The terrifying incident in Hawaii proves that nuclear disarmament is as important as ever.
We have been taught that these weapons are not meant to be used. We are taught that they protect us from conflict, war, and further nuclear proliferation. This lethal myth is based on the premise that in order to maintain international peace and security, we need certain countries to wield the capacity to slaughter civilians, incinerate cities, and destroy the entire planet. We believe that nuclear war will never happen, that nuclear weapons prevent it.
But many of us—including the majority of the world’s governments—understand that the only way to prevent nuclear war is to eliminate nuclear weapons. The alert in Hawaii could have prompted a nuclear war. So could a tweet from a president with a bruised ego. And so could any number of things. As then–UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in 2013, “There are no right hands for wrong weapons.”
It is in this spirit that 122 governments voted to adopt a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons on July 7, 2017. While the nuclear-armed states currently oppose it, this treaty offers an alternative to nuclear war.
It prohibits the use, threat of use, and possession of nuclear weapons, and sets out a process by which states with such weapons can join and eliminate their arsenals. Significantly, it recognizes that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to international humanitarian law. It puts nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as the other weapons of mass destruction (biological and chemical). The treaty makes no attempt to justify the possession or use of these weapons and makes no arguments in favor of deterrence doctrines. Nuclear weapons have been granted an exception for far too long. The 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was supposed to lead to disarmament: The nuclear-armed states agreed to eliminate their arsenals in exchange for the rest of the world agreeing never to develop them. But while proliferation has been limited, the nuclear-armed have failed to deliver on their disarmament commitments. Some have reduced the size of their arsenals only to invest billions of dollars into modernizing them. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons takes a new approach: outlawing these weapons for everyone, under all circumstances.
Disarmament will not be easy. But what is more of a hassle: engaging in the work of eliminating nuclear weapons, or losing entire cities, continents, the planet?
Read more at We Need a Complete Nuclear-Weapons Ban