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From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials
Date: April, 2010
By: Editorial

Nuclear Disarmament

Nuclear Disarmament

There is talk of nuclear disarmament again. It is the Great Powers who are talking about it. When Powers that are Great by virtue of their armaments talk about disarmament we can be sure that it is with evil intent. Somebody is being fooled so that something dire can be done to somebody else. In the present instance we are being gulled into a state of mind which would enable us to look with moral complacency on an attack on Iran—even a nuclear one.

A kind of arms reduction agreement has been made between the USA and Russia. If it is implemented, each will retain enough nuclear armament to wipe each other out a couple of times over—but perhaps only three times over instead of ten.

President Obama accompanied the news of the arms reduction agreement with a policy statement. He said the US would not again make attacks with nuclear weapons on states without nuclear weapons.
Perhaps we have got the tenses and moods of his statement not quite right. The US does not care to dwell on the fact that it is the only state that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, and that the populations against which it used them was not even suspected of being in the course of developing nuclear weapons.

This President says he will not make nuclear attacks on states without nuclear weapons, or (sotto voice) he will only do so to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is to say, he retains the right to nuclear bomb Iran—or to let Israel do it, because Israeli weapons are de facto US weapons.

Iran is held to be in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even though it is not known that it has got nuclear weapons—and the supervisory apparatus of the US is such that it would know if Iran had exploded a nuclear device. It is in breach because it is developing the means of producing electric power by the nuclear process, and the technical knowledge required for doing this might be applied to the production of weapons.

Israel has got nuclear weapons but it is not in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty because—because of what? Because it has not signed the Treaty? Because it plays coy and refused to say whether it has got nuclear weapons or not?—while the US makes no real pretence of not knowing that it has got them. Or because the US finds it expedient to have a proxy nuclear state whose actions it can, for the sake of appearances, disclaim responsibility for.

Obama's agreement with Russia about mutual reduction of nuclear weapons has Iran as its object. The Russian Government will agree to an intensification of UN sanctions on Iran if it sees it as being in its interest to do so, and likewise with China. (The nuclear Powers in the EU, with their Permanent Seats in the Security Council, count for nothing. France and Britain shot their different bolts, essentially against each other, and are now compliant.

It is extremely unlikely that Russia and China would agree to the USA and/or Israel attack on Iran, either with nuclear weapons or without. The attack would be unauthorised. But it would not be illegal. Nothing that any of the five Veto Powers cares to do can be illegal under the UN system—at least, not unless the perpetrator chooses to indict himself and find himself guilty.
The five Veto Powers conduct their relations with each other as if the UN did not exist. They carefully constructed the system in 1944-45 so that things should be like that—or the US, UK and USSR did. France and China were accorded Great Power status within the UN system later: China, because in 1945 the USA looked on it as its client state.

One often hears it discussed whether the invasion to destroy the state of Iraq—for which Ireland provided minor facilities—was legal or illegal. It was neither. It was outside the UN system of international law. Discussion of its legality is entirely hypothetical—i.e. would it be illegal if certain ideals or principles proclaimed in connection with the formation of the UN had been forged into a system of world law to which all were subject, and within which there was the means of forming indictments against any member, conducting trials and passing judgment. But the UN was deliberately constructed so that that should not be the case.

If Iran is attacked by the USA or Israel the attack will not be illegal, whatever else it might be.

The case against Iran is sometimes presented in a way that suggests that the reason it is at fault in developing the technology which would enable it to make nuclear weapons is that it promised not to by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That is a mere debating point of course, but let's consider it.

The Iranian Government that signed the Treaty was an authoritarian puppet Government installed by the USA and Britain after they overthrew the democratic Government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq. Why was Mossadeq overthrown? Because of his policy of establishing Iranian control over Iranian oil for purposes of national development.

Iran was invaded by Britain in the First World War, causing a major Famine. It was invaded again in the Second World War. Churchill, who ordered the World War 2 invasion, expressed impatience with those trifling states, like Iran and Iraq, which went and changed the names they had been given. Which of them was Persia? It didn't really matter. He invaded both and brought both of them into his war.

