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What next for the world's nukes?

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

When Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who directed the Manhattan Project, witnessed the first atomic explosion, he quoted a line from the Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.” The military smiled, and the rest of us started worrying.

President Reagan raised the tension by accelerating the Cold War with a military buildup and deployment of the “Peacekeeper” ICBMs, bombs with 20 to 30 times the power of Hiroshima’s “Little Boy.” Twenty years ago, on Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended and the Russian “Evil Empire” collapsed on its own while the “Teflon President” slid into Alzheimer's.

Since that first explosion in 1945 and Reagan’s threats, nine countries have come to possess nuclear weapons — ending detente and glorifying bullying. All of us must become activists and push the Senate to ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a 1996 agreement that was signed by 150 nations, including the U.S. This action would help restore our moral leadership and solidify our commitment to arms control. There can never be a winner in the fallout from the nuclear arms race. For the safety of our planet, the U.S. must end the conundrum of its own nuclear proliferation.

It’s hard to recognize in a timely fashion what’s out of date when changes come at breakneck speed. For example, the process of giving up the gas-burning, emissions-spewing car feels long and drawn out, but probably, a short time from now, transportation will look radically different. So, too, with the nuclear industry. We can’t hang on to an outdated and dangerous strategy, and so must transform that work, those jobs, right now, into new manufacturing that fits our times, just as autoworkers are needing.

“Even more important is the way in which our being a nuclear weapons state, the only nation to use them and threaten to use them throughout the Cold War, has poisoned our own values and soul,” says Bob Kinsey, chair of the Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The group’s website provides much good information on this issue.

The military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us to guard against as he was leaving office in 1961, must not win in its misguided and outrageous requests to feed an overstocked arsenal that preys upon nescient hawks. Superpower domination is no justification for nuclear proliferation when the risks are fatal to us all.

President Obama has begun the change by agreeing with Russia to reduce the number of nuclear warheads and land-based missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. These efforts are the reason he was given the Nobel Peace Prize. The Middle Powers Initiative, a program dedicated to eliminating nuclear weapons as proposed in Article VI of the NNPT, shows promise toward creating a nuclear-weapons-free world. As long as they exist, weapons of mass destruction constitute a threat to international peace and security.

Kelly Weist

Once again, President Obama’s foreign policy seems to revolve around his own estimation of his celebrity, in which the dictators and rogue actors of the world are so dazzled by his personality and pure goodness that they voluntarily give up all their nuclear, chemical, biological and conventional weapons.

History, however, shows us how feckless this truly is. No country has voluntarily given up its nuclear program, except for Libya. Why did Libya do so? Was it George Bush’s sparkling personality? No, it happened immediately after Saddam Hussein was disposed and captured. Certainly Saddam wasn’t about to give up his nuclear ambitions. Interrogation of Saddam’s cronies, and a voluntary confession by a relative, tell us that he was pursuing a nuclear program in secret. The only thing that ended that was the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., not the 17 U.N. resolutions or the corrupt U.N. weapons inspectors.

Iran isn’t about to give up anything either. It is playing us for fools, rejecting the U.S.’s concessions, which were given up by President Obama before any concessions by Iran. Pretty soon we’ll be back into the same situation with Iran that we were in with Iraq prior to 2003, where we’re paying it loads of money and it still is pursuing a secret nuclear program. The difference is that Iran is further along than Iraq was, and we know this for a fact. We also know that if we pursue our “concessions” of enriching its uranium further, we’ll end up with missiles over Israel very quickly. But still, President Obama plugs on, smiling all the way.

North Korea also has taken advantage of the U.S.’s inattention, having shown that it has missile capability and a nuclear program that is very far along. Our foreign policy here seems to be pretty much the same fecklessness — concessions (meaning money paid to Kim Jong-Il) and rhetoric. Ultimately, I think our foreign policy team is expecting China to take care of the situation. The problem is that China is a regime that will pursue its own interests, not those of the U.S. or Western Europe. It is perfectly possible that China will co-opt North Korea for its own purposes to destabilize the Asian continent.

Russia is also a problem that President Obama seems to be approaching with only his celebrity. Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a man with an agenda, and it has nothing to do with the U.S.’s security. In fact, he rolled President Obama earlier this summer by getting the U.S. to give up missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia. In addition, President Obama has agreed to “reset” our relationship with Russia, which means giving up some of our most effective nuclear assets unilaterally.

Regimes that do not respect fundamental human rights and freedom will not honor anything they say, not even for “hope and change.”

Hannah's rebuttal

A huge amount of celebrity goes with being president. “W” has been able to capitalize on his by speaking at that tacky “get motivated” seminar. I attended this political rally disguised as education a few years ago (rah, rah Rudy and the right). When I tried to implement my money-back guarantee, I learned the sponsors had declared bankruptcy. That’s an example of cashing in on celebrity.

Talking with world leaders is a very different animal. Thinking it through and mulling it over are the very qualities that will prevent more wars. Libya gave up its nuclear program when a clandestine shipment of centrifuges was intercepted. (Last-to-believe Kelly, it is widely accepted that Iraq also gave up its WMD program.)

To say that there are excesses in the U.S. nuclear weapons program would be an understatement. The U.S. must honor its good-faith promise made in 1968 under the NNPT that leads to “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” The financial savings alone would be huge, about $2.6 billion per year.

Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and activist with Evergreen Peace. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.

Kelli's rebuttal

I honestly have never understood the nuclear disarmament movement. Certainly Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific, but that does not justify disarming ourselves of the most effective weapons ever produced. It is simply the reality of the world that leverage is the only thing that works. Economic leverage can work occasionally, with a regime that cares about the economics of its country. However, dictators who run regimes like North Korea, Iran, Syria or Venezuela (and Iraq prior to 2003) do not care about the economic health of their countries. They care only about their personal power and the ability to oppress and conquer others.

It is a fact of global politics that America has the ability and the power to oppose these rogue regimes. No world body, including the U.N., has been able to do anything about oppression, aggression, genocide, slavery or any other actions of rogue regimes, that is without the power of the U.S. Moral authority or suasion does absolutely nothing. This is the exact reason that President Obama will fail dismally in his foreign policy regarding nuclear disarmament, and why he may be the most dangerous president in U.S. history.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.