The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is pleased to present the winners of its 2004 Swackhamer Peace Essay Contest. Established in 1985, the contest serves to encourage high school students worldwide to think about and contribute to creating a more peaceful, just and secure world. Winners receive a total of $3,000 in prizes.
> If you were invited to give a nationally televised speech to the American people, including the President and the Congress, what would you say to convince them that the United States should take a leadership role in the global elimination of nuclear weapons?
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America Must Lead the World in Nuclear Disarmament
by Emma Thompsell
Mr. President, Senators and you, the American people: I am speaking today to urge you all to make a firm commitment to nuclear disarmament. I speak on behalf of the youth of the world and for the children and generations to come.
Mr. President, I am 16. You were 16 in 1962. 1 That was the year when the world held its breath. You must have felt then something of the fear felt around the globe as the world teetered on the brink of annihilation as President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev locked horns over the Cuban Missile crisis. Perhaps like many others you would have gone to bed genuinely uncertain whether or not you would live until tomorrow. Certainly many felt like this - the grandmother of one of my friends refused to leave her bed for four days, believing there was no point as she was going to die soon anyway.
Somehow the moment of maximum danger passed and people breathed again. But is the relative peace that we in the Western world enjoy today really any less fragile? Are we in fact any less distant from an Armageddon?
Mr. President, in 2002 you and Russian President Vladimir Putin reflected on the Cuban Missile Crisis and its parallels to the current nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan . We can agree that the possession by those states of nuclear weapons increases a thousand times over the dangers in that part of the world. But this is by no means the only nuclear tension. The world is a much riskier place with nuclear weapons. It is up to America , as the most powerful nation that this world has ever seen, to show that its political and military pre-eminence is matched by moral leadership. America must lead the world in nuclear disarmament.
There are at least three main reasons why nuclear disarmament is essential.
First, we should do this. The use, and even the threat of use, of nuclear arms is immoral.
Secondly, we'd better do this. When the world sits under a threat of terrorism, it is crazy to fill the world with nuclear material that can fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue states.
Thirdly, we promised we would. Existing obligations must be fulfilled.
Let me say more about each of these points.
The moral arguments are clear and unambiguous. Nuclear weapons are immoral because they are weapons of mass murder. They do not distinguish between armed forces and civilians. They inflict suffering on tens of thousands, including the unborn, as we can see from the horrific afflictions of those Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
Even the threat of these weapons is immoral. It is immoral for the security of any country to be based on the threat of global annihilation. On July 8 th 1996 , the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion declaring nuclear weapons to be " generally contrary to rules of international law applicable in armed conflict " and urged all nations to " bring to a conclusion " talks leading to " disarmament in all its aspects ." 2 At the same time, then-President of the ICJ, Mohammed Bedjaoui condemned all nuclear weapons as " the ultimate evil ." How can America lecture others on possessing "weapons of mass destruction" when America is a world leader in stockpiling such weapons?
In a world of scarce resources it is immoral to have nuclear weapons at such great economic cost especially when even in the US one in six children live in poverty. 3 As Eisenhower once said " Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed , those who are cold and are not clothed." Every year the USA spends tens of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, and dealing with nuclear waste generated by these weapons and the nuclear industry . These figures are huge especially if you imagine that just $5.6 billion could educate every child in the world. 4 And what does all this money buy? It is generally unthinkable to use nuclear weapons. So all we have bought is a false sense of security and a false sense of national pride - like an adolescent boy who gets himself a gun to look tough - and to feel big. America does not need a gun to look big.
Secondly, it is clear that nuclear disarmament would reduce the threats to our security. The elimination of nuclear arms would reduce the likelihood of other less responsible nations developing nuclear weapons. The Cold War era also showed that a nuclear arms race creates and exacerbates rivalries and hostilities. If those states with nuclear capabilities claim that their nuclear weapons are defensive it is only reasonable that rogue states with less powerful supplies of conventional weapons would want nuclear arsenals.
