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Memos to Obama: Nuclear Weapons

Memos to Obama: Nuclear Weapons

Jonathan Granoff on Nuclear Weapons


A two-class world, with nuclear weapon “haves” and “have nots,” is incompatible with the cooperation needed to effectively protect the global commons, address crushing poverty, and ensure sustainable development.

We all depend upon the same climate, oceans, and rainforests for sustenance. To protect these living systems, as well as address systemic poverty, legally verifiable and enforceable cooperative regimes are necessary. If one country can dump toxins in the ocean, all can register ships under that country’s jurisdiction and similarly pollute. If one country has nuclear weapons, others will want and eventually get them. Global norms must be established to effectively address global challenges.

Bridges of cooperation are needed more than ever, and nuclear weapons build walls. To expect countries to forsake short-term economic opportunities for long-term environmental responsibility while being second-class security citizens is unrealistic.

Nuclear weapons are more hazardous than any problem they seek to solve. To use them against another nuclear weapon state is suicidal, to use them against a state without them is patently immoral, and they have no utility against terrorists. Their possession by a handful of states is the greatest stimulant to their proliferation. The proposition that they can be retained in perpetuity and not be used by accident or design defies reason. Any use would be unacceptably catastrophic. There is no room for error.

By now 182 countries have forsworn nuclear weapons, and the entire southern hemisphere is covered by nuclear weapons-free zones. It is time that the entire world be freed from the risk these weapons pose.

The practical and moral imperatives for their elimination converge in this historic moment. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set forth a consensus agenda in his October 24, 2008, presentation, Contagious Doctrine of Deterrence Has Made Non-Proliferation More Difficult; we urge your leadership to help its realization. The Secretary General’s proposals include the following:

1. All states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should fulfill nuclear disarmament obligations through either multiple instruments or a nuclear weapons convention.

2. Nuclear weapon states should unambiguously assure nonnuclear weapon states they will not be subject to threat or use of nuclear weapons.

3. Nuclear weapon states should strengthen the “rule of law” by bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and start negotiations on a fissile material treaty immediately, expand nuclear weapons-free zones, and adopt the International Atomic Energy Agency’s strengthened safeguards and additional protocols.

4. Nuclear weapons states should improve the transparency and accountability of their nuclear arsenals.

5. Establish a ban on weaponization of space and convening by the UN General Assembly of a World Summit on disarmament, nonproliferation, and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction.

Progress could be enhanced if the Joint Chiefs of Staff were affirmatively tasked to work with three security alliance counterparts—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; ANZUS, which involves Australia, New Zealand, and the United States; and JASA, the Japan-America Security Alliance. The Joint Chiefs of Staff should develop a technical plan to achieve a nuclear weapons-free world. The Department of State should also be unambiguously instructed to advance diplomatic efforts to this end, and the president should promptly announce that the United States will never use a nuclear weapon first.

Clearly, accomplishing ratification of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would bring positive change internationally and lend credibility to disarmament efforts. These positive effects would be fully undermined if new nuclear weapons warheads or new methods of testing were authorized. Moreover, United States leadership in advancing cooperative security must be extended into outer space to prevent its weaponization, which would stimulate another arms race.

These modest efforts will enhance the rule of law, make us all safer, and bring about the cooperative security system that the world requires. These bridges among us and to a safer future will be America’s gift.

Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, is an award-winning screenwriter and author who speaks worldwide about the legal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of human development and security, with a focus on the threat posed by nuclear weapons. www.gsinstitute.org.

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