‘Blog’

On the 70th Anniv of Hiroshima: a history of the atom bomb

On the 70th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski, how close are we to a world free of nuclear weapons? In a powerful story of the most destructive invention in human history, this groundbreaking PBS  series details how America developed the nuclear bomb, how it changed the world and how it continues to loom large in our lives (“The Bomb”, PBS, 29 July 2015).

 

For the full series : ‘The Bomb’ (“The Bomb”, PBS, 29 July 2015)

Image credit: Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2005

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  • July 20th, 2015

‘Killer Robots’ and the Future of War

Amanda Connolly, writing for iPolitics, discusses the potentially disturbing implications of so-called “killer robots” for modern warfare (“‘Killer robots’ could spark violence against Canadians, change global power balances: DND,” iPolitics, 19 July 2015).

“One of the main arguments used by those supporting the development of lethal autonomous weapons — “killer robots”, to use the popular term — is that they have to potential to keep human beings out of harm’s way. But what if their use sparks a violent backlash against the very people they are meant to protect?”

“That’s one of the concerns raised by officials at the Department of National Defence in documents obtained by iPolitics through an access to information request. The memos outline what policy analysts at the Department of National Defence see as possible ramifications of the use of the weapons, known as LAWS, and suggest that their use could prompt attacks on Canadians by the people they are used against.”

Read the full article here: “‘Killer robots’ could spark violence against Canadians, change global power balances: DND,” (iPolitics, 19 July 2015)
Image credit: Polygon

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  • July 14th, 2015

RI President, Peggy Mason on Historic Iran Nuclear Deal

 

Nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna, Austria on July 14th, 2015.

I am writing this blog not only as RI President, but as a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the United Nations.  I had much direct experience of negotiations with Iran, in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review process and in many other arms control negotiations at the UN.  Of course that was at a time when Canada’s foreign policy was not based on much sound and fury and little substance but, instead, on a steadfast commitment to, and demonstrated talent for, diplomacy as the means to achieve the peaceful resolution of disputes, as the UN Charter obliges member states to do.

The Iran nuclear deal is an excellent agreement on its merits, relying not on trust but on tough international verification measures. Daryl Kimball, the Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, puts it thus:

“The deal is a major nuclear nonproliferation breakthrough that promises to prevent the emergence of another nuclear-armed state and head off a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

But, equally important, this agreement is infinitely better than all of the alternatives. The first is to kill the deal, leaving virtually no restraints on Iran’s nuclear program.  The second is war, with unimaginable consequences for further destabilizing a region already devastated by the utterly disastrous American invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The third alternative is to walk away from this deal and press for tougher sanctions in the hope of getting better terms later, in the meantime leaving Iran free to move even faster toward a nuclear weapon, should it want to do so.  Under this scenario, the US Congress might well pass tougher sanctions. However, there is much less appetite for this approach in the rest of the international community and therefore a high likelihood that the overall international sanctions regime would lose its coherence and start to fracture.  In other words, Iran would end up with weaker sanctions without having submitted to the very tough verification regime hammered out in the current agreement.

Already some representatives of Jewish groups in Canada are urging the Canadian government, if not to outright oppose the deal, then to set our own timetable for reducing Canadian sanctions against Iran.  That would be a mistake, and, in my view, would do Israel no favours. While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal is loud and clear, many others including former Israeli security chiefs  like Meir Dagan believe their country’s security interests are better served with this deal than without.

The agreement’s many supporters, myself included, believe  that it has the potential to reshape relations between United States and Iran, to diminish the chances of another war in the Middle East and to set a new standard for negotiated nuclear non-proliferation.

I call on the Harper government and all the opposition parties to immediately pledge their full support for this historic agreement.

Peggy Mason, a former Canadian ambassador for disarmament to the UN, is the president of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, an independent advocacy and research think tank in Ottawa.

Photo credit: Dragan Tatic for Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres, Flickr (Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs)

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  • July 13th, 2015

ExxonMobil and climate change denial

Deniers
Suzanne Goldenberg from The Guardian investigates a recently discovered e-mail from Exxon’s former in-house climate expert, Lenny Bernstein, unveiling the truth behind ExxonMobil’s years of climate change denial (“Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years,” The Guardian, 8 July 2015).

The email from Exxon’s in-house climate expert provides evidence the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its bottom line, over a generation ago – factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.

After years of denying the dangers of climate change and contributing more than $30 million to think tanks and researchers vested in its denial, Exxon now says it recognizes the risk of climate change and does not currently fund such groups.

Read the full article and email here: ”Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years,” (The Guardian, 8 July 2015)

Image credit: David HorseyLos Angeles Times

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  • July 9th, 2015

Why are all the nuclear weapons states modernizing their arsenals?

The upcoming 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the founding of the United Nations, as well as the 60th anniversary of the international Pugwash movement mark a time to reflect, even as the crisis in East-West relations re-ignites the risk of nuclear war. C. Alexei Arbatov, in a commentary for Defence News, warns against the potentially catastrophic consequences of “nuclear rhetoric” and makes a plea for renewed dialogue to defuse tensions. (Commentary: Protecting Nuclear Sanity Defence News, 15 June 2015).

 

In an article entitled ‘Disarm and Modernize’ (Foreign Policy, 24 March 2015), John Mecklin reviews the work of Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, nuclear-arsenal experts at the Federation of American Scientists:

“In terms of sheer numbers, the nuclear arms race of the Cold War may be over. But the worldwide modernization craze scrambles the calculus of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts, challenging the aging underpinnings of the [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty] NPT itself. Approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons are still on the planet, and the massive, long-term plans that nuclear nations have in place strongly suggest that they have no intention of giving up their nukes anytime soon.”

 

Against this backdrop of important anniversaries and gathering nuclear storm clouds, disarmament experts, activists and Pugwash movement members from Canada and the U.S. will meet at the historic Pugwash Thinkers’ Lodge in Pugwash, Nova Scotia from July 9-12 for a conference entitled, The Way Forward to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. Among the speakers will be four former Canadian Ambassadors for Disarmament, including Rideau Institute President, Peggy Mason.

Read the full article by John Mecklin here: ‘Disarm and Modernize’ (The Foreign Policy, 24 March 2015)

Read the full article by Alexei Arbatov here: Commentary: Protecting Nuclear Sanity (Defence News, 15 June 2015)

Image credit: ThinkStock

 

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