In a follow-up to my “No Nukes?” post earlier this week, we have the indispensable Richard Cizik weighing on. Speaking to PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, he claims the solution to the threat of nuclear weapons use to “lock-down”:
[Host Bob] ABERNETHY: For a long time there’s been the theory that we needed a deterrent because that was the only way to prevent attack against us.
CIZIK: Mutually assured destruction was the nuclear paradigm.
ABERNETHY: Yes, yes. Well, don’t we still need a deterrent?
CIZIK: Well, yes, we do, but that’s not prohibitive of us virtually eliminating over time in a gradual process. We’re not for unilateral disarmament. None of us are. But we do know that the longer this goes on, the possession of these weapons without a lock-down, without reducing, the chances of a detonation in an American city go up.
ABERNETHY: From terrorism.
CIZIK: From terrorism.
ABERNETHY: Now what can nuclear weapons do about terrorism? Where does that fit together?
CIZIK: Well, frankly, we’re talking about reducing strategic weapons in this START treaty, but there’s also the lock-down of nuclear materials and the rest. That’s what has to happen, and frankly terrorists can get these weapons through nuclear materials from Russia and elsewhere, and we know it’s going to happen. The question is can we stop it?
That last is incoherent, but I think I know what he means. We need to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists, about which there is no disagreement at all among the sane. The way to keep that from happening is to secure all nuclear material so that terrorists can’t steal it or buy it. Agreed (though simply “locking-down” existing stocks of nuclear material does not address the continuing spread of nuclear knowledge combined with the continuing enrichment of uranium by nations such as Iran and North Korea, which are in the business of proliferation, not control). So how do we make that happen?
ABERNETHY: Yeah, well, that’s my question. What is your recommendation about how to prevent that?
CIZIK: What most policy analysts in this town aren’t doing is talking about engaging with religious groups internationally—Muslim leaders where I’m going, to Morocco this week to do just that, for peace-making purposes. In other words, engaging with religious actors and communities is what’s absolutely necessary. In American foreign policy that has never been done, and it has to be to stop this from happening.
“Engaging with religious actors and communities.” Look, interfaith dialogue is all well and good, but the fact is that the Muslims who matter on this issue are the mullahs who run Iran–the people who regularly call for Israel’s destruction and call the U.S. the Great Satan. They have shown a propensity for giving all sorts of military goodies to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and would presumably have no qualms about giving a nuclear warhead or dirty bombs to such people if they thought it would advance their interests. No amount of interfaith dialogue is going to change that. It also ignores completely the role of North Korea–which has provided nuclear technology to both Iran and Syria, at the very least–in the spread of nuclear weapons. I don’t know the extent to which the existence of a significant American nuclear force might deter either Iran or North Korea–more in the case of the latter than the former, I suspect– but I think it a virtual certainty that the surrender of such a deterrent would only embolden those regimes to further spread, and use, the weapons in their possession to achieve their goals. “Locking-down” existing stock of nuclear resources is good, but it isn’t enough by itself. Not as long as people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il are allowed to lead nations.