Restoring U.S. Nuclear-Free Leadership

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Restoring U.S. Nuclear-Free Leadership


Byline: Thomas Graham Jr. and Max M. Kampelman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

After a long dry spell, the seeds planted by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985 and Reykjavik in 1986, appear to be bearing fruit. Their declaration in Geneva that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," set the stage for the historic Reykjavik meeting at which the two leaders came tantalizingly close to finally abolishing their nations' nuclear arsenals.

Ultimately, they set in motion a series of negotiations in which both of us participated and which led within three years to treaties that abolished intermediate range nuclear weapons and reduced strategic offensive weapons by 50 percent.

Yet, despite this promising beginning, the threat of nuclear war has metastized. Today, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have entered the ranks of nuclear powers, and Iran may yet join them. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), predicts that unless present trends are reversed, there will be more than 25 nuclear weapons states in a few years, many of them unstable and prone to takeover by extremists. The likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons would then be greater than at any time during the Cold War.

Recognition that the nuclear problem is still with us and in new and unsettling forms, has led a number of the most senior statesmen of the nuclear age to take a fresh look at the current situation - and openly embrace the "zero option," the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. This reappraisal has been going on for some time.

In 1995, The Stimson Center here in Washington convened a panel of experts under the chairmanship of former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, President Eisenhower's White House aide, to reassess the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. Some leading postwar era defense strategists and practitioners, including Paul Nitze and Robert McNamara, participated.

They concluded that "U.S. national security would be best served by a policy of phased reductions in all states' nuclear forces and gradual movement toward the objective of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction from all countries."

A year later, in December 1996, Gen. Goodpaster and Gen. George Lee Butler, former commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command, issued a joint statement in which they noted that "As senior military officers, we have given close attention over many years to the role of nuclear weapons as well as the risks they involve."

They urged "exploring the feasibility of their ultimate complete elimination." Yet, despite growing support among experts and the public, the movement lost steam after Congress refused in 1999 to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

But in recent months, the movement has regained its vigor. This came to public notice in January 2007 and again last January, in a remarkable statement signed by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, William Perry and an impressive number of other public figures and experts in which they noted that "it is far from certain that we can successfully replicate the old Soviet-American mutually assured destruction with an increasing number of potential nuclear enemies worldwide without dramatically increasing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used." They called for specific measures to move towards the zero option. Since then, others have endorsed their viewpoint, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell, among 17 former Cabinet members, retired generals, scholars and politicians. …

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