Monday, November 24, 2008

Boston Globe on “No Nukes”

The Boston Globe published an interesting piece yesterday on the growing support for nuclear abolition. Though not exactly groundbreaking, it is noteworthy in that the idea is moving from an inside the beltway discussion towards a mainstream debate.

FOR MANY AMERICANS, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is a bit like the idea of a world without war or disease - it would be nice, but, contra John Lennon, it's hard to imagine.

That's not to say lots of people haven't devoted themselves to the cause. As the atomic age was dawning, Gandhi was already demanding its end, and today Pope Benedict XVI echoes that call. A host of international organizations, from Greenpeace to Mayors for Peace to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to the German Green Party, are dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons. Many of them have been at it for decades.

The movement, however, has always carried utopian associations, and been conflated in the popular imagination with pacifism. The leaders of the world's nuclear powers, their global stature buttressed by their atomic arsenals, have, with a few exceptions, shown little real interest in the idea.

This is changing. Total nuclear disarmament - "getting to zero" in the arms-control argot - has become a mainstream cause. Voices from the heights of the American foreign policy establishment have begun to argue that, in a world of inevitably unruly globalization, increasing interest in nuclear energy, incomplete alliances, ambitious suicide terrorists, and ever-present human fallibility, it will never be enough to improve controls on the world's nuclear weapons, or to reduce their numbers. We have to commit to eliminating them altogether.

These arguments are being made not by popes and mahatmas and Greens but by former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense, by generals and nuclear scientists, Democrats and Republicans. The leaders of the new no-nuke movement are George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, four of the most respected figures in American foreign policy circles. Over the past two years, they have, in speeches, at arms-control conferences and, most prominently, in two widely circulated op-ed pieces, lent their authority to an idea that is still seen as fairly radical.

And there is evidence that these arguments are being taken seriously by the people who are going to be making decisions about nuclear policy in the new administration. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama repeatedly committed himself to a nuclear-free future. One of his key foreign policy advisers, Ivo Daalder, coauthored an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, a leading foreign policy journal, laying out a plan for how to get there.

Click here for the full article.

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