Nuclear Power: Obama’s Utopia

What is the departing U.S. president dreaming about? In Hiroshima on Friday he spoke of a world without nuclear weapons. Barack Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the martyred city in 71 years. The only two atomic bombs ever released in the world were the United States’ doing. This is also the only country in the world to have this weapon of mass destruction at its disposal. On Aug. 6, 1945 in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, something terrible and previously unknown to the world took place, definitively wreaking havoc on the global military order and war strategies.

The American president justified this abomination (150,000 to 250,000 dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to estimates) by saying that “in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions.” He was responding to a question from the Japanese television station NHK. Without a doubt! Certainly, at first glance, the bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 could have, if worse came to worst, passed for a legitimate defense. So, what does that make the one dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the holocaust in Hiroshima? In fact, with their new atomic bombs, the United States was already no longer fighting in the same military category as those countries using nothing but conventional arms.

The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was both unjustified and unjustifiable, especially as Japan was on the verge of surrendering. Consequently, if the concepts of war crimes and crimes against humanity mean anything, the second atomic bomb that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki surely counts as being on equal footing with those concepts. If for nothing else, President Barack Obama, in visiting the places that made the largest sacrifices of World War II, would have done well to apologize to the Japanese people and survivors of this tragedy. But he didn’t. He even insisted that he would make no excuse for the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. This could also be interpreted then as if Obama were saying, “If I had to, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.” Consequently, his appeal for a world without nuclear weapons has lost both its validity and its conviction.

An appeal for the eradication of weapons of mass destruction is easy and yet promises nothing, particularly when such a plea comes from a potential nuclear arms proliferator that isn’t ready to make the gesture that would convince us of its good faith, namely by reducing an arsenal capable of destroying the planet 100 times over. Obama, whose term ends next Jan. 20, commits neither his country nor his successor to his recommended approach for a world without nuclear weapons. If there ever existed an over-armed country, especially in terms of nuclear power, it would surely be the United States. According to a 2010 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States remains a country in a class of its own in this particular vector. SIPRI has estimated the global military expenditure in 2010 to be $1,630 billion; 43 percent by the United States, 18.4 percent by the European Union, 7 percent by China, and 3.2 percent by Russia. The assessed value is even more enlightening with $698,105 billion in military expenditures by the United States, $114,300 billion by China and $52,586 billion by Russia, giving us the three great nuclear powers. (For more details, see SIPRI’s reports under “The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.”)

In these military expenditures, nuclear research and new technology occupy a dominating position, particularly in the United States defense budget. According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work, the defense budget proposal for 2017 is valued at $583 billion, which puts it even further beyond the next 10 highest spending countries when it comes to firearms and military research. According (again) to SIPRI, the United States has 8,500 nuclear warheads, of which 2,150 are deployed.

An appeal for a world without nuclear weapons is an excellent resolution, but once again, it would require that the U.S. begin to apply the same maxim to themselves that they recommend for others. The least that can be said is that the United States is only moving in that direction in terms of the reduction of its nuclear arsenal. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Even if it has somewhat reduced its nuclear stockpile within the framework of treaties with Russia, which are now in fact obsolete and no longer responsive to new military situations, the U.S. has on the other hand committed itself to research in miniaturizing WMDs. Since Hiroshima, Obama has pleaded for a world without nuclear weapons, while at the same time his country reinforces its capacities in this strategic vector. This understated plea to eliminate nuclear weapons is not a thing of the past, for Obama is well aware that it is impossible, at least in the coming century, to give up such weapons. His country perfectly illustrates this argument. Who is the leader in the White House speaking to anyway? That is the question!

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