Even the mind of Dante could not imagine the inferno a nuclear war will plunge us into

In commemoration of the International Day for The Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which was celebrated on 26 September, humanity must urgently strive to halt the escalating nuclear arms race. 

North Korea’s testing of a submarine-launched missile and her recent launch of a hypersonic missile  and associated high technology systems will trigger off a nuclear arms race in Asia. As deadly global events unfold, many aspiring  nuclear nations will go the nuclear route. Pakistan will probably increase her nuclear might, which could enable it to have the third largest nuclear arsenal.

The volatile situation in the Middle East  could prompt nations in that area to acquire nuclear weapons. World War II ended with the historic understanding that recourse to war between states could no longer be treated as a matter of national discretion, but must be regulated to the extent possible through rules administered by international institutions.

The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trial and errors, its success and setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned. Humanity is still at the far stage of maturity needed for the realisations of its aspirations, for the construction of a harmonious and peaceful society and the elimination of wars. People are not yet ready to shape their own destinies, to control and direct world events, of which, instead, they become the victims.

The first step in the direction of a world rule of law is the recognition that peace is no longer an unattainable ideal but a necessary condition of continued human existence. One problem that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels that there are still a lot of people who believe that war can solve problems facing humankind is sleeping through a great revolution.

Our civilisation will, through wars, be plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat could be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine. We must refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.

If the ultimate goal of national security is to ensure the survival of any nation, then the pursuit of this goal through nuclear deterrence should be viewed as an utter failure. Because deterrence sets no limits on the size and composition of military forces, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons were created.

Thus the consequences of a single failure of deterrence could be the end of human history. Leaders who choose to “defend” their nation with nuclear weapons must face the fact that nuclear war is suicidal and not an option if their citizens are to survive. Suicide is not a defence.

Should we choose to accept the assertion that “there is no realistic path to a world free of nuclear weapons”, then we sentence the children of the world to a dark future. We must instead reject the 21st century mindset, which is still driving us towards the abyss, through an understanding that nuclear weapons pose a threat to the human species. 

Those who see utility and legitimacy in the perpetual maintenance of nuclear weaponry often tend to regard nuclear abolition as a “destabilising” goal, and apparently assume that deterrence will forever prevent a nuclear war. Their long-term optimism is supported neither by logic or history.

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Farouk Araie
Farouk Araie is a Mail & Guardian reader from Actonville in Gauteng

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