The Most Important Issue
By Jerome Grossman
President Ronald Reagan said that nuclear weapons are “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.” On March 23, 1983, President Reagan's proposed to “eliminate the weapons themselves.” In 1985, at their Geneva Summit Conference, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made their joint statement that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
In January 2007, a conference on nuclear weapons was held at the very conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Four of the participants produced an article “A world free of nuclear weapons” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal: Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under President Nixon, George Shultz, Secretary of State under President Reagan, William Perry, Secretary of Defense under President Clinton, and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. All were conservatives; two were Republicans, two Democrats. All knew a lot about nuclear weapons. They quoted Reagan and spoke from experience, urging implementation of the neglected goal of worldwide nuclear arsenal reductions, negotiated in full embrace of the ideal of abolition.
The four conservative gurus had a political plan-to insert into the presidentential campaign a serious discussion of the most important issue facing the United States and the world. Their conservative backgrounds would allow their ideas about nuclear security to be accepted as a framework for a national colloquy, bypassing the prejudice against liberals and peaceniks in imperial America.
However, it did not happen. The Republican candidates simply ignored the issue. The Democrats acknowledged the dangers, but chose to focus their campaigns on Iraq, healthcare, immigration, personality and electability. For the media and the organizers of the repetitious and boring debates, nuclear weapons abolition was ignored.
But the real failure must be assigned to the voters who have not demanded answers from the candidates. They know that the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia are powerful enough to irradiate the entire planet, to threaten the existence of the human species, to destroy civilization. They must realize that if North Korea, Iran and Pakistan can manufacture nuclear weapons, that capability is within the range of dozens of other countries, that nuclear weapons are the great equalizers reducing the great powers’ ability to use conventional force. And nuclear terrorism may be just around the corner.
It is only a few minutes before midnight on the atomic clock. Time for a wakeup and time to prepare for abolition by adopting:
A declaration of no first use of nuclear weapons
A universal policy of taking all nukes off hair trigger alert
An international plan to secure all nuclear materials
A ban on building new nukes
A ban on all nukes in space
Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Reductions in the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them
Voters of America: ask your favorite candidates for President, Senate, and House of Representatives what they are doing to save the world from nuclear annihilation -- the most important issue of our time.