Friday, June 1, 2007

Does A New Arms Race Threaten Muslims?

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) June 1, 2007 - Earlier this week, Russian federation President Vladimir Putin announced the development and testing of a new Russian Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This new weapon is designed to penetrate and defeat anti-ballistic missile defense that the United States plans to deploy in former Warsaw Pact nations now within the orbit of NATO.

President Putin, in announcing this development, accused the United States of initiating a new arms race that would once again pit these former Cold-War adversaries in a renewed struggle for global domination.

This new development is certainly alarming for those of us who believed that the nuclear face-off between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had dissolves into improbability. While the two global powers are far from being allies, and while numerous political and economic issues separate Russians and Americans, conventional wisdom assumed that, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990, a strategic arms race, and the likelihood of a shooting war between these old antagonists, was a thing of the past.

Apparently, we were wrong.

Despite numerous rounds of negotiation and nuclear arms reductions, both nations still have thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at each other. The Russians believe, with some justification, that the U.S. plan to place missile defenses in Eastern Europe is a direct threat to their own security. And the Russian response will be to fortify their own nuclear war capability with new weapons designed to overwhelm missile defense systems.

The likelihood of a new strategic arms race is very real. And the impact of this development on the global community, and, especially on Muslim nations, could be quite severe.

There are several reasons why this news should be alarming for Muslims. Aside from the increased likelihood of a nuclear exchange between Russia and America-an potential apocalypse that the world has avoided since 1945-a new arms race would fuel the development and exchange of new missile and nuclear weapons technologies developed by states like North Korea and Iran who want to get into the game with the “big boys”.

The proliferation of these weapons, and their delivery systems, would increase the objective threat of nuclear war between numerous parties in conflict around the globe, or even between state parties and non-state actors.

But there is another danger of an even greater conventional arms race. Because the Russians will need to pay for their new missiles, and that will mean, at least potentially, pushing for even more conventional arms exports throughout the world, and especially in the Muslim world. And remember that, in the nuclear age, more human beings have been killed by Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades that by nuclear bombs.

And even if there is no shooting war between these two superpowers, the economic impact of billions and billions of more dollars and rubles spent on weapons of mass destruction will divert scarce resources from confronting, and defeating, the real weapons of mass destruction in our world: hunger, disease, poverty and hopelessness.

All of these great maladies are alive and well in the Muslim world.

A new arms race helps no one, but it severely threatens all of humankind, and especially those populations most devastated by warfare and poverty. The nuclear-and conventional-merchants of death will push and push for an expansion of their markets to pay for their new and more expensive toys. These weapons are the raw material of war, crime, and genocide all over the planet. The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world will be those most likely to suffer.

Here in the United States, Muslims should use our growing political clout to help reign in the military expansion of the American empire, and call for no new deployment of missiles in Europe that would likely result in a new round of saber-rattling and superpower arms competition between the United States and Russia. Moreover, we should support the demilitarization of the foreign policy of this nation, which constitutes five percent of the human population but accounts for more than 40 percent of the global arms trade.

Neither Russian nor American missiles will feed the devastated population in Darfur or provide water and medicine to the people of Gaza. Our voices and our work should join with the great majority of the people of the world who call for an end to warfare and any renewed threat of an arms race between the two nations that held the world in the grip of threatened nuclear annihilation for more than half a century.

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