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Thursday, October 31, 2002
 
Nut Control

Probably the most time and energy in the Bush administration's justification of a U.S. Iraq invasion has been put into the idea that Saddam is perilously close to developing a nuclear bomb and must be stopped at all costs. Now that North Korea has admitted to its own nuclear weapons program, Bush is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to derail it.

Although little has been said on the subject of the two most recently confirmed members of the nuclear club, India and Pakistan, I believe it would be fair to characterize the position of this administration as being strongly against nuclear proliferation. Given the administration is firmly in the anti-gun control camp, I propose to examine that position in the light of an allegory:

Individuals as sovereign nations, guns as nuclear weapons, clubs as conventional weapons, and the inverse of all three.

Individuals in this country, some great, some small, coerce, compete and cooperate, make judgements about one another and act accordingly. Sovereign nations, although their relative proximity to one another is fixed, do much the same. Guns can kill with great efficiency at a distance. Nukes can 'kill' a country with great efficiency at a distance. It is much more difficult to kill with a club, as one must gain proximity to the victim and use it repeatedly. One must also thwart the other's defenses. Proximity and vigorous, repeated application of conventional weapons are likewise required to 'kill' another nation, while penetrating its defenses.

The administration believes that gun control is bad, that all citizens should have the capability of resisting tyranny, and that law and order are strengthened by widespread possession of guns, because they deter unilateral aggression. The administration also believes that nuclear weapons control in the world is good. It's bad enough that some countries already have them (although we're keeping ours). As more countries gain nukes, the chance that one of them will decide to use them against other countries is unacceptable and justifies any actions deemed necessary to remove them.

At the level of individual citizens, guns are the ultimate deterrent to the violence and oppression of others. The gun lobby believes that an armed populace is the best defense against incipient tyranny; people with guns don't have to sit back and take it should an unjust government attempt to excercise its power over them. As the level of tyranny that would justify armed resistance is nowhere defined, presumably it's up to the individuals concerned to define it for themselves.

At the level of sovereign nations, nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent to the violence and oppression of other nations.

If nuclear weapons were guns and sovereign nations citizens, then, according to current Executive Branch thinking, only a few priviliged rich and/or powerful people should have guns. The rest should be prevented, forcibly if necessary, from acquiring guns, in the interest of maintaing societal stability and preventing killings. If guns were nuclear weapons and citizens sovereign nations, then every sovereign nation should be allowed to have nuclear weapons to protect itself against the potential tyranny of other countries. Any restriction upon the acquisition or deployment of nuclear weapons would be bad for the world community as a whole.

A rogue nation could decide to launch a nuclear attack against another country, just as a rogue individual could decide to start shooting his countrymen. The damage caused by either is awful and irreparable. Why accept one and not the other? It could be argued that the odd shooting is a reasonable price to pay for increased security in general, and the disincentive generated to governmental tyranny. It could be argued that the risk of a rogue nation using a nuclear weapon is too great for the rest of the world to countenance. We don't worry about individual lives in the US and we don't worry about the possibility of tyranny and unilateralism in the world.

Which 'principle' does the administration favor?