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February 9, 2018
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Nuclear Abolition: A Sisyphean Task?

David KriegerNuclear weapons threaten everyone and everything we love and cherish.  Why do we accept and tolerate these intolerable weapons?  Every thinking person on the planet should stand against these omnicidal weapons and work for their elimination.

Nine leaders in nine countries have their fingers on the nuclear button.  These leaders place the future of civilization and most complex life at risk by their misplaced faith in and reliance upon the reliability of nuclear deterrence.  They believe that with enough nuclear weapons of the right size, and by threatening to use them, they will be secure from nuclear and non-nuclear attacks.  This is not the case.  Nuclear deterrence has never guaranteed a nation’s security and has come close to failing on many occasions.  It could fail on any given day, and yet we place the very future of our species on the untested hypothesis that nuclear deterrence will not fail catastrophically.

In the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Trump administration takes full ownership of U.S. nuclear policy.  The NPR calls for spending vast resources ($1.7 trillion) over the next three decades to modernize the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal.  It also calls for creating smaller and more usable nuclear weapons, and threatening use of these weapons in a wide variety of circumstances, including as a response to a strong conventional attack or a cyber-attack.  The U.S. has also been deploying missile defenses near the Russian border, triggering a dangerous defensive-offensive cycle; in essence, a new nuclear arms race.

Other nuclear-armed countries are also in the process of “modernizing” their nuclear deterrence posture, contributing to new nuclear arms races while putting nuclear disarmament on the proverbial shelf.  The world continues to grow ever more dangerous, and yet these nuclear dangers are often met by leaders and the public alike with widespread ignorance and apathy.

In January, the people of Hawaii were given a serious scare when a technician with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent a false warning that a ballistic missile attack was inbound to the state.  The emergency message, which was not corrected for 38 minutes, called on residents of Hawaii to seek immediate shelter, and warned, “This is not a drill.”  Many Hawaii residents took this warning seriously and called loved ones to say what they thought was a final goodbye.

In late January, the scientists at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved their Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight.  This is the closest the clock has been to its metaphorical midnight indicator of global catastrophe since 1953, at the height of the Cold War.

At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, we believe that the nuclear dangers of our time must be met with the engagement and resistance of people everywhere, demanding an end to the Nuclear Age by means of negotiating the abolition of nuclear weapons.  Actions based on such negotiations pose some risks, but not the risks of destroying civilization and ending the human species. The negotiations must be phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent.  This approach to negotiations will allow for building confidence at each stage.

Abolishing nuclear weapons is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is not impossible.  It demands “political will” by leaders of the nuclear-armed countries, which currently is sorely lacking.  To achieve this political will, the people must awaken and demand it of their leaders.  No matter how difficult and seemingly Sisyphean the task, we must never give up.  At NAPF, we will continue to accept the challenge, and to educate, advocate and organize to meet it.  We will never give up until we realize the goal of a Nuclear Zero world.

David Krieger
David Krieger
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author and editor of many books on peace and nuclear weapons abolition, including "Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action."

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