• Disarmament or MAD?

    John Roughan has an extraordinary article in today’s Herald. He is normally a measured commentator on public affairs, but in this case, so anxious was he to attack the Prime Minister at any cost that he took aim at the speech she made at the UN on the subject of nuclear weapons and on the wisdom or otherwise of relying on the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) as the best way of avoiding nuclear disaster.

    In that speech, the Prime Minister pointed out that seeking protection from nuclear annihilation through mutually assured destruction left us all vulnerable to a madman like Putin who might see it as advantageous to threaten the whole globe with destruction in order to get his way. As a means of avoiding a nuclear catastrophe, therefore, mutually assured destruction, she concluded, suffered serious deficiencies; as a consequence, she thought, we would do better to seek different outcomes by facing up to what she called “the challenge” of achieving international disarmament.

    A reasonably intelligent listener to the speech would have been clear that Jacinda Ardern was not addressing the immediate battleground issue represented by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She was looking further afield and further into the future; she was looking for an end result that did not leave all the options in the hands of a power-crazed dictator. Better to seek the elusive goal of disarmament, she thought, rather than delude ourselves that mutually assured destruction could guarantee our future safety.

    This was all a little too difficult for John Roughan. He chose to think that the Prime Minister’s talk of “disarmament” signalled her willingness to “turn the other cheek” and to accept Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet there is nothing in the Prime Minister’s speech to suggest that she is anything other than determined, along with other world leaders, to ensure that Putin fails in Ukraine.

    Roughan may have been surprised that a world leader like our Prime Minister would have taken the trouble to lift her gaze from the immediate battlefield and was able to take a longer-term and strategic approach to the life and death matters raised by Putin’s threats. Those who think more deeply and see a little further than Roughan does will immediately see, however, that Jacinda Ardern was correctly identifying the real choice that she says now faces us. Mutual threats of nuclear destruction? Or nuclear disarmament? I know where my vote goes.

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