Ok folks, I wrote this piece a little while back as you'll see. A major magazine was supposed to publish it, but then dropped it at the last minute (those sons of...). And then another magazine thought about it and gave it the pink slip. So, with the time being right again, and my being tired of pitching it, here it is for your reading pleasure:
It’s has not been a good decade for nuclear non-proliferation. Several post-Soviet states promptly gave up their nukes, but India and Pakistan, who get along much like Star Jones Reynolds and Barbara Walters, went atomic in 1998. More troublesome, of course, has been the behavior of the remaining 66% of the axis of evil, that actually ever did pose some threat of causing “the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” This myopic attitude of a U.S. President whose idea of diplomacy is calling North Korea’s Dear Leader a “pigmy” and saying nothing was off the table in dealing with Iran (oh wait, was that Joe Lieberman?—same difference) has been on display over the past two weeks.
First on June 29th Iran rejected G8 demands that Iran respond to an international offer to rollback its uranium enrichment program by July 5th. They have also rejected the follow up deadline of July 12th. But there is still hope, as President Bush has not issued his fail safe mantra of “bring it on” yet. To make matters worse, on July 4th the North Koreans launched their highly touted prospect the Taepodong-2 missile (and a few other media-shy short rangers). While supposedly able to deliver whatever nuclear capability North Korea currently possesses (Note to CIA: This might be an area to explore) to the West Coast of the United States, Taepodong-2 promptly did its impression of Rush Limbaugh after an airport luggage delay, flopping after 40 seconds and landing with a thud about 200 miles west of Japan.
With all of this nuclear activity, and the usual voices of hysteria already dusting off their copies of The Left Behind Series, it might make sense to take a second for some perspective, in remembering the history of onetime nuclear powers, almost nuclear powers, still-in-the-closet “bomb” possessors and those currently on the free agent market. It is soothing when you realize with all these nukes out there it never led to the kind of nuclear volley that could have left us going a few steps back down the evolutionary ladder, to the vicinity of Hannity. But then again, we never had George W. Bush as president during most of those years. So don’t exhale just yet.
Without further ado, here it is, your up to the minute guide to the past 50 years of would-be annihilation.
DECLARED NUCLEAR POWERS
The United States—The United States possesses an arsenal of 10,240 nuclear weapons and is the only nation to use them in battle. Whether said use was justified is still a matter of some controversy. For example, David Horwitz most likely thinks our decision to only drop 2 bombs was the fault of liberal college professors.
Russia—A close second with 8,440 weapons. Though the Russians have never used them, the came close during Cuban Missile Crisis when the Politburo gave field commanders launch authority. A near miss and no lessons learned by Neocons.
People’s Republic of China—Estimated to have approximately 390 nukes and known to have a bad attitude towards Taiwan. One to watch.
France—France has 350 nukes. Why, nobody really knows.
United Kingdom—Possesses between 200 and 300 nukes. Lagging behind the French much like in recent World Cup play. But just think of how many nuclear wars 007 has averted.
India—Has 60-90 nuclear weapons and some seriously bad blood with Pakistan. Another one to watch.
Pakistan—Maintains 30-52 nuclear arms whose sole purpose, it seems, is to deter India. Endemic political instability and Islamic radicalism make Pakistan the “most likely to.” President Bush responds by cutting nuclear non-proliferation funding to ensure we can still cut Paris Hilton’s Estate Tax.
SUSPECTED NUCLEAR POWERS
Ukraine—Inherited about 5,000 nuclear weapons from the USSR in 1991, but claims to have given them all to Russia. A widely believed rumor has it that several hundred remained in Ukraine due to a “clerical error.” (Think about that the next time you go to the DMV).
Israel—Won’t say they have them, but they have them. Shimon Peres as much as admitted Israel was a nuclear power in 1998 and the satellite imagery would seem pretty convincing. The clincher is that Tom Clancy (of The Sum of All Fears) thinks the Israelis have nukes, and he’s always right.
