8 Août 2017
VOX POPULI: Nuclear weapons ban treaty, not deterrence, may be our best hope
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
What should you do if you come under a nuclear attack?
Duck and hide under a desk and cover the back of your head with your hands. That was what children at schools in the United States were instructed to do during atomic air raid drills in the 1950s.
It was the Cold War era, and it was deemed vital to prepare citizens for a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.
Comic books distributed to schools for the “Duck and Cover” campaign offered the following advice. “Outdoors, duck behind walls and trees. Even in a hollow in the ground.”
This episode is included in Allan Winkler’s “Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom.”
More than a half century on, there are still many stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world even though the Cold War ended years ago.
We have so far been saved from a nuclear war. Is it because of nuclear deterrence--fear of nuclear retaliation deterring the use of nuclear weapons?
It may not have been the case. We may have only been lucky.
This view seems to be supported by an intriguing interview with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf published on July 27 by The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. In the interview, Musharraf said he seriously considered the use of nuclear weapons against India in 2002.
At that time, tensions were surging between the two nuclear powers following the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament.
Musharraf said he spent many sleepless nights, asking himself whether and how he would or could use nuclear weapons if something happened to demand such action. He was facing a possibility of having to take action that could cause millions of deaths.
If this is what is called deterrence, it is apparently built on a dangerously precarious basis.
Deterrence is a strategy premised on the assumption that both sides think in a cool-headed and rational manner.
But a leader who is usually a calm, unruffled person could lose his or her senses during a crisis.
There are also leaders whose ability to make rational decisions is already in serious doubt.
The reality is that depending on deterrence for averting a nuclear war is too dangerous.
Seventy-two years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons that was formally adopted on July 7 at a United Nations conference offers new hope.
The treaty reflects a strong determination to make sure that there will never be another victim of a nuclear attack.
It could and should be promoted as an answer to the threat of nuclear arms that is far superior to deterrence.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 6