"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama and the Hope for a Nuclear-Free World

As if President Elect, Barack Obama doesn't have enough problems to deal with, the current administration is trying to resurrect the Reliable Replacement Warhead (such a great euphemism) using the same old tactics. Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on October 28th, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that "as long as others possess nuclear weapons, the United States must maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal." Without losing a beat he "urged the development of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)," as he warned of the "'bleak' outlook for the long-term reliability and safety of the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal."

The U.S. nuclear arsenal has undergone regular, extensive testing and monitoring since 1997, and has been shown to be safe, secure and reliable. A 2006 report by the JASONS, an independent panel of (and really, really smart) scientists and engineers that advises the government on nuclear weapons issues determined that, "the core nuclear components of current warheads will remain vital for at least another fifty years." So what's with the "bleak" outlook coming from Defense Secretary Gates?

I think it is safe to say that development of any new nuclear warhead would throw any hope for further progress in non-proliferation in the garbage can. Senator Sam Nunn summed it up when he said that the RRW could be "misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult."~ Sam Nunn, Congressional Testimony, March 29, 2007.

Although the Defense Secretary also spoke of the need for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and other positive contributors to arms control, any pursuit of new nuclear weapons by the U.S. would negate any progress made so far in those areas. Neither is there a demonstrated need, nor a logical argument for new nuclear warheads.

President Elect Obama has said that, "if we want the world to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must lead by example." He also committed to not developing new nuclear weapons (among his many positive statements on the subject). He will face significant pressures from the Pentagon (and the rest of the Military Industrial Complex), and we will have to continually remind him of his promises.

We can start by signing on to the Appeal to the Next President of the United States for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. While at their Website, consider signing up for their action alerts and news updates.



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