"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

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mikhail Gorbachev: Listening to our Elders


There has been much talk (more than ever before) about what the world must do to rid itself of the scourge of nuclear weapons. President Obama has spoken seriously of his desire (and intent) to work with Russia and other nations to take the necessary steps towards disarmament and non-proliferation.

However, the issue of nuclear weapons does not exist by itself in some sort of vacuum, as if it were an issue that can be neatly extracted and eliminated. It exists within a context of a nations competing with each other for military superiority, which exists within a context of nations competing for strategic interests (generally resources), and so on. All things are interrelated. So we cannot simply cut back arsenals, re-write a few treaties and hope that all will be at peace.

I have been interested in Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ever since he met with President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986 in a historic meeting regarding nuclear weapons. Gorbachev was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (from 1985-1991). His attempts at reform coupled with his reaching out to the West were instrumental in bringing an end to the Cold War. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990.

At the age of 77, Gorbachev has a wealth of experience, knowledge, and most importantly - wisdom. He has recently spoken out quite forcefully on subjects like NATO's Eastward Expansion (a very bad idea). Now he has spoken out about the futility of Obama speaking of nuclear disarmament when [U.S.] "military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding the world of nuclear weapons."

The wise old sage is right. How can we move towards the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world when nations continue to to build up ridiculously monstrous conventional armed forces. The U.S. spends more on its military than all the other nations combined!!! As Gorbachev said, "Defense budgets [for many nations] far exceed reasonable security needs." He counsels that we mustn't stop moving towards nuclear disarmament because of this; we need to work on these many issues (and in particular the issue of "military superiority") "in parallel". They are all connected, and each is essential to the others' success.

"Military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding the world of nuclear weapons," the ex-Soviet president said. "Unless we discuss demilitarization of international politics, the reduction of military budgets, preventing militarization of outer space, talking about a nuclear-free world will be just rhetorical."

Mikhail Gorbachev is one who has earned his place as wise elder one to whom we should listen, and listen carefully. One of the things he has learned over the better part of a century is that nothing exists by itself. All things (and people) are related and very much interconnected. So it is with one of the most pressing issues of our time, nuclear weapons. Just as important (and deeply interwoven with it) is the issue of militarization. As Gorbachev said, "a 'militarized' world would also be untenable.

With a (United States) military budget (and the emphasis on military solutions to every problem) continuing to rise uncontrollably, it is crucial that we continue to focus on (and pursue) alternatives. If you believe that there are no lasting military solutions to the problems we face, check out the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). There you can learn how the U.S. can reduce its reliance on the military while actually making the nation safer in the long run. It's all about peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. There is a more effective path to lasting security, and it does not lie in military power or solutions.

At FCNL you can get engaged with this issue. Right now you can urge Congress to vote against funding for the wars (or what I would call occupations of) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's to heeding the wisdom of our elders.



Read the article from the Associated Press: Gorbachev: US military power blocks 'no nukes'

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