India’s Nuclear Tests

India successfully tested nuclear bombs this week. Apparently you have to conduct tests of these weapons from time to time to know if they really work. I’m not sure why this is. It seems to me that the only bomb that you can be absolutely sure of is one that has already been exploded; and used bombs don’t provide much of a deterrent. Maybe someone will come up with a reusable nuclear weapon. You could know if it was in working order and its reusability would be an ecological plus.

Several news stories are related to the tests. The Indians are gleeful and proud of the accomplishment. The American government is in dismay and disappointed at India. Most American politicians fear that these test mark the beginning of nuclear proliferation in the area; they think that the countries of Pakistan and Iran may be on the verge of joining the nuclear club. In accordance with American law, the US has imposed certain sanctions on India. In particular, India will not be able to obtain the easy credit promised to it by America and the IMF. In another related story, the CIA is being criticized for not knowing that the blasts were planned.

Conspiracy theorists might find something to examine in the CIA’s failure. The BJP party took power over India last March with A. B. Vajpayee as prime minister. This party is sometimes described as reactionary and right wing. What these terms mean in Indian politics is not easy to understand. Its platform offers the usual socialistic solutions to all the nation’s ills with a small nod to “free markets” and a few promises to “reform” the system. More interesting is article 26 of its platform which states, “Towards that end [national defense] we will re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons.” My guess is that the word “induct” has a better English translation; but the BJP’s intentions seem pretty clear to me. Didn’t anyone in the CIA read the BJP’s platform?

Clinton haters have their own angle on this story. It seems that two companies were being investigated for selling missile technology to Red China. Against the advice of the Departments of Defense and State, Clinton retroactively granted his stamp of approval on this technology transfer. The Clinton haters see this as payment to the Red Chinese for their help in raising funds for his ‘96 election. It is at least ironic that Clinton is wringing his hands over India’s nuclear tests while approving the transfer of missile technology to China, technology which may give the Chinese the ability to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting India.

Meanwhile, the Pakistanis are understandably irate. After fighting three wars with India, they see the tests as a real threat. They are not inclined to put their faith in America’s New World Order. Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan's secret service, warned against relying on the United States to guarantee Pakistan's security. “We cannot depend on America. ... First of all they are very undependable,” Gul said. “Unless Pakistan now comes up with a response, the deterrence value will disappear which could push us toward war.”

It seems to me that if nuclear weapons are so terrible, the US should undertake a serious effort to rid the world of them. Only the US is in a position to do this. If our politicians were to make treaties calling for the destruction of all nuclear weapons (not just those owned by governments we don’t like), they could call on all the nations of the world to join them in outlawing any nation that began a nuclear weapons program. Until the US makes such a serious commitment, it will be seen as simply pursuing its usual policy of ruling the world. I can remember when a country that invaded another country was called the aggressor. Apparently, that way of assigning blame no longer applies in post-Cold War America. Well, it’s a complicated, dangerous world (especially for those nations that American politicians don’t like).

Are nuclear weapons so terrible? I don’t know what will happen in the future; but so far they have exerted a moderating influence over the rulers of the world. The nations of the world exist in anarchy with each nation a sovereign unit. Given the history of international conflict, this fact makes anarchy look rather frightening; but an element is left out of the analogy: negative consequences for rulers. As we have seen in Iraq, the nation’s people can lose a war and go through great suffering while its leaders prosper in luxury. There is very little incentive for a ruler to refrain from war.

Nuclear weapons changed this state of affairs. Attacking a country with effective nuclear weapons could lead to the death and suffering of politicians (not just people). In fact, no country with a believable nuclear force has ever been invaded. Who knows if this state of affairs will continue?

Remember the neutron bomb? It was supposed to kill people while leaving buildings, etc. intact. Conventional forces kill conventional people while leaving the politicians intact. I’m not going to lead any marches against weapons that will roast the politicians along with the citizens.