July 29, 2017

U.S. Lacks Moral Authority to Prevent Others From Developing Nuclear Weapons

nuclear explosion
Beginning shortly before President Obama took office in 2008 and continuing for several months into his administration, we heard an awful lot from him about how we needed to "look forward as opposed to looking backwards." To place this in the proper context of the time, recall that he was indicating that there would be no investigation of Bush/Cheney war crimes. I thought this was a serious mistake at the time, and I spoke out against it repeatedly. As far as I was concerned, Obama's refusal to prosecute war crimes compromised his moral authority. I still consider this to be his primary failure, along with refusing to prosecute those on Wall St. who were responsible for the economic collapse.

Even today, it still bothers me that we chose to accept torture as part of our legacy instead of demanding accountability for the elected officials in both parties who ordered it, provided cover for those who did it, and subsequently prevented their prosecution. Some things are serious enough that they need to be dealt with before we should consider moving on, and torture falls into that category for me. And yes, this bothers me more than most of what I've seen from Trump so far.

Why am I bringing this up now? I recently found myself thinking about how hypocritical it is for the U.S. to threaten North Korea with military action to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. I mean, we have nuclear weapons! By what imagined moral authority is it okay for us to have as many as we want while preventing other nations from doing the same? Had we come to our senses decades ago and worked with other countries to eliminate our nuclear stockpiles, we would be in a position of moral authority when it came to North Korea. But now, I'm not so sure.

If even half of what we have been told by our government about North Korea is accurate, I certainly don't want them to develop sophisticated nuclear capabilities. The same goes for Iran. The thing is, the same also goes for the U.S. and all the other countries that already have these capabilities. If the main argument in favor of nuclear weapons is the deterrent effect, it would seem every nation should have them. And even setting that aside, I'm not sure it makes much sense for countries with no plans to get rid of their own nuclear arsenals to preemptively attack other countries to prevent them from going nuclear.

If President Trump is to be believed, he plans to spend massive sums of money collected from U.S. taxpayers to improve our nuclear arsenal because...MAGA. And if North Korea, Iran, and whoever else decides to continue to pursue their perfectly understandable nuclear ambitions, it sounds like he is prepared to put American lives and more tax dollars on the line to intervene. I'm having trouble finding the moral authority for any of this.

It rang hollow when President Obama spoke out against torture after he made sure that those who tortured in our names would escape without consequences. It was embarrassing. Today, I find that it rings hollow when President Trump condemns other nations for pursuing nuclear weapons. As long as we aren't making real progress toward getting rid of our own, it seems hypocritical.