Former Cold War Officials Issue Plea for Nuclear Sanity

By Krieger, David | National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

Former Cold War Officials Issue Plea for Nuclear Sanity


Krieger, David, National Catholic Reporter


An important commentary appeared in the Jan. 4 issue of The Wall Street Journal, coauthored by four high-level architects of the Cold War: George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn. The article, headlined "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," was amazing not so much for what it proposed but for who was making the proposal. The four prominent former U.S. officials reviewed current nuclear dangers and called for U.S. leadership to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. Their argument was as follows:

* Reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.

* Terrorist groups are outside the bounds of deterrence strategy.

* We are entering a new nuclear era that will be more precarious, disorienting and costly than was Cold War deterrence.

* New nuclear weapons states lack the safeguarding and control experiences learned by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

* The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty envisioned the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

* Non-nuclear weapons states have grown increasingly skeptical of the sincerity of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

* There exists a historic opportunity to eliminate nuclear weapons in the world.

* To realize this opportunity, bold vision and action are needed.

* The United States must take the lead and must convince the leaders of the other nuclear weapons states to turn the goal of nuclear weapons abolition into a joint effort.

* A number of steps need to be taken to lay the groundwork for a world free of nuclear threat, including de-alerting nuclear arsenals; reducing the size of nuclear arsenals; eliminating tactical nuclear weapons; achieving Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and encouraging other key states to also do so; securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials everywhere in the world; and halting production of fissile materials for weapons, ceasing to use enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research reactors.

For many of us committed to the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons, there is nothing new in their arguments. They are arguments that many civil society groups have been making since the end of the Cold War. Other former officials, such as Robert McNamara and Gen. George Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, have made such arguments. What is new is that these former Cold Warriors have joined in a bipartisan spirit to publicly make these arguments to the American people. This means that the perspectives of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the Global Security Institute, the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and other dedicated civil society groups are finally being embraced by key former officials who once presided over Cold War nuclear strategy.

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