The elimination of nuclear weapons would also destroy the threat of terrorist networks gaining nuclear capabilities. It is clear that bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network have been seeking dangerous nuclear materials for use in "dirty bombs" to spread radioactive contamination with conventional high explosives. The Al-Qaeda network is known to have attempted to buy nuclear materials from Sudan . Nuclear weapons and production sites are vulnerable. For example, Russia lost substantial amounts of nuclear materials after the breakdown of the Soviet Union . This threat has been played out in various thrillers including James Bond films. But the danger is not fictional.
Disarmament reduces the threat of nuclear accidents. We have seen from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island how devastating these accidents can be. The risk of accidental deployment of weapons is also eradicated by disarmament. We should not forget the fears before the millennium that the so-called "Millennium bug" could set off remote and abandoned Soviet nuclear missiles.
During the Cold War there was an argument that nuclear weapons could increase our security as the threat of "mutually assured destruction" would deter any attack. Whatever merits this argument held in the past have now passed. The threat today is not a foreign invader, it is the terrorist. A nuclear arsenal is useless against terrorists. The risks of maintaining nuclear arms are simply not balanced by any increase in security from possessing these weapons.
My third argument is that America should honor its existing agreements, to send a clear message to other countries that breaking treaties is unacceptable. In the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968, the non-nuclear nations promised that they would not gain nuclear weapons. In return, the states with nuclear weapons agreed to " pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.. " This treaty also called for a conference to review its progress twenty-five years later. In 1995, the parties agreed to continue the treaty indefinitely and the nuclear weapons States agreed to "a determined pursuit. of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons .." The ICJ has summarized the legal position by saying " there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control ." 5
If we ignore these treaty commitments, we demonstrate to the world contempt for international treaties and rulings. How then can we expect other states, in particular those that we are quick to describe as "rogue states," to observe international law?
Mr. President, Senators, citizens. I hope that in these few minutes I have convinced you that it is our moral and legal duty, as well as it is in our best interest, that the world should rid itself of nuclear weapons. But y ou may still be asking why America should be the country that leads on this issue. Why can't some other country take a leadership role? Well, the answer is that only America has the power, and the number of nuclear weapons, to make a difference. The US and Russia have greatly more nuclear weapons than any other country. 6 Therefore it is up to these countries to lead in disarmament. Russia has already shown its commitment by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 7 while Russia 's President, Vladimir Putin, has called for disarmament talks to resume as soon as possible. 8 The time has come for the United States to take up the baton of disarmament. We are at a point where there is an historic opportunity. With the Cold War ended, nuclear weapons are obsolete. If America acts, the world will follow.
What I propose is not an impossible dream. Already, treaties signed by Southern hemisphere states have been successful in keeping the Global South nuclear free. We can dare - we must dare - to imagine a world where the threat of nuclear destruction is lifted, where children can go to bed knowing that there will be a world for them to wake up to.
"Child Poverty." Children's Defense. Children's Defense Fund. 2 May 2004 <http://www.childrensdefense.org/familyincome/childpoverty/default.asp>.
"DOE Research and Development Portfolio - National Security." The US Department of Energy Office of Policy and International Affairs. US Government. 20 May 2004 <http://www.pi.energy.gov/pdf/library/ns1-page.pdf>.
Lewis, M. "Nuclear Warfare." Armageddon Online. 18 May 2004 <http://armageddononline.tripod.com/nuclear.htm>.
"The Non-Proliferation Treaty." Reaching Critical Will. 20 May 2004 <http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/nptindex1.html>.
Partington, Angela. "Mao Tse-tung 1893-1976." The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Fourth ed. 1992.
"Putin Elected President, Addresses Nuclear Agenda." Arms Control Today . Apr. 2000. Arms Control Association. 8 May 2004 <http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_04/ruap00.asp>.