North Korea—Say they have them, but they may not. Withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in January, 2003, and as mentioned above is currently not acting like the most responsible member of the planet.
Update: Blew some nuclear stuff up this past weekend. Go Bush diplomacy--or lack thereof.
ASPIRING NUCLEAR POWERS
Saudi Arabia—In 2003 the Saudis said that they were considering acquiring nukes due to worsening relations with the U.S. Rumors that Pakistani Wahabbists gave a few nukes to their Saudi brothers have never been proven. Wonder what Bandar Bush knows?
RETIRED NUCLEAR POWERS
Argentina—Had a program in 1978 but abandoned it in 1983. It didn’t seem to help much during that whole Falklands thing in 1982.
Australia—Attempted to gain access to British nuclear technology between 1950 and 1970, but eventually gave up their obvious quest to crush New Zealand. Now strong supporters of non-proliferation efforts.
Belarus—Inherited 81 nuclear warheads from the Soviet Union. Returned them all by 1996 and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Realized nobody knows where Belarus is anyway.
Brazil—Launched a nuclear program in 1978 while under military rule. The program was halted in 1985 when a democracy suddenly broke out (probably during Carnivale).
Egypt—From 1954-67, during the “drive Israel into the sea period,” tried to obtain nukes. Gave up after the defeat of ‘67 and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Helps pay the bills in foreign aid.
Germany—Lest we forget, Hitler, leader of Germany, tried to get the bomb during WWII. According to Rainer Karlasch’s Hitler’s Bombe (2005), the Germans may have tested some sort of “atom bomb” (most likely a radiological rather than fission bomb) near the end of the war. That decision to chase out Einstein—yeah, it didn’t work out so well.
Iraq—Israel put an end to Iraq’s nuclear program in 1982 by destroying its one and only research reactor. According to some, Saddam tried to secure enriched uranium from Niger in the 1990s, although we now know it to be about as plausible as 3,000 elderly Jews in Palm Beach County actually choosing to vote for Pat Buchanan for President.
Japan—Tried during World War II. Since then, their constitution has forbidden the creation of nuclear weapons. But if North Korean missiles keep landing in the Sea of Japan…
Kazakhstan—Inherited 1,400 nuclear weapons after the break up of the USSR in 1991. They turned them over to Russia promptly in 1995—joining the other “stans” in nuclear non-proliferation.
Libya—Admitted in 2003 to having had and then dismantling a nuclear weapons program. The grand success of “The Bush Doctrine” to hear them tell it.
Poland—Began research in the 1960s but created no viable weapons. Apparently still feel safe wedged between Germany and Russia.
Romania—Repressive Communist leader Nicolae Ceasescu had a secret nuclear weapons program in the 1980s, even though he denied it. It stopped abruptly, with Ceasescu’s life, in 1989.
South Africa—The South Africans say they produced six nuclear weapons in the 1970s; they may have tested one in 1979. Hard to believe considering all the progressive policies they were enacting during this time. Now signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
South Korea—Began working on nuclear weapons in the 1970s. Ostensibly, they stopped. But they recently admitted that they had extracted plutonium in 1982 and enriched uranium to near-weapons grade in 2000. A difficult neighbor can pose a problem, just ask Felix Ungar.
Update: It will now be interesting to see what they do to respond to North Korea's move.
Sweden—In the 1950s and 1960s the Swedes prepared to make nukes, though they did not make any (or so they claim). Too busy making Swedish Bikini Team beer commercials.
Switzerland—Dabbled in nuclear weapons research from 1946-49. Dabbles in neutrality the rest of the time.
Taiwan—Worked on a weapons program covertly from 1964-88. Took too long at affix “Made in Taiwan” labels at bottom of each weapon.
Yugoslavia—Began a program in the 1950s and ended it in July, 1987. Great things followed for Yugoslavia.
**All reference material obtained from the Natural Resources Defense Council (2002), Nuclear Threat Initiative (nti.org), globalsecurity.org, the Federation of American Scientists (fas.org)