If you admire efforts by Henry Kissinger to revive nuclear disarmament negotiations, and yet you also respected Hans Blix for standing up to President George W. Bush in the run-up to the second Iraq war, then this little book about nuclear disarmament is for you. Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters is the latest—and one of the best—in an uneven but ambitious series of short and accessible introductions to various weighty subjects, from global poverty to capital punishment.
”Since World War II there has been a tremendous consolidation and expansion of international law,” Blix observes. ”Customary law has been codified [at the global level].” He lists trade, finance, communications, space, nuclear energy, and human rights as areas newly subject to such codification. It’s Blix’s belief that the continued consolidation of law—most significantly, nuclear disarmament treaty law—is the best way of heading off catastrophic violence. (Blix did concede, however, in a talk he gave earlier this year in New York, that some problems will remain intractable and make the use of force unavoidable. He mentioned a new international doctrine that’s been gaining ground—the ”responsibility to protect.” Perhaps in time that principle will be enshrined in our international code of conduct alongside the duty to answer aggression, so that there is a comprehensive standard for legitimate military action.)
Though Blix may minimize as inconveniences problems like Islamic extremism and ethnic hatred, there is no more eloquent or informed spokesperson for the view that talking with adversaries and enemies is essential. There are obvious dangers in that attitude, which is why policy toward Iran and Russia are major issues in the U.S. presidential contest. Do the merits of talking outweigh the dangers? In this concise book, Blix makes the case that they do.