Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yes, We Can Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Yes, We Can Abolish Nuclear Weapons
By Jerome Grossman

A major disappointment in the presidential race has been the failure of the three surviving candidates to address nuclear weapons, the greatest existential threat to planet Earth, to the human race itself, and of course, by extension to the United States of America.

The failure is extraordinary because the abolition of nuclear weapons has been raised recently and repeatedly by some of the most respected and powerful personages in the U.S. military, the federal government, and corporate America. How could a serious election virtually ignore this powerful initiative?

A January 2007 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Senator Sam Nunn and former Secretary of Defense William Perry called for a “world free of nuclear weapons” and urged the United States to lead an international effort to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. They argued for a multilateral verifiable plan with strong enforcement mechanisms. They stated: “Nuclear weapons today present tremendous dangers, but also an historic opportunity. U.S. leadership will be required to take the world to the next stage -- to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.”

Last month, in response to a question about her reaction to Iran attacking Israel with nuclear weapons, Hillary Clinton said that she would “obliterate” Iran in that eventuality. In a later interview she again threatened “massive retaliation.”

Her remarks were unwise and destabilizing, echoing the irresponsible statements of President Ahmadinejad of Iran who has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and then tried to modify the statement. Hillary knows not to answer a hypothetical question, particularly when Iran does not have nuclear weapons according to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that stated that Iran ended its unsuccessful program to build them in 2003. Clinton should have used the question to rally support for stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the reduction of nuclear arsenals that exist in eight countries. She might have pointed out that such an attack was unlikely because Israel deters other countries with its own nukes, some of them on submarines constantly patrolling the Mediterranean.

Overt threats like those by Ahmadinejad and Clinton to use nuclear weapons are dangerous because they initiate a process that might become uncontrollable. Nuclear war must never happen and even to contemplate it weakens international inhibitions of their use.

Most importantly, Clinton wasted an opportunity to rally support behind the well-documented and responsible proposal to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. That is the crucial issue for the survival of America. Will the next president accept the challenge?


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