The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Re-read Matthew Harries on banning the bombby Matthew Harries / October 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Barack Obama was a cautious president, given to the odd audacious speech. In 2009, he stood on a podium in Prague’s Hradcˇany Square and declared America’s commitment to a world free from nuclear weapons. “Human destiny will be what we make of it,” he said.
A presidency later, Russia is using its nuclear arsenal to intimidate its neighbours. China is putting nuclear submarines on patrol. India and Pakistan teeter on the brink of conflict. North Korea has just carried out its fifth and most powerful nuclear test, and it may soon have a long-range nuclear ballistic missile. Now the United States itself is getting ready to spend several hundred billion dollars on modernising its own nuclear weapons. And all this before we even consider the incoming US president Donald Trump—an impulsive man who has tweeted a promise to “greatly strengthen and expand” the US arsenal.
Seen this way Obama’s words in Prague may sound not merely lofty, but delusional, as he leaves behind a world of increasing nuclear danger. Yet our judgement should not be too harsh. Obama managed some real achievements, most notably the deal to hold back Iran’s nuclear programme. But that deal is now in peril from Donald Trump and a new administration full of its critics.
Nuclear weapons draw strong reactions: from hawks who are convinced they can be relied on to keep the peace; from world-weary realists who sigh that there is no point in pretending they can be disinvented; and from…