Cultures and nations have past history, some good some they hope never happened like the slavery of Africans in the US, apartheid in S. Africa, colonization by the western powers etc. etc. Each of those we realized and fixed the problem with pain. Time has been the healing factor. None happened without emergence of great leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and the like and sacrifice of millions to fight for justice. It was not handed over by the guilty parties in silver platter. Although, the guilty parties today may see the justice, have remorse and hence wish it never happened.
The world in the beginning of the twentieth century was a very different place. Slavery, apartheid, colonization were all alive and kicking. New national and cultural identities were shaping up. Nations like Germany and Japan came to challenge the US, UK and USSR and wanted the piece of the pie. The world had to go thru the trauma of two world wars. The building and the use of the first two (and the last ones so far!) atomic bombs mark an end of an era of land grab and almost a rite of passage. There is no point debating the right and wrong. I see this as part of our growing up as a world community. The defining of clearer national boundaries and birth of new nations like India and Israel are a result of the end of this phase.
Then the ideological war started (more commonly known as the cold war) of the democracy vs. communism (and other forms of totalitarianism). Trust and cooperation was still far on the horizon. It was the time of the Korean War, Vietnam War and the war of words about the evil empire. That resulted in the stockpiling of nuclear arms by the super powers and naturally other nations looking at this as a means to the power status. Some more nations joined the nuclear club and more are in the queue. This war is far from over although there have been significant victories like greater power to the people in erstwhile USSR and China, China emerging as economic superpower, Success of South Korea, NPT, world trade with freer economies and general increase in people power and wealth. What will be the rite of passage for this phase?
Let us look at the earlier phase and see if there are parallels and lessons to be learnt. First, did Germany and Japan really lose? Not at all. Both became rich and powerful. Colonization was land grab, since nations or empires were overpowered militarily by the powerful nations to get economic advantage. When Germany and Japan rose, they tried to continue that practice copying from Britain, France, Spain and the like. This was copying the wrong practice of others and wrong kind of leadership took shape that of Hitler and Japanese military. Instead of trying to correct the wrong others have done, they perpetuated the wrong with disastrous consequences. It taught us a few lessons:
Copying the wrong of others will give rise to wrong kind of leadership and a threat to the very people copying the wrong practice. If instead of overcoming slavery, the slaves created their own rung of slaves would they be free? Instead, leaders like Martin Luther, fought against that wrong for the good of all the slaves as well as the masters.
The wrong will get corrected in due course. The colonizing nations had to give up the colonies and create new nations; Germany and Japan were not made colonies after they were defeated in war since colonizing nations by then had learnt from past mistakes.
With trust and cooperation all win, so the victors and the victims both won after working together.
Germany and Japan had every right to assert their positions but if they asserted by trying to abolish colonization, they would have been in a leadership position in the world and would have humiliated the colonizing nations. The rise of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi in the same period is a case in point. He did not wage a war against the colonizers but fought for justice and peace.
Firstly, nations recognize the rights of other nations in this world and give appropriate rights to form a good world and then the nation should realize the rights of the citizen and give appropriate rights to form a great nation. Both, Germany and Japan gave up their dictatorial / imperial rule and became democracies. International bodies like UN were formed to settle disputes between nations.
Coming to the next phase, what should nations be doing to resolve the nuclear issue? What will be the rite of passage this time?
Did the US and USSR really need to stockpile the nuclear arms to the extent that it can annihilate the world several times over?
If US thinks it has earned the rights to lead the world, and create a new world order, it will need to get the new kind of world leaders not those that depend on the same old 'might is right' kind of leadership.
The US has very poor leadership for its own good; forget the good of the world.
Leadership is lacking in other nations who are feeling compelled to copy the wrong things in hope of establishing their own identity and power.
The focus of this war has shifted from communism after a balance of power with erstwhile USSR and China, to Muslim countries still with remnants of middle ages in form of government and religious fanatics.
Terrorism is a threat but a greater threat is powerful nations going berserk with moralizing goals. The world hasn't forgotten the earlier phase of colonialism.
It calls for stronger international bodies and democracy and freedom. The USA did give in and abolish slavery, create a strong democracy and became the most powerful nation. Today, it needs to do a better job of understanding the rights of nations. The middle-east countries need to change the style of government, open up and bury the past of crusaders and religious wars.
If total nuclear disarmament is the right goal and I think it really is, then,
The US of A and others should be providing leadership for strong international organizations that can deal with disputes of nations and have a moral and legal authority to act in the interest of all. Some form of democratic process must evolve to represent the whole world.
Nations should be first working toward political and economic freedom of their people rather than give false hopes of power. People in those nations should be looking for the right kind of leaders who can provide them with basic needs well and then regional and global leadership to create a greater international forum to sort out issues.
To disarm US and USSR first and then other nuclear nations, rather than inviting situation of sanction, nations must unite together to impose sanctions on those powers. The tables can be turned for the rightful cause. Imagine closing the markets and not selling the essentials to those countries. But alas! Where such leaders will come from? Some form of pressure needs to be applied to dissolve the stockpile of nuclear arsenal.
That brings us to the rite of passage for this phase. If the right leadership did emerge, the reversal of the previous ' not to destroy by the bombs but to destroy the bombs itself will be the rite of passage. But what is more likely is that just like the old rite of passage, there will be a more powerful demonstration of the old and subduing of the weak. But after a long and protracted battle of terrorism, small wars, there will be the big bang not just in two cities or two countries.