The (Weapons of) Mass Destruction Conundrum

The world is rightly concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Chemical, biological and nuclear materials, properly dispersed, can cause enormous numbers of human casualties in a military dispersal or by a terrorist act.

Yet, vital questions must be considered, in view of the fact that world nations who have these weapons want to exclude other nations from owning them. And perhaps just as importantly, the overall question of mass destruction by “conventional” weapons used in massive quantities seems appropriate for discussion.

First in consideration must be the question: Why should some nations be allowed access to WMD‘s and others not so? Especially is this question relevant in view of the clear historic record of use of these weapons by European nations upon each other (ex. mustard gas in WWI) and use by the United States of America of two nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of WWII. The latter usage of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is particularly disturbing, since much historic reference material exists to demonstrate that the use of those weapons upon civilian populations in Japan was intended for “terrorist” purposes. That is, the whole idea was to frighten or terrorize the Japanese population into surrendering so that Allied soldiers would not have to launch a costly and deadly invasion of the Japanese homeland.

So, while the U.S. currently calls terrorists “cowards” because they will not dare to confront the U.S. military in frontal combat with tanks and helicopters due to fear of mass casualties and defeat in a conventional war, the U.S. used atomic weapons to avoid casualties of its own soldiers in a direct frontal assault which would be required in an invasion of Japan.

America became a terrorist state, but the world has seemingly never attempted to ban the further accumulation of these and more advanced weapons by the U.S. Yet, nations such as Libya and Iraq and others are forbidden from access to the same weapons, even for use in national defense.

Why is the U.S. allowed further access to WMD‘s, whereas other (usually non-European) nations are discouraged, if not forbidden by the world community for accumulating similar weapons?

A follow-up consideration might involve the question: How much of a particular WMD is “too much”. Certainly an ounce of anthrax has far less lethal impact than a ton of the same material. One atomic bomb has far less impact than one multiple-independently-retargeted-vehicle, or satellite with a dozen or more warheads carrying hydrogen (thermonuclear) warheads that can be independently targeted to multiple targets. During the height of the Cold War, both the U.S. and the old Soviet Union had stockpiled enough WMD‘s to kill the entire world’s population many, many times over! And yet these nations were intent to prevent Libya from obtaining a single atomic bomb. A single atomic bomb did not defeat Japan at the end of WWII. A single atomic attack or even multiple atomic attacks would not destroy the United States as a nation, nor would it win a war against the U.S. So, why are some nations allowed to accumulate massive quantities of WMD‘s, while others cannot have even one or two?

But even if all weapons of mass destruction were eliminated from the inventories of all nations of the earth, including the U.S. and European powers, does that mean that mass destruction itself would no longer be a threat? Obviously not! The U.S. is able with relative ease to launch hundreds of jet warplanes, hundreds of helicopters with “Hellfire” missiles, and thousands of tanks and artillery pieces at a single moment when fully organized and operational. Is there something incongruous about limiting weapons of mass destruction among the world’s nations, while placing no limits on the ability of nations to cause massive destruction by use of large numbers of weapons of medium to small destruction?

Somehow, it seems that we must find a way to move away from the paradigm that is clearly established in our modern world, in which “might makes right” and “money equals power”. Thus, the nations with the most economic power automatically have the most military power, and thus the ability to escape accountability to the world at large for their violent actions and occasional total disregard of laws, conventions, treaties, and ethical (moral) behavior.

Surely, the brash, bellicose attitude and actions of the U.S. (Unrivaled Superpower) is a direct result of the ascendancy of America’s economic potential. The desire to maintain this elevated status of power and influence has led the current American administration to take strategic steps to limit rivalry for that power, including control of oil and other strategic resources, as well as weapons, technology, and access to “weapons of mass destruction”.

We know the world is not fair, but we must never give up trying to make it more fair. We know that the world is violent, but we must never give up trying to make it less violent. The weapons of mass destruction conundrum tests our ability to perceive inequities of power in their various forms and formats, and challenges us to seek equitable solutions. The past tells us we must seek a more equitable future, for the ability of nations to wreak immense destruction on one another has never been greater, and increases with time and technology.

The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.