"Rich Countries Languish at Bottom of Class on Education Funding." Oxfam International. Oxfam. 26 May 2004 <http://www.oxfam.org/eng/pr031118_educ_tryharder.htm>.
"Statement on the World Court Decision Outlawing Use of Nuclear Weapons." Pax Christi. Pax Christi. 28 May 2004 <http://www.paxchristiusa.org/news_events_more.asp?id=73>.
"Test-ban Signing: It should be the Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons Treaty." Greenpeace. 24 Sept. 1996. Greenpeace. 31 Apr. 2004 <http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/nukes/ctbt/sep24.html>.
Wikipedia. 27 May 2004 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush>.
2 "Statement on the World Court Decision Outlawing Use of Nuclear Weapons." Pax Christi. Pax Christi.
3 "Child Poverty." Children's Defense. Children's Defense Fund
4 "Rich Countries Languish at Bottom of Class on Education Funding." Oxfam International. Oxfam.
5 "The Non-Proliferation Treaty." Reaching Critical Will.
6 Lewis, M. "Nuclear Warfare." Armageddon Online.
7 "Test-ban Signing: It Should be the Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons Treaty. ." Greenpeace . 24 Sept. 1996 . Greenpeace.
8 "Putin Elected President, Addresses Nuclear Agenda." Arms Control Today. Apr. 2000. Arms Control Association.
Emma Thompsell is a student at the Westminster School in London , UK . Her extracurricular activities include playing the violin and viola, writing for the School Magazine, and acting in school plays. In addition, she is involved in the Model United Nations and the Debating Society at her school. A very active 16 year-old, Emma somehow finds time to volunteer in her community, ski, and play squash.
Hope for Survival
by Angela Du
First off, I want to thank you all for inviting me to make this speech on what is certainly the most pressing matter facing the security of not just this country, but the entire world. In 1982, George Kennan, a prominent political analyst who came up with the concept of "containment" for the State Department, posed a question to the leaders of this great nation, asking, "Can we not at long last cast off our preoccupation with sheer destruction, a preoccupation that is costing us our prosperity and preempting the resources that should go to the solving of our great social problems? For this entire preoccupation with nuclear war is a form of illness. It is morbid in the extreme. There is no hope in it - only horror." Now, more than 20 years later, I am voicing the same plea. It is time that the United States took an active role in putting an end to this unhealthy obsession by eliminating nuclear weapons and bringing hope, instead of horror to our future.
The history of nuclear weapons has been relatively short but explosive. On July 16, 1945, in the middle of the New Mexican desert, the US exploded the world's first nuclear bomb. Since then, there have been 2044 tests worldwide, or the equivalent of one test every nine days for the past fifty years. These tests have had a total nuclear yield of over 438 megatons. This is the same as exploding a Hiroshima sized bomb in the atmosphere every 11 hours for 36 consecutive years. Despite the carefully controlled conditions of these nuclear tests, accidents do occur. After the horrific Chernobyl tragedy, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the world, warning that, "For the first time, we confront the real force of nuclear energy, out of control."
And out of control is exactly what has become of our obsession with nuclear weapons. In Russia , highly enriched uranium stockpiles sit in loosely guarded facilities where vodka and drugs are the dietary staple for the poorly paid guards. As Vaclav Havlik, a Czech citizen who was part of a uranium smuggling group said, "[obtaining weapons grade material] was like going for vacation by the sea and bringing back a sack of shells." At home in the US from 1981-1983 alone, there were 659 false alarms in the US strategic warning system. There have been at least three times in the past twenty years, that the US and Russia almost launched nuclear weapons on false alarms. Most recently, in 1995, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin was less than 10 minutes away form ordering a nuclear attack before the confusion was cleared. An alarming characteristic of all these "false alarms" is that each one is unique, making it almost impossible to predict and therefore guard against future nuclear scares. As Bruce Blair, President of the Center for Defense Information noted, "In every sense of the word, the Russian early warning and command system is suffering. And that's a trend that is almost certain to produce more false alarms in the future."
