I want to take you on a thought experiment, in which we will attempt to use ‘The Great Rule’ as a lens to examine a problem in international relations. The problem I want to address is international cooperation and understanding in eliminating nuclear weapons. The version of ‘The Great Rule’ that I want to use is: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.” While this particular letter is addressed specifically to people living in the United States, I am very interested to receive responses from others, no matter where they reside. Let’s see what we can discover.
The Thought Experiment:
We are living in the United States of America, the USA. There is another country in the world called the United States of Asia, the USASIA. The USASIA is wealthier and more militarily powerful than the USA. It expends much more money on arms and military planning than the USA. Canada and Mexico who were in recent years USA allies, have broken away and have joined an alliance of the USASIA, and have decided to allow the alliance to station troops and military installations all along the northern and southern borders of the USA. Although we have no intention of attacking USASIA, Canada or Mexico, the alliance is conducting military operations along the borders of the USA in preparation for war. We in the USA know what it is like to suffer war. In the last great war 20,000,000 Americans were killed. and vast areas of the US were devastated. The only thing we have in the USA that can deter a conventional military attack by this alliance is the threat of our nuclear weapons.
And now a group of nations who don’t possess nuclear weapons and a number of individuals throughout the world come forward with a treaty to abolish all nuclear weapons. These nations and these individuals are understandably concerned about the danger of nuclear war, but there is no mention in this treaty of the forces that are lining our northern or southern borders. There is no mention of demilitarizing the world. There is just the desire to abolish nuclear weapons. If this treaty were accepted by us, it would take away the only thing that we believe might be deterring the USASIA from launching a conventional attack on the USA.
What would we think of this treaty? Would we think that this treaty is being put forward with disregard for our security? In other words, wouldn’t we think that the people and nations supporting this treaty were wanting security for themselves but were ignoring our security concerns? And if this is so, wouldn’t we think that the treaty in its present form was a violation of ‘The Great Rule’?
What this thought experiment reveals to me is that the attempt to separate the abolition of nuclear weapons from measures to insure security from conventional war is a violation of ‘The Great Rule.’ I am not writing this, because I am against nuclear disarmament. I am writing because I am in favor of nuclear disarmament, but through the lens of ‘The Great Rule’ I see that we must address the threat of conventional war as well.
When I think about the process by which nuclear disarmament and conventional disarmament can be addressed, I think of President John F. Kennedy’s American University Speech of June 10, 1963. It isn’t perfect. There are things in it that are not true. But nevertheless, it reveals principles for making peace that are timeless and that we ignore at our peril. I urge my reader to go back to this speech and extract from it the principles that are relevant to today.