Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Justification for Nuclear Arsenal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Justification for Nuclear Arsenal

Article excerpt

Well-meaning friends have counseled me that by championing elimination of nuclear weapons, I risk setting the bar too high, providing an easy target for the cynical and diverting attention from the more immediately achievable.

The harsh truth is that six years after the end of the Cold War we are still prisoner to its psychology of distrust, still enmeshed in the vocabulary of mutual assured destruction, still in the thrall of the nuclear era. Worse, strategists persist in conjuring worlds that spiral toward chaos and in concocting threats that they assert can be discouraged or expunged only by the existence or employment of nuclear weapons.

No one is more conscious than I am that realistic prospects for the elimination of nuclear weapons will evolve over many years. I was in the public arena for too long ever to make the perfect the enemy of the good. However, we are far too timorous in imagining the good; we are still too rigidly conditioned by an arms control mentality deeply rooted in the Cold War. We fall too readily into the intellectual trap of judging the goal of elimination against current political conditions. We forget too quickly how seemingly intractable conflicts can suddenly yield under the weight of reason or with a change of leadership. We have lost sight too soon that, in the blink of a historical eye, the world we knew for a traumatic half-century has been utterly transformed. How then to proceed? It begins not with a call for greater reductions, but rather to initiate immediate, multilateral negotiations toward ending the most regrettable and risk-laden operational practice of the Cold War era: land and sea-based ballistic missiles on standing nuclear alert. What possibly can justify this continuing exposure to the associated operational and logistical risks? What could be more corrosive to building and sustaining security relationships built on trust? Russia, with its history of authoritarian rule and a staggering burden of social transformation, is ill-equipped to lead on this issue. It falls to us to work painfully back through the tangled moral web of this frightful 50-year gantlet, born of the hellish confluence of two historical currents: the bipolar collision of ideology and the unleashing of the power of the atom. …

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