Book reviews - Disarmament and Arms Control.

Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World
(Piscataway,NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010, 297pp.)

With the start on 3 May 2010 of the month-long Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations in New York, this book by Tad Daley deals in a clear and lively way with the abolition of all nuclear weapons and the role that the NPT may play. As Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN has recently said "Everyone recognizes the catastrophic danger of nuclear weapons. Just as clearly, we know the threat will last as long as these weapons exist. The Earth's very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament. And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation…Momentum is building around the world. Governments and civil society groups, often at odds, have begun working in the common cause. All this work reflects the priorities of our member states, shaped in turn by public opinion. Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world's people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now."

Basically, Daley asks "What will it take, now, to build another successful antinuclear movement? This time not for an end to nuclear testing, nor for a nuclear freeze, nor for preventing the development of some particular new nuclear weapon. What will it take, now, to mobilize a civil society political force that will move political leaders to eradicate nuclear weapons from the face of the earth forever?"

He goes on to propose nuclear weapon abolition as a concrete, attainable, real world political goal. He writes that "a campaign focused exclusively upon the abolition could capture the public imagination as nothing else in the nuclear realm ever has. While most citizens supported treaties such as SALT, START, and INF, none generated a great deal of public interest or enthusiasm. Likewise, calling today for 'securing nuclear weapons and materials' or 'nuclear stability' or 'reducing the numbers of nuclear warheads' would not likely excite many ordinary people. In contrast, the two great, successful antinuclear movements were each about a big straightforward, simple idea: 'ban all nuclear tests forever' in the 1950s and 1960s, and 'stop building ever more nuclear weapons' in the 1980s. 'Political power' says author Kim Ktanley Robinson, 'comes out of the look in people's eyes.'"

The first step is a clear analysis of the current shape of the nuclear-weapon world. Here Daley's title is misleading; it should have been 'Apocalypse - hopefully coming soon!'
Apocalypse means 'revelation' in the sense of 'seeing what is' or 'seeing clearly'. The term was widely used in Hellenistic Gnostic circles for a century before and for at least a century after the life of Jesus, also drawing on Persian religious concepts and pictorial presentations. The Jewish mystics, especially of the Hasmonean dynasty (160-60 B.C.) borrowed and extended the range of symbols. It must be recalled that the authors of these books never deal with the remote future: they are concerned with contemporary conditions and what lies almost immediately ahead. The term 'apocalypse' was used by many in different ways, including by John of Patnos, author of the last book added to the New Testament.

John of Patnos, writing around the year 100 of the Common Era was trying to make sense of a world after the Temple of Jerusalem had been destroyed. He tried to set out 'What it is to be a Jew without a Temple' and at the same time to answer what it is to be a Jew who believes that Jesus was the agent of God to bring justice and who has not returned as some followers thought he might.

Likewise, our task today is to start with the 'revelation' of the nature of the post Cold War world. Too much thinking today is still colored by the analysis of the Cold War years and the concepts of mutual deterrence which is provided by nuclear weapons. 'Revelations' do not come easily and given the quality of much strategic analysis today, one could nearly agree with the title 'Apocalypse Never'. But as Mikhail Gorbachev's 'New Thinking' was really new for the Soviet world, so we can hope that a new way of seeing 'things as they are' will dawn in much of the world.

The second step to be taken is to find the framework for nuclear-weapon-abolition negotiations. As Ban Ki-moon underlined "The United Nations is the world's sole universally accepted arena for debate and concord, among nations as well as broader society. It serves not only as a repository of treaties but also of information documenting their implementation. It is a source of independent expertise, coordinating closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

While the UN General Assembly is as close to a world parliament as we have at present, and the General Assembly adopts far-reaching disarmament resolutions each year, the General Assembly is not a body for long and difficult negotiations such as would be needed for a program of the elimination of nuclear weapons. The UN created in 1978 the Conference of Disarmament which meets in Geneva, building on several earlier disarmament bodies. The Conference on Disarmament was intended to serve as the sole international forum for multilateral negotiations on arms control and disarmament. However, its rules of procedure are complicated and the Conference's work can be easily blocked by a small number of States working together.

One possibility for a fresh negotiating body would be to use article VIII of the NPT. The NPT in its Preamble and Article VI hold out the promise of a disarmed world under effective international control. As Conn Halliman points out "Any successful movement to abolish nuclear weapons will not only have to see that Article VI of the NPT is carried out, it will also have to address the treaty's preamble which states 'in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force'… As long as the great powers maintain the ability to invade countries, overthrow regimes, and bomb nations into subservience, weaker countries will inevitably try to offset those advantages. The quickest and cheapest way to do that is to develop nuclear weapons."

Daley recalls the provisions of NPT Article VIII: "Any Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty…if requested to do so by one-third or more of the Parties to the Treaty, the Depositary Governments shall convene a conference to consider such an amendment…Any amendment to this Treaty must be approved by a majority of the votes of all the Parties to the Treaty, including the votes of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty." Thus, although the five nuclear-weapon States of the NPT can veto any amendment to the Treaty, they cannot veto the convening of a conference to consider such amendments. There are four nuclear-weapon States outside the NPT: India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan. They could participate as observers in such an amendment conference as they can in the Review Conferences but do not. If there is a will to abolish nuclear weapons, an adequate negotiating forum can be modified or developed.

The abolishment of nuclear weapons is part of a larger process of general, conventional disarmament, of a world security system and of improved conflict resolution mechanisms. However, nuclear-weapon abolition is a key aspect, and Daley's book is a most useful guide as one follows actively the NPT Review.

Rene Wadlow