The 2008 elections will bring about opportunities the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. If played well, we will be able to dramatically change the American conversation around nuclear weapons.
Since taking office, the Bush administration has reiterated a nuclear posture that neither addresses our modern security necessities nor is in line with international non-proliferation sentiment. The administration has proposed, time and again, plans for a refurbished nuclear stockpile and infrastructure that would support the most offensive US nuclear posture in the last sixty years and encourage development of nuclear weapons by other nations. These last seven years have distorted the world’s dialogue on nuclear weapons. Instead of talking about when and how to make reductions, we are fighting back a new build-up. The 2008 elections could change all of that.
Since the release of the administration’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which outlines US nuclear strategy, the White House has advocated for an arsenal of “more usable” nuclear weapons, claiming that our current one is outdated and contains weapons that would yield a death toll too high for Americans to stomach. They have been in unsuccessful pursuit of two kinds of new bombs: the so-called “mini-nuke,” which would contain a third of the power of the Hiroshima bomb; and the “nuclear bunker-buster,” a much larger weapon intended to burrow into the earth to reach underground bunkers before exploding. They now are pushing another program, termed the “Reliable Replacement Warhead,” a more cloaked attempt to build new bombs, which was eliminated from the 2008 budget last month.
These weapons would blur the lines between conventional and nuclear warfare. They would remove nuclear war from the realm of the unthinkable, and place it into the real world of tactical war planning.
This push to build new weapons undermines US arguments against proliferation. How can we insist Iran forgo nuclear technology while we develop weapons that could be used against them?
For the last several years, the disarmament community has blocked the president’s plans by building on the American public’s deep reservations about building new nuclear weapons. Now our goal is to turn the 2008 elections into a defeat of the Bush nuclear doctrine, and into a referendum on the future of the US nuclear arsenal. And we will make the call for US leadership toward a nuclear free world.
To do this we will build on several opportunities. In January of 2007, four unlikely figures took up the cause of nuclear abolition: Former Senator Sam Nunn, Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry, Reagan’s Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and last but not least, Nixon’s Right Hand, Henry Kissinger. These men authored an Opinion Editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal outlining steps the US must take to lead the world towards total disarmament. In their words, this would be, “a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage,” that “could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations.” These surprising allies, with their weighty credentials, gave new legitimacy to the cause of nuclear abolition in a way that few could.
The usefulness of the US nuclear arsenal is increasingly in question. Enemies of the past, such as the USSR, either no longer exist or don’t pose an imminent threat. Furthermore, our main security concerns don’t come from nations with clear borders. US security interests lie in promoting global stability and cooperation, something that can’t be done with nuclear weapons. The US does not need nuclear weapons. In fact, America and the whole world will be safer once we start reductions.
The worldwide “nuclear club” has grown, with more states seeking to develop nuclear weapons than ever before. In just the last decade, the US has withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It has pushed for the development of new warheads in direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has falsely accused other nations of possessing nuclear weapons, and has refused to engage in real diplomacy with some states that may truly be pursuing nuclear development. With these actions, we have alienated our closest allies, relinquished our moral authority, and perhaps most importantly, we have given reason for other nations to follow our example.
It is time to restore American leadership towards a nuclear free world. Next year, with your support, we may be able to make a dramatic difference.
Already, many in Congress are reluctant to provide any funding for new nuclear weapons without taking a hard look at the role they play in national security. Some have called for a new Nuclear Posture Review, which would be shaped by the next president.
Will the next president’s review defer to Bush’s reckless vision, embracing a new generation of nuclear weapons and the doctrine of preemptive attack? Or will they instead fall back on the tepid vision of the Democrat who came before? Or, will the next president reject the mistakes of the past and advance a new agenda for a world without nuclear weapons?
For decades, the work of creating bold new directions on nuclear weapons has been left to conservative presidents. Peace Action West, along with all our partners in the peace movement, will be working to ensure that the next administration goes beyond correcting the mistakes of the last eight years, by making the kind of progress towards total disarmament that we haven’t seen in thirty years.
As one might expect, Peace Action West is not the only disarmament organization that recognizes the importance of the upcoming elections. Earlier this year, Peace Action West teamed up with Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Arms Control Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Faithful Security, and Physicians for Social Responsibility to lead the formation of the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World, a national coalition built to capitalize on our collective strengths to maximize our impact during this critical time. To date, there are roughly 200 organizations signed on to the campaign.
In addition to this, through Voters for Peace and Security, Peace Action West will be raising the issue of nuclear weapons (along with the Iraq war) to candidates wherever they appear.
The 2008 elections will yield a wide array of candidates all vying for the nation’s trust in solving our most pressing foreign policy challenges. From key congressional races to the race for the White House, our campaign will remind candidates that Americans want to know what they will do to make us safer from the threat of nuclear weapons.
The 2008 elections give us the opportunity to set US nuclear policy on a better course. You have given us your support, and with it we will use this chance to advance a foreign policy that prioritizes working with the world community, and leaving nuclear weapons behind. Find out more at www.Voter4Peace.org. You can also see how nuclear weapons are in all our backyards, and take action at
Categories: Nuclear Weapons