Opening remarks to Glion workshop

Feb 17 2011
VERTIC Blog >> Arms Control and Disarmament

On 17 February 2011, David Cliff and I travelled to Glion, Switzerland, to have VERTIC's draft report on irreversibility reviewed.

These were my opening remarks:

Good morning everyone.

We have gathered here to talk about two simple words: irreversibility and disarmament. Or so you would think. There is, of course, nothing simple about these words. Both words have complex meanings.

Disarmament could mean the total absence of arms. But this is not how the word is used. Irreversibility means that you've reached a position where you cannot reverse your decision. But this is not how the word is used.

They are both powerful words. They signal commitment. Action. Credibility. However, their power is diluted by reality. Disarmed states can always rearm. All actions are reversible. In reality, disarmament is not an absolute end-state, but rather something that can be reversed. The key questions are: how quickly? Minutes, hours, days, weeks or years? And to what political, economical or human cost?

These are issues we have started to explore.

Our study was, by no means, a simple one. We struggled with the terms. We found no, or very little, previous literature to fall back on. Our level of ambition seemed modest at first, but we quickly realised how much work we had ahead of us.

I would like to thank our funders for giving us this opportunity. Dr. Schoenenberger and Mr. Masmejean in particular. I would like to thank the project team for their hard work over this few months: Mr. David Cliff for doing most of the writing, Mr. Hassan Elbahtimy for conceptualisation and planning, Mr. Larry MacFaul for quality control and editing. Our interns and our consultants, none mentioned and none forgotten.

And I would like to thank you all for coming here. Review is an essential aspect of research. Our discussions here will make the final product stronger. And it is rare, and humbling, to see such a high powered group of reviewers. Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedules, especially at a time when the CD seems to be stirring from its slumber.

We hope that this draft will able to prompt some focused, critical, thinking on the largely understudied issue of irreversibility. We are looking forward to hearing those thoughts. Let us together to lay some foundations for future research into this area. There are many stones left to be turned.

Last changed: Feb 17 2011 at 6:46 PM