I don't think I need to stress what would happen if one of these false alarms became a real one. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 billion people will die instantly in a nuclear explosion and another 1 billion will die in the event of a nuclear winter. Nuclear winter affects the entire world, causing agony and creating chaos on a cold, dark, and dangerous planet. What we're facing is complete and utter destruction on a scale that is wholly unimaginable.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that the current nuclear situation is unsalvageable. Far from it, we possess the unique opportunity to make a decisive change in regard to the way the world perceives these weapons of mass destruction. What is needed is for this country to take the first step in declaring the goal of global elimination of nuclear weapons. As Zha Zukang, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament in China , said, "The US and Russia have the unshirkable and primary responsibilities for nuclear disarmament." Top analysts and military leaders agree that once the US makes the commitment to disarmament, other countries will follow in a trend known as global modeling. The leadership of the other nuclear states is now on the threshold of being ready to accept a universal prohibition on the use of such weapons. It is paramount for US leaders to seize this change of attitude and initiate a program of worldwide disarmament.
I can already hear the protests erupting from what I have just suggested. I understand that for the past sixty years nuclear weapons have been a major part of our military plans, underscoring our enviable deterrence power and hegemony abroad. I also understand the concern of the skeptics who worry that countries will cheat and break out of the disarmament process. After all, we can eliminate the weapons, but how can we erase the technology on how to create new weapons?
Addressing the first concern, deterrence, I would like to point out that historically, nuclear deterrence has not always prevented war. In 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel despite the fact that Israel had a nuclear arsenal. In 1982, Argentina invaded the British-owned Falkland Islands, despite the fact that Great Britain had hundreds of nuclear weapons. In 1991, Iraq launched barrage after barrage of missiles into cities of Israel , despite Israel having an estimated one hundred nuclear weapons. The reality of the situation is that governments take gambles, especially when they are desperate. In fact, many military leaders are beginning to question the necessity of nuclear deterrence. Many top officials have called it "anachronistic" and "a receding necessity." As Stanford Professor Scott Sagan wrote in his book, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, "Nuclear weapons may well produce prudence, but it is a prudence that still leaves room for war."
In addressing the concern of nations cheating under an international ban on nuclear weapons, I can only say that yes, there will always be that risk. But the aggregate power of an international coalition will most likely check any individual country trying to break out. International analysts agree. Looking empirically at the Gulf War, military leaders predict that the use of forceful political and economic sanctions or conventional "smart weapons" will be effective in preempting a breakout. As John Pastore of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War wrote, "The existence of a firm and obvious political will to deal decisively with such extreme cases is the most promising way of assuring that they [nations breaking out] are unlikely to arise even once." No treaty is perfect, and each one inherently entails a certain degree of risk. A treaty for eliminating nuclear weapons is no different. But in the end we must ask ourselves what is worse: to live in a world where thousands of weapons are on high alert with more and more countries seeking these weapons, or a world in which there might be one country trying to hide a bomb underground?
That is why I am here tonight, to advocate a change for the future. As a superpower in the world, our country not only has an obligation, but also the necessary political and military clout to lead the way out of this nuclear age of mutually assured destruction into a post nuclear age of conflict resolution. And the only way we can ever hope to achieve this is to become involved and motivated. Only 71 out of 345 representatives signed a motion to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and the US Senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, both key steps to the global elimination of nuclear weapons. I need you, the public, to become educated and to become passionate, to become angry, to become outraged. And then, I need to you to let your Congressmen, your Senators, your Governors, and your President feel your passion, your anger, and your outrage. Only then, can I hope that our great leaders will respond to this groundswell of public outcry and do the right thing and lead the world into a truly new century. As Professor Jonathan Schell wrote in his book, The Fate of the Earth, "It would be [then] that we had made a decision as a species in favor of our survival and then had acted on it. The day that the last nuclear weapon on earth was destroyed. . . we would have given substance to our choice to create the human future. We could turn with new hope and new strength to the unfinished business that lay before us."
