The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is an important issue for Arabs because it is a classic example of people who try to do good and fail. From one perspective, the treaty is strategic; from another perspective, it is existential.
The time has come for Arabs to speak as one and tell the world that they do not support the NPT because it discriminates between nations based on false values. It allows countries that possessed nuclear weapons before signing the treaty of 1965 to retain their nuclear arsenals, while simultaneously denying the possession of nuclear weapons to every other country in the world. Despite the admirable motives behind it, this agreement is unjust. What the world truly needs is the total abolition of all nuclear weapons.
In the meantime, the global community must completely reject the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons allow the possibility of some insane ruler or narcissistic dictator starting a war that will end with the extinction of all life on this planet. There is no political system in any country—including the long-established democracies—that is guaranteed to prevent an unstable or malicious leader from gaining control of a nuclear arsenal with enough power to destroy the world. The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan to destroy two non-military targets, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of civilians. This was done even though U.S. leadership confirmed that Japan was nearing a decision to surrender, which would have ended the war. The U.S. has also employed toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. One example, known as Agent Orange, was used to burn, destroy, and poison nearly half the forests in Vietnam, causing disabilities and cancer for hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people.
The premise from which the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was derived is that there are rational countries that would not use their nuclear weapons, and therefore could be trusted to maintain an arsenal of them; on the other hand, there are irrational, non-democratic countries that should not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. This premise is based on illusion and a failure to consider the lessons of the tragic events in Japan and Vietnam, which were carried out by a democratic state.
It behooves us to closely examine the morals, culture, and ideology of the leaders who were democratically elected by millions of voters and to listen to their frightening statements concerning the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and North Korea. Their words validate the assumption that there is great potential for the misuse of nuclear weapons by those nations that possess them, democratic though some of them may be.
Arabs currently live with this nuclear threat in all its aspects and complexities—Israel, led by a far-right government, possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the NPT. This situation has prompted countries in the region to consider acquiring their own nuclear weapons to protect themselves from looming Israeli threats. Therefore, it is the obligation of the Arab world to call not only for non-proliferation, but also for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons, which would require that all nuclear weapons in the world be destroyed.
Nuclear disarmament should be the position of regional Arab organizations such as the GCC, the Arab League, the Arab Maghreb Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Just as Arabs led the non-aligned movement in the 1950s and 1960s, they can and should be at the forefront of this issue. Setting different rules for countries based on their international value, such that some countries possess a far greater potential for destruction than others, is unacceptable. We need to limit the effect of distractions such as political and media scandals about the madness of this president or the lack of confidence in the leadership of that state.
The subject of nuclear weaponry is not a political issue, subject to political compromises and changes in opinion. Rather, it is an existential issue that needs to be addressed as such.
Of course, everyone is aware that Arabs are in a state of political paralysis, infighting, and helplessness. This means that the Arab political system, if such may be said to exist, is incapable of taking the initiative on any subject at any level.
Nonetheless, various Arab groups can use social media to bring greater attention to the idea of nuclear disarmament in order to facilitate the formation of a global public voice demanding the destruction of all nuclear weapons and the prohibition of their possession by all countries. If the youth of this region succeed in doing something about this difficult issue, they will save us from having to listen to Arab officials talk about something they do not understand at all. Such officials far too often blame this issue on sectarian vulgarity, or the disputes between regimes, or the tendency to reflexively blame all of the Arab world’s problems on Europe and the United States. It is time for a new approach.
Dr. Ali Mohammed Fakhro