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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 08:22 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 08:22 | SYDNEY

The downside to nuclear disarmament



7 July 2008 16:31

Rod Lyon expresses scepticism today about the goal of total nuclear disarmament. Rodd makes some good points about the difficulty of getting to zero and how we maintain stability once we get there, so it's worth reading the op-ed in full. One weaker argument, to my mind, is Rodd's concern about how we would stay at zero. 'Staying at zero during crises will also be hard', he writes, 'and repeated crossings of the bridge between the nuclear and non-nuclear worlds would be ominous for security.'

True, but would that be worse than the situation we have at present? On the contrary, I think it would be an improvement. Imagine the current Iran scenario, but where the US, UK, France and Israel do not have any nuclear weapons. Those countries would still have the knowledge, capability and infrastructure to build nuclear weapons in large numbers, so they could 'break out' much faster than Iran could.

Yet with only 'virtual' arsenals, the risk of unauthorised or acccidental launch of nuclear weapons would be entirely removed, and the West would have a far stronger moral claim in its negotiations with Tehran. So where's the downside?

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