Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Hoya — Viewpoint

By John Sudol

“What is the most important thing in life?” George Clooney as ajor Archie Westin posed this question in the movie “Three Kings.” The answer according to the character: Necessity – the idea that people will do whatever they must in order to achieve what is most necessary for them at any given time.

I relate this anecdote both for its military overtones and its practical grounding. In consideration of the Senate’s defeat of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, I believe we as a nation acted in a way that was most necessarily beneficial to us at the time, and I’d like to propose two key points to support my argument.

Firstly, call me cynical, but I don’t know of any measures in place to enforce the treaty. Countries have had a hard enough time policing themselves in the United Nations over minor conflicts. Were legislation to be proposed, even on paper, to the effect of ensuring that the treaty was upheld, there is no overarching power structure in this world strong enough to apply this legislation practically or effectively. Subsequently, even countries declaring their willingness to abide by the treaty in public could easily continue to clandestinely carry out nuclear testing. Frankly speaking, what we don’t know, and about which we can do nothing, can hurt us.

Secondly, to paraphrase the political theoretician Kenneth Waltz, a world proliferated by nuclear weapons is a world proliferated by peace. Mutually assured destruction can be a very powerful motivator. Factor it out of the global equation, and nations are left with a good deal of uncertain variables: the potential for mistrust, power-mongering and a host of other evils increasing exponentially.

I do think the Senate’s defeat of the treaty was bad politics, but I don’t necessarily believe that it was bad policy. I believe that the Senate acted with the realization that the treaty wouldn’t work practically speaking. What if France, England or even Russia had vetoed the treaty? They would be taking the rap as war-mongering powers, just as the United States is now. We just happened to be the first country with the guts to put its collective foot down and dispense with the pleasantries, as it were.

I’m not saying that the nations of the world should not pursue peace initiatives – far from it. I’m not even saying that I like the idea of tactical nukes poised to rain hell on earth at the touch of a button, simply because the idea of this situation is enough to scare most countries into a state of non-aggression. I’d rather not have my kids worry about the idea of peace through fear and I’d much rather a tactical nuke not decide to park itself in the middle of downtown Manhattan while I’m in Times Square watching the ball drop come New Year’s. However, I believe that the only way that any of us are going to sleep easily at night is if we know that peace initiatives (and multiple backup plans) have the hope of working.

My advice? Start from the bottom up: Strengthen or restructure the United Nations, deproliferate gradually, make conferences like SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) places to expound on peacekeeping options and then apply these options when it is completely within nations’ capabilities to do so. However, if we jump the gun and try to push measures whose practical values don’t extend beyond the paper on which they are printed, then we are merely ignoring necessity. And in this case, without the practical power to preserve peace, necessity wins.

John Sudol is a junior in the College and the communications director of the College Republicans.

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