President's Corner

I am truly honored to have been elected President of Science for Peace. The choosing of a political scientist for this role perhaps conforms to the normative definition of a scientist as one “who possesses knowledge in any department Of learning.”

My special “department of learning” is diplomacy and defence, applied and honed during 33 years in the foreign service of Canada. During this service I have become convinced that science and technology, twinned with military contractors, may be lucrative for business,but deadly for security and peace. At a time-when our entire planet is a potential battlefield and we are tempted to pursue military operations into outer space, it behooves Canadian scientists to combine their research efforts with those of scientists throughout the world seeking surer paths to security and survival than those that lead to the “peace of the grave”.

“Canadians recognize,” said Prime Minister Mulroney to the UN General Assembly Oct. 23, 1985, “that there is no greater goal, no more compelling duty, than the quest for peace. We shall not rest until our security can be assured without tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Above all, we shall not rest until we have secured the future of our children.”

I believe that the task of educating the public about the consequences of nuclear war has to go on. But awareness of the fatal consequences of radioactive leaks or explosions or of the instability of the nuclear deterrent is not enough. We have to use our expertise to stop the arms race which is fuelled by scientific and technological innovations.

A close examination of the competitive process of accumulating nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the superpowers reveals that this activity is constant and largely senseless. It has no real or long term objective and sometimes may be even contrary to established law and existing treaty obligations like the ABM Treaty. The change in leadership in the Soviet Union has put a new opportunity in our way to explore the possibilities of putting restraints on this mindless process. Instead of “sharing the burden” with the United States for starting a new escalation of the arms race (through support of the binary chemical weapons program – ed.),Canada should press for a creative dialogue to end the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare.

Disasters in the operation of nuclear power plants are timely reminders of the need for research in improving the systematic monitoring of radioactivity, at least to the standards now in operation in Sweden. This, Canadian scientists could do.

In order to reduce the-risk of war by accident or miscalculation, Canada could establish a crisis management centre, located as we are on the missile route between the two nuclear superpowers.

Instead of Star Wars, Canadian science has the capability of contributing significantly to “Star Peace”. Canadians, through experience in such activities as world-wide reconnaissance through satellites, seismic sensors, oceanography, geodesy amid meteorology, could contribute invaluable research to counter the new trend toward “Fortress America”.

One of the most disturbing trends is the retreat being led by the United states from internationalism at a time when the global infrastructure of communications, finance and trade all make the interdependence of nations an imperative. The choice before Canada is whether to contribute to world law and order as we have done in the past, thus being a “middle power”, or to become the “ham” in a superpower sandwich.

— George Ignatieff