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A troubling lesson from Libya: Don't give up nukes

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After the Soviet Union's demise, the prospect of nuclear disarmament became more hopeful. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and post-apartheid South Africa intellectually challenged the role of nuclear weapons for deterrence. A nescient, reenergized emphasis was placed on international law as the ultimate and legitimate arbiter of state security. Nuclear and nonnuclear states made ambitious but vague pledges to realize the disarmament goal of the NPT. Subsequent Russian and American arms-control agreements and the creation of nuclear-free weapons zones in South America and Africa added to this new cooperative spirit.

Yet creeping beneath the trend toward a "post nuclear" world, were behavioral contradictions initiated by highly industrialized nations. Their actions, perhaps unwittingly, gradually chipped away at the nonproliferation goal.

For various reasons, these nations attacked the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya. That aggression partially, if not fully, materialized by reason of the targets' lack of a nuclear deterrent. At the same time, troublesome nuclear-armed states such as North Korea and Pakistan have not been attacked since they acquired the bomb. They've also garnered multilayered benefits from the international community.

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