Niels Bohr’s nuclear weapons policy redeemed

The NY Times has an interesting article on the current policies of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Some people advocate openness (an some even practice it like Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist.

The article points out, that this situation was essentially foreseen by Niels Bohr, the nobel prize winning physicist who is the father of quantum physics. Niels Bohr has long been one of my heroes. He is one of the few people who managed to live a life that was both great and happy. He was a deep thinker who got things done. A nice and thoughtful person who never talked badly of others. A man of strong intuition who was never afraid to think new thoughts.

Immediately following World War II, he shocked a lot of people, incuding Winston Churchill, by suggesting that the west share nuclear weapons technology with the Soviet Union. He predicted, that the result of not doing so would be an arms and technology race that would bring the world in danger, saying
We are in a completely new situation… The terrible prospect of a future competition between nations about a weapon of such formidable character can only be avoided through a universal agreement.’

The people in power wouldn’t listen (Churchill is reported to have been really annoyed with this addle-headed scientist and his rosy vision of international collaboration) and the cold war followed.

I admire Bohr for being willing to propose such an idea at such a time. He believed he was right, and worked for his ideals. I also admire him for having the genius to realize, that the answer to avoiding a nuclear arms race (either between superpowers or, even scarier, between rogue nations) is not unilateral action, that this can only come from global cooperation – exactly what the worlds leaders are realizing today.

0 thoughts on “Niels Bohr’s nuclear weapons policy redeemed”

  1. Maybe we can add to the list above "rogue elements of religious communities".

    Have you read Bernard Lewis’ Crisis in Islam? Good summary of current situation by a recognized expert. He notes that Islam does not have the notion of "nation state" in exactly the same way we think of it in the West. It makes I think the ideas of "nation building" spoken of here in USA politics a bit ethno-centric. World views again in tension.

    And you are very right, Bohr was a very courageous man.

  2. Rogue elements of religious communities – yep, let’s put them on the list too.

    Actually I kinda regretted mentioning "rogue nations" in the post. I think the whole threat of N. Korea or Iraq having nuclear weapons is blown out of proportion – they might get a few devices, and that could be dangerous enough, but nowhere near as dangerous as what we had during the cold war.

    I checked out Bernard Lewis, and found this quote on the net:
    "Islam as such is not an enemy of the West, and there are growing numbers of Muslims, both there and here, who desire nothing better than a closer and more friendly relationship with the West and the development of democratic institutions in their own countries. . . . At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point

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