When I was a younger man, I worked as a researcher for a peace organisation that hoped to convince the UK to relinquish its nuclear weapons. (Actually, the organisation, gripped by a belief that it must bow to realpolitik, decided to press the UK to work towards multilateral disarmament.) I was, and am, passionate about the need for nuclear weapons disarmament.
In a phrase, my viewpoint is that anything is preferable to the use of nuclear weapons by a nation against the citizens of another. I believe they are beyond abhorrence and there is nothing that can justify their use.
I understand that having nuclear weapons allowed the United States and Russia to maintain a kind of peace for many years -- at least it allowed them to restrict their war in some ways. Mutually assured destruction worked as a deterrent, mostly because it kept the stakes high enough for even the most hawkish of hawks not to be tempted.
If Iraq had had nukes, and the means to deliver them to the US mainland, there would have been no invasion of that nation. It's curious that had Iraq actually posed the threat it is suggested it did, it would not have suffered the invasion that was supposed to end that threat! But no president would have risked Philadelphia or Baltimore just to "liberate" Iraqis and impose their puppet president on them.
Or would they? I hope we don't find out. The people behind the Bush administration are dangerous men, wild men who just might believe it is worth a few casualties to achieve their ends. Neither Iran nor North Korea is going to be the test case though. Neither can threaten the USA, although each can pose a threat to its proxies in their respective theatres.
It's US "interests" that count, of course, though, not its actual mainland. This rather nebulous term should be understood as "access to and control of resources". Without doubt, both powers can affect these.
The USA has no moral case in demanding nuclear nonproliferation. It is, as Dr ElBaradei says, rather like a man with a cigarette dangling from his mouth demanding that everyone give up smoking. The rhetoric from the Americans is almost amusing -- it is fuelled by their exceptionalism, their belief that Americans are inherently good and consequently should be allowed to do and have what others are forbidden.
It remains true that only one nation has ever used nuclear weapons in anger. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to believe that that same nation will be the next to use them. A pre-emptive strike on one of the rogue nuclear powers is possible. The Americans do not have the force to spare to attack either.
I don't think we're ever going to have a nuclear-weapons-free world. Once the genie escaped from that particular bottle...
And it isn't just the "turrists" who have shown their willingness to use any weapons they can get their hands on. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the USA has used thermobaric weapons , which are as destructive as a low-yield nuclear weapons and daisy cutters, which were developed to knock down Vietnamese jungles (by a supreme irony, in their quest to rid the world of "weapons of mass destruction", which are largely weapons that cause no destruction at all, the USA is employing weapons that destroy, erm, massively).
What do I think we should do? I still believe we should lead the way by disarming. The USA and its allies should commit to disarming themselves of nuclear weapons within a decade. They don't need them any more, if they ever did. Russia is in the shit economically and can be forced to disarm itself too.
China is a problem but it is increasingly dependent on oil and foreign trade. Sanctions would cripple it. Israel would be amenable to foreign pressure.
Having done this, we would have the moral force we need to enforce proliferation. I believe that the UN should resolve to use force against those who its inspectors declare are pursuing nuclear weapons programmes. I'm not a "use force" kind of person, but I do believe that in the right circumstances, bombing a plant or two is justified (with due warning to allow evacuation). Firms that supply parts to rogue powers would be fined extremely heavily.
Will something like this ever happen? No way. The USA is working on developing "useable" nuclear weapons and we can expect it to destroy the testing regime, which has helped keep the lid on proliferation. The Third World has learned its lesson from Iraq. If the finger is pointed at you, you will be attacked whatever the truth about your capabilities, so you need nukes to defend yourself against the Americans. When the Americans say you're either with us or against us, they do mean it, and if they have decided you are against them, look out.
When people like me say that the USA poses the greatest threat to the world, most Americans feel their hackles raising, and they cry "you're hysterical". But I'm not, am I? The USA has invaded two nations in recent years and has used what would be defined as WMDs by any sane judge. It has nukes, wants to use them (read the nuclear posture review if you just can't bring yourself to believe it) and has a policy of "pre-emptive attack" coupled with a disregard for the international community. Remind me, what was the definition of a rogue nation?