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Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

Tad Daley's new book offers humanity a stark choice: eliminate all nuclear weapons or face annhilation of all life on earth.

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Daley lays out a framework for how the nations of the world could proceed toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. This would require, among other steps, allowing international inspectors access to search for nuclear weapons in any country, including our own. Such inspections were successful in Iraq, eliminated weapons, and would have prevented war had the United States complied with the UN Charter. Of course, international authority will be a major stumbling block and be denounced as a threat to national sovereignty. But Daley points out the stark choice we face:

"Yes, international inspections here would intrude upon our sovereignty. But detonations of atom bombs here would also intrude upon our sovereignty. The only question is, which of those two intrusions do we find less excruciating."

Of course the answer may be the former. But I think we can change that through greater awareness. Hence my promotion of this book.

I think Daley may fall short in one area, however, and miss the significance of his own logic. He claims to be an agnostic on the question of whether we can maintain nuclear energy plants while eliminating nuclear weapons. He holds this position even while recognizing that the plants are themselves weapons, easily detonated by state enemies or terrorists, and even while recognizing that possession of nuclear energy's technology and materials makes acquisition of nuclear weaponry much easier. Daley also understands the escalating exchange currently underway between the United States and Iran during which Iran is threatened and understood to see nuclear weapons as a powerful deterrent, Iran works to acquire nuclear energy, the United States is threatened by that and increases its threats toward Iran, which leads Iran to pursue nuclear energy (and possibly weapons) all the more, and on and on, back and forth. This cycle would not be possible in a world that was truly post-nuclear.

Nonetheless, Daley provides a sane and necessarily revolutionary vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, in which -- as he explains -- the cost in universal condemnation for acquiring nukes would be treated just as the similar cost for reinstituting slavery is imagined today. Daley points out that there are "rational" grounds for the United States to use its nuclear weapons now, such as to take over Cuba, that are not deterred by anything other than moral standards and the value of respect in the world community. Were a "rogue state" or a terrorist group to acquire nukes in a world otherwise rid of them, the response would come from the entire world. It could include the same unlimited military destruction of which the United States is capable today with non-nuclear weapons. And it could include universal boycott, sanctions, and criminal prosecution.

And, remember, we are no better able to defend against a terrorist with a nuke today because of our nuclear arsenal -- we're just more likely to encounter one. The man arrested for attempting to set off a bomb in Times Square last week is the son of a man who has been involved in guarding nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And Pakistan would not have nuclear weapons if we did not. Is that enough degrees of separation for you to sleep well?

Every time there's a hurricane or an oil spill, there are lots of I-told-you-so's. "Apocalypse Never" is the I-told-you-so for that moment when there's nobody left to tell. Consider yourself preemptively told.

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