We each hold in our hand, the distinct possibility of hope, of compassion, of survival. It is time we grasp the possibility beyond the iron wall of our own individual resolve and decide to take back our future. When that day comes, it will be a beautiful day. Thank you.
Works Cited Page
Babst, Dean. "Preventing an Accidental Nuclear Winter." Waging Peace. 28 June 2001.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. 28 May 2004
Blair, Bruce. "How Close Did We Come?" Frontline. 1999. PBS. 28 May 2004
Greenpeace. "History of Nuclear Weapons." No Nukes. 1996. Greenpeace.28 May 2004
Larrabee, J. Whitfield. "Let the United States First Cast out the Beam from its Own
Eye- US Nuclear Weapons Impose Greater Risks on the International Community Than Those of India and Pakistan ." The Humanist. July/August (1998)."
Maxwell, Bruce and Milne, Tom. Ending War: The Force of Reason . St. Martin 's Press, 1999.
Michelsen, Niall. "Presidential View of Nuclear Threat." The Journal of Strategic
Studies Vol. 17, No. 3, (September 1994): p. 263.
Pastore, John and Zheutlin, Peter. "Seize the Moment, Ban the Bomb." Los Angeles
Times 19 November 2000
Sagan, Scott D. and Waltz, Kenneth. The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate
Renewed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995
Schell, Jonathan. The Fate of the Earth. New York : Knopf, 1982
A graduate of Lynbrook High School in San Jose , California , Angela Du is a first year student at Stanford University . She transitioned from her award winning high school Mock Trial team to a defense lawyer position on the Stanford Mock Trial team. Angela is helping the Community and Campus Partnership division of Stanford in Government to increase the government literacy among Stanford workers in order to help them become more active community members.
by Magali Carett
As children growing up in the US , we are raised with the mind-set that fighting for our nation is the honorable thing to do. It never occurs to many of us to rethink this position, and we carry with ourselves the certainty that going to war for the purpose of defending national "freedom" is the reasonable solution to many conflicts. At the same time, we imagine a world in which there is no war and in which all have happiness. This contradiction is the basis of our nation's foreign (and often-times, domestic) policy. Something must be done to balance this equation and make it a formula of hope, security, and peace.
Today, the United States possesses more weapons of mass destruction than any other country, yet it is the nation that is the most committed to ensuring that no "evil" country has such weapons. As can be seen by President Bush's recent war in Iraq, the Bush administration put the fight against terrorism and "evil" at the top of its agenda. The President's fear of Saddam's potential use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States motivated him to unilaterally go to war against Iraq. Certainly, ousting Saddam Hussein from power has made the Middle East safer than it was before, but has it necessarily made the United States more secure? This remains to be proven.
One of the main reasons presented by the President for going to war was Iraq 's supposed possession of nuclear weapons. Now, more than a year after the initial declaration of war, no weapons have been found. Regardless of whether Iraq possessed such weapons, an important point has been brought up: should nations be allowed to possess nuclear weapons? Is it right to allow one nation to stockpile them, but not another? And if it is, how do we decide which nations will be given this privilege?
The United States and Russia combined possess 28,800 nuclear warheads; India and China together have approximately 460. This means that the United States and Russia have 62 times the number of nuclear weapons that India and China have. This is more than unnecessary. The United States and Russia signed the Treaty of Moscow in May of 2002. In accordance with this treaty, both nations will, by 2012, reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 weapons. This is quite a downsize and certainly places both nations on a plane more equal to that of nations less obsessed with nuclear power. However, even under the Treaty of Moscow, the United States and Russia will still individually possess five times the number of nuclear warheads that India and China have combined.
My question to you is: do nations even need one nuclear weapon? Would not all nations be safer if no nation possessed any? And would the money not be better spent finding a cure for AIDS or feeding starving children in Rwanda and the Philippines?
