the massive amount of detailed documentation of specific events and references to the  relevant literature on every topic. This informative and logically persuasive account goes from the U.S. development and first use of nuclear weapons (pp. 5-7) to the spread of nuclear weapons to several other nations (pp. 17-37) to the more recent threat of the use of nuclear weapons by terrorists (pp. 38-64) to the dangers of an accidental attack using nukes (pp. 66-95) to the possibility that some nation might coolly decide that launching a nuclear attack makes good sense (pp. 96-110) to the development of the promising but partially unfulfilled Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968 (pp. 111-24) to the fact that  overwhelming U.S. conventional military superiority makes nuclear weapons militarily unnecessary for the United States (pp. 125-54) to the specifics of how to get a nuclear-free world (pp. 155-88) to the argument that there is in fact no danger that in a nuclear-free world some nation would acquire nuclear weapons and use them to impose its will on all the other nations (pp. 189-202) to the way that a nuclear-free world could come about (pp. 203-27) to the plea for a transition from national patriotism to allegiance to humanity (pp. 228-39).  Although this book is full of details and careful argumentation, it is anything but dull reading.

To fully comprehend the force of Daley’s over-all argument, one must distinguish two separate parts of it.  The argument that nuclear weapons are of no use to the United States because of its conventional military superiority applies only to the United States.  Daley makes it clear over and over again (pp. 126, 138, 144-45, 147) that for smaller and weaker states even a few nuclear weapons make a lot of sense as a way of deterring military attacks, nuclear or nonnuclear.  That is exactly the reason that an important ingredient in persuading these countries to not try to develop nuclear weapons is to create a trustworthy global system with reliable inspection which can eliminate all nuclear weapons, a system which necessarily will need to be able to also inspect within the United States (and other nuclear powers).  The United States and these other powerful countries must be ready to give up that little bit of their national sovereignty in order to get rid of all nuclear weapons (pp. 156, 187) and save them and all of humanity from eventual nuclear disaster (p. 223).  Past experience has shown us that international inspection can uncover the production of nuclear weapons without eliminating the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and materials (pp. 164-176).

Daley recognizes that eliminating all nuclear weapons will also require persuading the smaller and weaker states that they won’t be taken advantage of because of their lesser conventional military power once they no longer have nuclear weapons.  One initiative  to be used to try to persuade them would be adopting “foreign and defense policies that assure weaker states that stronger states do not intend to attack them” (p. 126)  That may be a bit difficult to do.  Among other things it would require a much less belligerent foreign policy on the part of the United States (pp. 152-53).

Daley has a message for his fellow world federalists who may be upset that he doesn’t devote more attention to that idea.  “Humanity may not ultimately solve the problem of war with anything less than a true world government.  Yet before that day dawns, states might conclude that, as regards the nuclear question, it is in their interest to cede some of their freedom, and allow the kinds of limited intrusion on sovereignty that this book advocates” (p. 186).

One aspect of Daley’s book which is bound to impress even those who know a great deal about the subject of nuclear weapons is the amount of detailed information provided not only in terms of facts and figures but also in terms of little-known relevant incidents.  Another aspect of the book worth mention is the character of the ”Acknowledgements” at the end.  It wonderfully displays the personality of the author just as do the many personal incidents and observations that enhance the rest of the book.