Following the April trip to Hiroshima by John Kerry, the scene is set for the first visit of a US President to the sites where America dropped the bomb in August 1945. Having taken the world into the atomic age, America has a special obligation to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Tomorrow’s visit (May 27) will be a side-trip to the G7 summit hosted by Japan and is already perceived as a major success for the Japanese Prime Minister and a show of strength of Japanese-American relations in the face of an increasingly assertive Chinese presence in the region. Surely, it will do nothing to appease the Chinese and South Korean grievances for Japanese atrocities inflicted on them in the first half of the 20th century.
In 2009 already, Obama said that achieving a world without nuclear weapons is fundamental for American security and for peace in the world. During the cold war nukes could have erased the world as we know it in a flash of light. Today the cold war is over but the legacy of thousands of nuclear weapons remains with the paradox of a higher risk of a nuclear attack occurring. With the proliferation of nuclear secrets and technology, more countries have nuclear weapons and it is easier for terrorist groups to gain access to them.
President Obama is right that global peace and security demands ridding the world of nuclear weapons and that America has a moral responsibility to lead. How much can be achieved without inflaming existing tensions remains to be seen. Obama’s legacy on peace could be in the making here. With much criticism already voiced back home and more coming from North Korea, we will find out soon enough.
It is not the tragedy of scientists that their discoveries are used for destruction; it is the tragedy of mankind.Leo Szilard, Hungarian-American Physicist
Jacob Bronowski’s “Science and Human Values” was recommended to me by Garry Jacobs, CEO of the World Academy of Art and Science. The book came to mind as he was preparing a conference at CERN in Geneva (November 2015) on proper governance to ensure that science, technology and innovation serve human progress for the benefit current and future generations.
Bronowski was a Polish-born mathematician, historian of science, author, poet, inventor and accomplished chess-player who grew up in England. He worked for the UK Ministry of Home Security during World War II to incorporate mathematics into bombing strategies. At the end of the war, he was part of the British scientific team that visited Japan to document the effects of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The barren landscape of Nagasaki that he discovered prompted him to try and convince his colleagues in government and at the United Nations that this desolation should be preserved exactly as it was for future generations to remember the horrors of atomic warfare. In his mind, only “this clinical sea of rubble” would be capable of providing a context for statesman to take decisions with such implications. Regrettably, his colleagues did not agree.
The short essays that make up “Science and Human Values” were born in the ruins of Nagasaki in light of the “power of science for good and evil” and the dilemma of civilization faced with its own brutal implications.
“Science and Human Values” is just as relevant today as when Bronowski was standing in the ruins of Nagasaki or in Auschwitz after the war.
A thought-provoking book that I recommend to anyone interested in the future of mankind.
The author of this article is an Associate Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.