And when the propaganda ideology of the war seemed to be bearing fruit in the form of a Constitutional Government in Iran that was tending to the national interest on behalf of the people, it was overthrown by the Free World and a Shah installed. And the Shah signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty on behalf of a nation he did not represent.

On the occasion of the agreement between America and Russia to reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons—which it is reasonable to assume will be met by discarding obsolescent weapons—the Irish Times published an article by Noel Dorr about the history of the NPT under the title, How Ireland Sowed Seeds For Nuclear Disarmament.

International Agreements usually include Utopian flourishes which have nothing to do with the substance of what is agreed. Neither the NPT nor the arms reduction agreement proposes or implies disarmament, nuclear or otherwise.

The Irish delegation at the UN, of which Dorr was a member, played a marginal part in preparing the ground for the NPT. It is unusual for a small, unarmed, state to achieve anything at all in the tight Great Power structure of the UN, and it is natural that Dorr should bask in the glory of it. But, if the NPT achieved anything that would not have happened in any case, it was to consolidate the nuclear monopoly of the Great Powers by weaving a benevolent ideological aura around it. The Great Powers themselves were never going to be deceived or influenced by this, but others might be.

The NPT might have been made obligatory upon the world as a Great Power arrangement with effective supervisory power. The UN asserts sovereignty over the world, regardless of whether states join it or not. (Switzerland was the only state that refused to join.)

It asserted its sovereign will which need take no account of the wishes of peoples by awarding the greater part of Palestine to the Jews of the world, most of whom did not live there, at the expense of the Palestinians who did live there, and in defiance of all the Governments in the Middle East.
There was nothing it might not do. It chose not to establish an open, binding arrangement of Great Power nuclear monopoly. It chose instead to allow Ireland to spin some Utopian ideology in the matter.

The UN is, for all practical purpose, the five Great Powers. These Powers were in a fundamentally hostile relationship with each other. The UN itself, and the fundamental antagonism between its founders, were the product of the accidental and unprincipled alliance against Germany that came about as a consequence of Britain's frivolous declaration of World War against Germany in 1939.
It was frivolous because Britain had no intention of fighting the war which it declared. It had ample time to make credible preparations for war during the six months between the Polish Guarantee and its declaration of war, and the 14 months between the Polish Guarantee and the outbreak of hostilities in France. It might have fought a war of containment in actual alignment with Poland in September 1939, but chose not to do so. What it chose to do was let the Poles fight the Germans unassisted, having encouraged them with a military guarantee to refuse to negotiate a settlement of the Danzig issue. Instead of fighting in defence of Poland, it declared a general war on Germany which was to be fought as a World War, and mainly fought by others.

Britain's strategy was to involve the whole world in war and it came close to achieving it. What came out of the maelstrom was the world dominance of the two states which had fought the war most effectively and the British Empire reduced to a hulk, but still with the semblance of world power.
These three states decided to set up a world organisation to serve their interests and decorate it with the Utopianism of the war propaganda. And, in setting up this world organisation, they exempted themselves off from its authority, leaving themselves free to do as they pleased. And so it remains.

If Russia had not quickly developed nuclear weaponry after 1945, it would have been the victim of America's second nuclear war. Influential figures in Britain urged the US to deal with Russia while it had a nuclear monopoly. The US delayed for too long, and so there was peace between the USA AND RUSSIA.

What preserved peace between the three real founders of the UN was not the UN but the crude power-balance.

Britain, which had refused to negotiate a hard alliance in 1939, suffered a drastic relative loss of power with relation to Russia in the World War, which it brought about without being willing to undertake the main burden of fighting it. It had the will, but not the power, to carry on the war against Russia when Germany surrendered. US policy was disoriented by the death of Roosevelt, who had, apparently, kept his Vice-President in ignorance of his intentions about Europe.

Truman carried on the war against Japan, and finished it with a couple of acts of genocide. His uncertainty about Europe was reinforced by the British change of Government. Churchill preached a war which could only have been waged by the USA. When it became too late for war directly on Russia, he became an advocate of Cold War co-existence.

The UN had nothing to do with that crucial post-war peacekeeping. It was not allowed to interfere in the major business of the world. Great Power relations were exclusively for the Great Powers.