Saturday, August 6, 2011

The United States Should Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

On the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, we should take a few moments and reflect on the fact that the continued existence of nuclear weapons on Earth is a grievous sin and an affront to human nature. A few days after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the philosopher Albert Camus said:

Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate state of barbarism. In a
near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of
scientific conquest. This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an
order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason

Camus was correct, and we must heed his insight. The fact that the United States continues to maintain a nuclear arsenal of more than 5,000 nuclear weapons is ridiculous and obscene, especially when less than one-tenth of that would be more than sufficient to deter any enemy. Russia has as many, and many other nations have nuclear arsenals of hundreds of weapons. To avoid an absolute disaster that is otherwise inevitable, the world has no choice but to create strong nuclear controls, the long-term objective being the abolition of nuclear weapons altogether.

An important step in the cause of establishing proper nuclear controls would be for the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the United Nations back in 1996. The United States signed the treaty, but has never ratified it. As a result, it still lacks the force of international law.

The CTBT is very simple: all those nations who are party to the treaty are forbidden to carry out any tests involving nuclear explosions of any kind at any time. Needless to say, the entry of this treaty into force would greatly simplify efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to new states. It would also be a powerful symbolic statement by the nations of the world that humanity might one day achieve the dream of abolishing nuclear weapons altogether.

Advances in computer modeling mean that the United States does not require physical nuclear detonations to ensure the continued viability of its existing nuclear arsenal. The fact that our country has yet to ratify the treaty has been used by other non-ratifying states, including India, as a justification for their continued rejection of the treaty. The United States has not tested a nuclear weapon for nearly two decades, which makes our continued refusal to ratify the treaty all the more inexplicable.

President Obama has been outspoken in his calls for greater nuclear controls and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. But he has yet to make a serious push in the Senate for the ratification of the treaty. This should be done without delay. What is President Obama waiting for?

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