Politics in a Nuclear Age

We all dread confrontations between nuclear powers, and rightly so: Several countries on this planet have within their arsenals the capacity to destroy the entire planet themselves, or, at the very least, trigger a confrontation that leads to its destruction. This is no laughing matter.

North Korea is a nuclear power. And it is also a rogue nation bent on causing problems on the global scene. There is no doubt that the U.S. arsenal is far superior and numerous, but North Korea still has nukes. They also have a stunningly vast arsenal of conventional weapons. As a result, between Seoul and Tokyo, they are effectively holding 60 million people hostage.

I recently had a conversation with one of my brothers. He was a little hawkish on the matter—not because he’s a bloodthirsty barbarian, but because he has a number of very practical, well-reasoned points. Basically, if we do nothing, nothing will change. North Korea will continue to increase its armaments, including its nukes, so that dealing with them in the future will be even more difficult and dangerous. High-end estimates of their arsenal currently put it at sixty warheads. How many will that be in ten years? 100? 200? 600? Those are increasingly frightening numbers. And don’t forget, the populations of Seoul and Tokyo aren’t likely to pull up stakes and just wander away in the intervening years. They’ll still be under an increasingly deadly threat of annihilation. And if that’s not enough, consider other nuclear-powers-in-the-making, like Iran. They’ll be watching how we deal with North Korea. If we can do something effectively, we might disabuse Iran of the notion that its nuclear program is worth pursuing. Finally, there is the population of North Korea itself. Don’t we have some humanitarian concern to free them from a dictator?

To be honest, I don’t know how to resolve the issue. Maybe our military can do something, but … I’m just not comfortable with that idea. So much could go wrong.

The problem is: science. Or knowledge. Or technology. Whatever you want to call it, it is spreading across this planet and growing in leaps and bounds. Sooner or later, if we don’t figure something out, every country on this planet will have the means to develop nuclear weapons. And that’s not a situation likely to promote the health of this planet. We need some method of dealing with rogue nations or even other nation with whom we have severe moral disagreements, whatever they may be.

The carrot? Or the stick? The carrot? Or the stick?

In my view, nuclear weapons are just too treacherous to mess with. They eliminate the stick. So, we are left with a carrot. What can we use?

I had a notion the other day that maybe we should do something like the United Nations, but instead of every nation on the planet, only allow democracies to join. Under this umbrella, formalize a joint agreement to pursue the development of Space. Currently, most nations have their own space programs, each one at its own level of progress. If we join forces with other serious powers based on democratic principles we can develop a carrot designed to wean rogue nations like North Korea away from their more sinister ways. If all the democracies of the globe are sharing technology, research, and what-have-you amongst themselves, but not with bad actors, we will quickly outdistance such bad actors in technological development and thereby create an incentive for the reform of such nations. Because nuking them, just isn’t a good option.

Anyway, that was my thought, and I thought I’d share.

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