The Desperate Clawing for Power by Means of Nuclear Weapons

Picture: Rowan Sporte Ehn, MAPA; Lobbyists meet with Rep. Bill Driscoll to discuss bills H.738/S.1488 and S.1487.

by Rowan Sporte Ehn

I, like many of my gen. Z peers, have long been under the assumption that the Cold War was complete. Throughout many history classes, I learned how close the world came to total annihilation during that time due to the looming threat of nuclear weapons. Though I have known that nuclear weapons still exist and have the capability of destroying entire civilizations, I had never known the extent to which they are still a threat. Upon joining MAPA, I came to realize how pervasive these weapons continue to be in the political and military playgrounds. In fact, continuing the production of these weapons has highlighted the stark contrast between the countries with them and those without. Countries like the United States who have massive amounts of nuclear weapons use them as a form of absolute power both over other countries and over their own citizens–as Elaine Scarry depicts in her book Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom. Scarry describes how the mere presence of these weapons give the head of state a form of absolutist power, how that one person alone has the ability to launch them without any public or congressional approval. 

The US government is well acquainted with using power and fear to manipulate others. The United States is by no means above using nuclear weapons as a tactic to suppress other nations; it showed this by being the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in conflict (in reference to the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945) (NYTimes). Through its policies–or really lack thereof–the US has shown time and time again that it will continue this path of domination. Many other nations have signed on to and ratified treaties such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW); the former being a unilateral declaration to forego full-scale nuclear weapons testing created in 1992 which was signed but not ratified by the US and the latter being a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, created in 2017, which has not been signed or ratified by the US (Arms Control Association; United Nations). While the CTBT was introduced by the United States, it was opposed by the Senate and was thus never ratified. This unwillingness to sign the treaty has meant that, though it has been signed by 187 countries and ratified by 178 countries, it will not be put into effect because it must be ratified by the 44 designated “nuclear-capable states” (i.e. states with either nuclear power plants or research reactors), which includes the US (Arms Control Association). In that vein, it clearly highlights how the US government is unwilling to lose the power it has over other nations. 

While, in theory, the Cold War between the United States and Russia–formerly the USSR–is finished, the tensions surrounding nuclear weapons and the threat of a nuclear war are still very much alive. Nuclear weapons exist, which means they can be used. Recently, there have been several lobby days at the Massachusetts State House to push for bills H.738/S.1488 which would introduce a commission that would investigate the funding of nuclear weaponry as well as potential divestments from it and S.1487 which is a resolution to embrace the TPNW. The next lobby day is planned for May 22, 2024, where anyone can come to speak to their representatives about these important bills. We as a people must continue the fight to put an end to nuclear weapons everywhere, starting right here in Massachusetts. If you are interested in attending the upcoming lobby day or joining our Nuclear Disarmament campaign, more information can be found on the MAPA website here

Rowan Sporte Ehn is a MAPA intern on co-op from Northeastern University. They are a member of the “Twin Threats”/CANDU and Gaza campaigns as well as the Racial Justice and Public Engagement & Movement Building Working Groups.