Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Arms Control

It's not yet 10:00 in the morning on the East Coast and most of the beltway elite who aren't actually on call for something are probably sleeping in so they don't nod off during the State of the Union tonight. In a few hours a lot of Congressmen and Senators are going to find out that North Korea set off a small nuclear device last night and that's going to ruin their whole day.

Democrats are going to have the worst of it.  They've got to find some way to incorporate North Korea and its nuclear program into all of the things they were planning on talking about in anticipation of or reaction to the State of the Union address.

Republicans have a much easier challenge.  They'll just point to North Korea's test as evidence of some failure of the Obama administration, as if the already crippling sanctions causing mass human starvation in North Korea aren't harsh enough or as if the President should have ordered airstrikes on the closest thing to a paranoid skitzophrenic in the international system.

At least the left and the right can agree on one thing: we all think North Korea shouldn't have a nuclear weapon.

Or should it?

After all, as Robert Heinlein once wrote, "an armed society is a polite society."  Indeed, that phrase was taken up by pro-second Amendment groups in support of concealed carry laws.    If this logic is sound, should not the universal proliferation of nuclear weapons ensure that rogue states like North Korea are less likely to become belligerent?

We often hear that it's unfair to punish responsible gun owners for the actions of irresponsible ones.  While perhaps true, is it equally unfair to punish reasonable and responsible states by demanding that they renounce nuclear weapons technology because we fear the actions of irresponsible governments?

The disconnect between the right's embrace of the gun lobby and its hawkish stance on North Korea and Iran extends to nearly every point and counter-point of both issues.
"Guns Nuclear Weapons don't kill people, people kill people"
"Criminals Rogue Nations do not obey laws anyway.  There's no point in having gun nuclear arms control, because criminals rogue nations will ignore those laws."
"Prohibition didn't work for alcohol in the 1920s and it won't work for guns nuclear weapons either."
Media likely won't talk about it, but a lot of the folks who will spend today loudly denouncing the North Korean nuclear program are going to turn around, after the State of the Union speech, and loudly denounce whatever gun control measures President Obama raises.

That's not to say that there aren't good arguments against gun control (or in favor of nuclear proliferation) because there are, but the "guns make us safer" argument always seems to depend upon an uncritical acceptance of its own premise and falls flat when paired up against anything easier to model than the actual ownership of actual firearms.

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