Peter Weiss


Jonathan Swift famously said, "Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through." Swift was no doubt referring to the propensity of the law to shrink from prosecuting the lords of the realm, while going vigorously after smaller fry. But his aphorism applies equally to issues: the more portentous the issue, the less likely it is to yield to legal restraints. This is evidenced by such lawless pronouncements as "international law is not a suicide pact" or, more recently, "I believe that all nations-strong and weak alike-must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I-like any head of state-reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation." It follows that a compilation of a large volume of laws, treaties, regulations, and resolutions, no matter how thorough and exhaustive, from which the illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons can be deduced, will not necessarily bring about a nuclear-weapons-free world. Indeed, the main article recognizes this dilemma by describing the negative position of the United States, which may be characterized as "desperately seeking Lotus." What is needed, therefore, is a clear, absolute, and enforceable mandate, akin to the biological and chemical weapons conventions. It is this logic that has led to movement for a nuclear weapons convention. This Essay will briefly describe the movement for a model nuclear-weapons convention ("MNWC" or "Convention") in Part I and outline its contents and discuss some issues that it raises in Part II.