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Nuclear Proliferation Discussion Deserves Urgency

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Nuclear Proliferation Discussion Deserves Urgency

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Nuclear Proliferation Discussion Deserves Urgency

Nuclear Proliferation Discussion Deserves Urgency

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John Ydstie reflects on nuclear proliferation in the post-Cold War era.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Today on this program, former Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix talked about the world sleepwalking back into nuclear escalation. Mr. Blix's warning was unsettling, even though he provided a coherent plan for easing the world away from a greater nuclear danger.

While Mr. Blix's comments were clear and suggested some urgency, the tone of our discussion was very much like any other chat about important issues of the day, whether it be immigration, the rising costs of health care or political corruption.

But what we were discussing was the spread of weapons that could cause immense devastation. In the hands of terrorists, even a small bomb could kill multitudes and render portions of cities uninhabitable. In the Middle East, an exchange between Israel and a nuclear-armed Iran would bring unimaginable destruction and poison wide swaths of land.

And the recent chill in relations between the U.S. and Russia is a reminder of the horrors that provoked nightmares and disaster movies during the Cold War -movies where civilization, as we know it, was destroyed.

Most nations that develop nuclear weapons don't contemplate actually using them. The carnage caused by the relatively small bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War makes their use an almost unthinkable option for most rational regimes.

What most nuclear Arab nations are looking for is deterrence aimed at protecting their security or advancing their interests. Of course, there's great uneasiness that the regimes in Iran and North Korea don't meet the standard of rationality.

There's also grave concern about ideologically or religiously motivated terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons with every intent to use them. No matter what the intentions, I came away from the interview with Mr. Blix thinking that every discussion of nuclear non-proliferation should begin with a recitation of the potential consequences of failure.

That approach to developing public policy is beginning to mark discussions of global warming - a sense of urgency on that issue has gained political support. In the worst-case scenario, global warming would take years to have devastating effects. In the case of nuclear weapons, the devastation could arrive much more quickly.

(Soundbite of song, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall")

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Singer): (Singing) I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken. I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard rain's are gonna fall.

YDSTIE: This is NPR News.

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