Fighting for Salvation: Mr. Obama Comes to Prague: In Prague, US President Barack Obama Set Forth a Comprehensive Framework for Nuclear Disarmament. as Nuclear Threats Are Spreading, the Movement to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Is Growing-But Time Is Not on Its Side

Article excerpt

Humans--the big brained species; so clever, yet so destructive. We can split an atom. And we can blow ourselves into oblivion. Albert Einstein observed, "The splitting of the atom has changed everything except our way of thinking, and hence we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." A Chinese proverb warns, "Unless we change direction, we shall end up where we are headed." Are we doomed? Does Barack Obama's ascendancy to global leadership mark a turning point?

Listening amid the adoring crowd at Prague Castle on the 5th of April to United States President Obama as the sun rose behind him, one felt the flutter of our better angels. Yet as Earth, Wind and Fire's Shining Star played and flags were distributed, as the crowd fell into a docile line for this globally televised event, it felt both historic and a bit cheesy. Celebrities pass, but our great global challenges will remain (at least the Earth will remain, will humanity?). In his Prague speech, Mr. Obama proclaimed that confronting nuclear proliferation is vital to "our ultimate survival." In vowing to rid the world of nuclear weapons, President Obama has challenged us to choose survival over destruction. Can we close Pandora's Box?

"As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." Mr. Obama's direct recognition of simple truths is refreshing, underscoring his message of responsibility. His affirmation of the basic bargain underpinning the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is essential. Under the NPT, countries with nuclear weapons shall disarm, and other countries shall repudiate nuclear weapons. And the pledge to have the US ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is long overdue. While the Russian Duma ratified the CTBT in 2000, the US Republican-dominated Senate voted it down in 1999. Obama's leadership towards nuclear disarmament is vital.

While we may criticize (Why was there no mention of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? Why keep alive the US radar system in the Czech Republic? See The Fallacy of Missile Defense, TNP, Fall 2006), Obama's tactics are reasonably aimed at delivering us from doom. The same might be said of his efforts to confront the US auto, energy, healthcare and financial industries, the Pentagon and its defense contractors, and the very nature of business and politics. Obama's challenge brings to mind Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or trying to fight City Hall.

Tenacity, grace and grassroots mobilization are required in fighting those with vested interests in the status quo. The lack of buzz stirred in the mainstream press on this atomic initiative is remarkable. Conspicuous in their absence have been editorials and analysis on Obama's nuclear framework in major media outlets. Of course they too represent vested interests in the status quo. The status quo, however, is unsustainable with respect to nuclear weapons proliferation.

Nuclear weapons are unlike any other weapons--they cannot be used for any legitimate purpose; any possible use violates international law. And so the notion that nuclear weapons provide security is fundamentally flawed. Prevailing wisdom during the Cold War held that nobody would attempt a nuclear strike because it would prompt a counterstrike; mutual assured destruction (MAD) was thought to provide an effective deterrent against the use of nuclear weapons. A small minority argued that they could survive a nuclear attack and emerge victorious. They were called nuclear utilization theorists (NUTs). The absurdity of denying the prospect of nuclear devastation is reflected in a comment from a top Reagan administration nuclear strategist who said that in the event of a nuclear attack, "If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody's going to make it. It's the dirt that does it." NUTS now place faith and resources in shield protection against missiles (SPAM). SPAM, NUTS and MAD offer false security. …