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The nuclear option

Anthony Barnett
6 February 2003

If you are in Japan, North Korea’s missile threat looms largest. If you are in America, the disintegration of the space shuttle sweeps away your headlines. If you are in Iraq, Iran, or indeed, Europe, the crisis in the Gulf predominates. But if you were in Brazil’s Porto Alegre last week, you were most likely working to make another world possible.

We lead this edition with reports from Susan Richards and Solana Larsen, just back from the World Social Forum (WSF).

Solana listens as activists try and make their bold dreams concrete and achievable.

For Susan the WSF is a revival of the medieval fair in an information age, where experience is exchanged and connections made. A marketplace for ideas.

openDemocracy aspires to be a similar space.

Lateral connections, not top-down edicts are the stuff of democratic exchange. Participation is of course, key. In March we will be launching new forum spaces which will replace the present clunky ones. Yet even now, there are over a thousand contributions from our members in the ‘Iraq: war or not’ discussion.

Let me highlight just two. ‘Gary 1970’ is a pro-war US sergeant. His arguments are considered and, given his proximity to war, deserve to be listened to carefully; while ‘dyoung’ invokes recent experience, specifically Somalia, to argue against ‘just war.’

openDemocracy aims to become a space where communities can grow and learn - communities which belong equally to members and that are not subject to editorial edicts.

The surprise and urgency of participation is mirrored in this edition by our commissioned articles, where, without our planning it, we have three pieces on an issue which suddenly surfaced: nuclear weapons.

openDemocracy’s international security correspondent Paul Rogers considers the likelihood and impact of nuclear escalation in Iraq. Achilles Skordas provocatively argues that defining the legal conditions governing their use would help to ensure a situation where their use becomes unthinkable. And Tom Nairn, in part 4 of his panoptic essay on America and globalisation, sees in the US nuclear option a classical compulsion for global sovereignty and control (or what used to be known as imperialism).

When the world’s main power announces a strategy of pre-emption that includes an expanded right to use nuclear weapons, the need for a vigorous debate - of the principles at stake, and the impact on the world - is urgent. That is another reason why openDemocracy exists.

Anthony Barnett

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