The United States spends billions yearly in preparation for waging a nuclear war. Furthermore, between 1992 and 1995, the United States spent $1.2 billion on activities related to nuclear testing; zero nuclear tests were carried out between those years. This is wasted money. In 2004, schools had to shut their doors early because they were not receiving enough funding to pay the teachers. Isn't it time the United States got its priorities straight and gave its money to the right places? Instead of spending so much money preparing for war, let's spend money creating peace.
I speak before you today to present an idea. One that necessitates cooperation and willpower; one that requires nations to become vulnerable for the sake of humanity; one that, if successful, will prevent nuclear holocaust from ever occurring in the future. If successful, it will save billions of dollars from being wasted on the possibility of a war which would end the certainty of tomorrow.
What I ask is very simple. What I ask seems obvious as the next step for this powerful nation. What I ask is that the United States bring an end to its nuclear weapons programs, destroy all that it possesses, and encourage other nations to do the same. The United States boasts of being the superpower in the world, but, as such, we ought to take responsibility to make the world a safer place. Certainly, ousting Saddam Hussein and removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan has added balance to the world. Yet, the most threatening elements in the world today are the piles of nuclear weapons harbored by various nations. Not only because they are more likely to be set off accidentally and cause an unintentional disaster; not only because there are 104 million cubic meters of radioactive waste in the world as a result of nuclear weapon activities, but because, at a time when nations possess the means to annihilate each other with the push of a single button, nuclear weapons are a symbol of the atrocity of mankind's capabilities. At a time when the world is supposedly becoming safer, their existence is a reminder that peace can only be an interim state of being for the world.
I propose that the United States and Russia join together in an agreement to divide their stockpiles of weapons every two years. In ten years, once each nation possesses approximately the same number of nuclear weapons as other smaller nations (for example France, which has a stockpile of 350), the number of nuclear weapons in each nation's stockpile will be eliminated at once. Although it is tempting for each nation to keep a few weapons stowed away, just in case of an emergency, this is not prudent behavior. Once this disarmament has been carried out, inspectors from the United Nations will carry out searches to verify that there are no weapons left. Once this has been guaranteed, all nations will sign a pact, in which they promise to carry out no nuclear tests, nor to build any weapons of mass destruction in the future.
While this is only a suggestion of the means to accomplish this disarmament, several benefits can be seen from taking such action. Primarily, the economy of the United States will surge due to the sudden fiscal increase. The government will be able to distribute money to schools and to police and fire departments, as well as create a better healthcare system for US citizens. More importantly, however, nuclear disarmament will have an advantage in the field of security. "Homeland security" has been one of the great concerns of the Bush administration. Once nuclear weapons no longer pose a threat, future administrations will be able to place their focus on other areas. Once every nation disarms, a great leap forward will bring us closer to world peace.
Since the United States is the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons on another country, it is imperative that it take the first step towards preventing another Hiroshima and another Nagasaki . This would demonstrate that we are serious about committing ourselves to disarmament. Once one nation presents itself as willing to relinquish the false sense of security that nuclear weapons provide, other nations will agree to do the same. If the United States is willing to take this step, this will show that it truly is a superpower, because its actions will show a consideration not only for its own citizens, but also for those of its adversaries.
As we progress into the twenty-first century, we must keep in mind that mankind's innumerable technological advances can give way to irreparable destruction. We must be aware of the fact that we are part of a greater community, and that all of our citizens are also citizens of the world, and therefore connected to what happens around the globe. As such, we must be willing to step down and admit that the weapons we create can be stronger than what we need. This is not a limitation, but, rather, a strength - one that will bring stability to the world, and ensure peace for future generations.
Magali Carett is in her first semester at Boston University. While in high school, she was co-president of the anti-landmines club and active in the Global Lifeguards club. Thus far in college, Magali has joined the gay-lesbian-bi-straight-transgender club and the French Cultural Society.