A Modest Proposal for World Peace

The international furor surrounding North Korea’s underground detonation of a nuclear bomb reminds us that several nations on our planet have the ability to obliterate all the others. Hooray for us, we’re one of them!

The outrage at Kim Jong Il’s putative procurement of weapons of mass destruction isn’t because he’s starved his country to get them. It’s not because he’s vowed to use them if, say, Japan, doesn’t ship over a certain amount of rice and back-issues of Playboy. It’s because he’s a “dangerous,” “crazed,” “untrustworthy,” “megalomaniacal,” anti-humanist dictator. 

Like about 99% of the other despots around the world.

The international consensus is that only reliable, responsible, and reasonable countries ought to have atomic weaponry at their disposal. But look at the list of the lucky ones: China, Russia, Pakistan, India, France, Britain, and the United States. (And maybe Israel). Can any of these countries, many of whose domestic policy ethos is to repress and pillage the common man, really be trusted? Indeed, America has proven itself under the stewardship of George W. Bush and his congressional cronies, to be a wildly irresponsible international actor, fomenting violence and misery in distant precincts for reasons that remain unclear to all but evangelicals who know better than to ask why. And we expect the rest of the world to trust us with nuclear bombs?

As the USA and the former Soviet Union proved throughout the Cold War, the best way to prevent nuclear holocaust is for enemies to point missiles at each other, prepared for mutually assured destruction. Smart people in numerous disciplines, from political science to game theory, have proved that the surest way to prevent the end of our civilization is for archrivals to have something like destructive parity. Many observers, in fact, believed that when Pakistan got their bombs millions of lives were saved; because now the Muslims and Indian Hindus would be forced to murder each other a few dozen at a time, rather than en masse. India’s trigger finger suddenly got less itchy. Sure, we Americans don’t like the Iranians — or the Sudanese, or, for that matter, the Chinese. But it’s time to swallow hard and recognize the best way to stabilize the vicious world we inhabit: start giving nuclear bombs to everyone. Not just the Canadians and Mexicans. Everyone.

North Korea has the bomb now. But had we just simply given them a few we weren’t using, they wouldn’t have bankrupted their national treasury on plutonium enrichment. Surely the Syrians, who don’t much care for our way of life, would be a lot nicer if we gave them a few devices to put them on equal footing with Israel. And though the Costa Ricans probably wouldn’t have anyone to point their atom bomb at, they probably wouldn’t mind having one, just so long as the Panamanians had some, too.

Those who dismiss this strategy as madness must accept the depressing (and untidy) alternative: We must use our nuclear stockpile on our enemies before they can acquire weapons to use on us. I myself prefer a tense and wary peace in which all the children must behave or ruin the party for everyone.

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