The Amercan Problem: The United States and Noncompliance in the World of Arms Control and Nonproliferation(M-22)

The Amercan Problem: The United States and Noncompliance in the World of Arms Control and Nonproliferation(M-22)

Publication details

  • Monday | 01 Aug, 2005
  • Zia Mian
  • Monographs
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Introduction Noam Chomsky tells a story that he attributes to St. Augustine: A captured pirate was brought before the emperor Alexander the Great; "How dare you molest the sea?" asked Alexander. “How dare you molest the whole world” replied the pirate, who continued, "Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor." In a number of ways, as Chomsky notes, the story of the pirate and emperor can serve as a powerful analogy for many contests over international power, legality and justice in the modern world. The story is used here as a useful lens for an assessment of compliance with international nuclear arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament treaties and with the larger set of expectations of how states should behave on these issues. It serves to link very directly the questions of identifying and dealing with noncompliance with a particular arms control agreement (or any other agreement for that matter) with the questions of who decides, and how, about what are the treaty obligations or expectations to be complied with, and what constitutes noncompliance. The significance of such an approach becomes apparent if one asks, for instance, why the United States with its many thousands of nuclear weapons claimed a right to attack and occupy Iraq, and threatens North Korea and Iran, for having tried to acquire such weapons. Or, more generally, why is proliferation of nuclear weapons now presented as a more significant threat to global security than continued possession of these weapons? Or, why is there no international convention banning nuclear weapons despite the United Nations having called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and of all other weapons of mass destruction in the very first General Assembly resolution, on 24 January 1946?