The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) is a civil society organization, made up of and supported by individuals who care about its goals. Like thousands of other civil society organizations throughout the world, the Foundation tries to accomplish goals that will make the world a better place.
The principal goal of NAPF is to abolish nuclear weapons. This is a goal that it cannot accomplish directly. It is a goal, for example, that differs from the direct assistance of providing food or medical supplies to disaster victims or people living in extreme poverty. To achieve its goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, NAPF must exert influence on public policy, leading to creating a world free of nuclear weapons. The Foundation works by educating and advocating. For its work, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has been recognized by the United Nations as a Peace Messenger organization.
Since the goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons requires a broad international effort and the Foundation has limited resources, it must be strategic in fulfilling its mission. Thus, NAPF has concluded that it is best to direct its efforts for change by working with international networks of like-minded civil society organizations and by focusing specifically on changing US nuclear policy.
In its networking, NAPF helped found the Abolition 2000 Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a network now linking over 2,000 organizations and municipalities worldwide. It was also a founding member of the Middle Powers Initiative, a coalition of international organizations that works with middle power governments to apply pressure to the nuclear weapons states for nuclear disarmament. NAPF helped found the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. The Foundation also maintains an office in Washington, DC where it networks with US arms control and disarmament organizations on nuclear policy issues coming before the Congress. The Foundation continues to be active in all of these networks, providing leadership where it can.
The Foundation is a US-based organization, and it has concluded that US leadership is necessary in order to make significant progress in eliminating nuclear weapons. Thus, NAPF puts special emphasis on educating the US public on issues of nuclear weapons dangers and the need to abolish these weapons. It also seeks to influence US policy makers to assert greater leadership in this policy area.
More than 60 years into the Nuclear Age, there is today not one US Senator that champions the abolition of nuclear weapons as one of his or her principal legislative goals. Nor has such leadership been exerted by any US President, although many have noted the importance of this issue.
The Foundation has concentrated on building its base by educating the public on the need to abolish nuclear weapons and by advocating positions that the public can press for with their elected representatives. The Foundation believes that public pressure is needed to move policy makers to take stronger positions on the elimination of nuclear weapons.
There are many obstacles to achieving change in the area of US nuclear policy. First, the mainstream media are not highly receptive to the Foundation’s message. Second, psychological factors of fear, denial and apathy make this a difficult issue for attracting widespread public involvement. Third, the public most likely also feels that their voices do not count on this issue and that policy makers do not pay attention to them. Fourth, there are corporate interests with profit motivations exerting a strong counterinfluence on the US government.
Despite these obstacles, public opinion polls show that over 70 percent of Americans favor nuclear disarmament. It is significant that there is a major disconnect between the majority of people in the US and their government on the issue of eliminating nuclear arsenals. The US government, for reasons having more to do with power and profit than security, finds it preferable to continue to rely upon nuclear weapons, even in light of the dangers of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists who could not be deterred from using them.
A number of former high-level US policy makers – including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn – have concluded that the world is at a nuclear “tipping point,” and that it is strongly in the US interest to provide leadership for a world free of nuclear weapons. This is the position that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation reached 25 years ago.
The Foundation has been a voice of conscience and sanity on the nuclear threat confronting humanity for 25 years. It has also been a voice largely in the wilderness. NAPF has been right, but it has been ignored. It is time for new leadership in America. The Foundation’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and US leadership to obtain this goal should be at the forefront of a new direction for the country.
Without US leadership, the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world is not a possibility. With US leadership, the US can take important steps to assure its own future security, as well as that of humanity, and can free up resources for constructive pursuits.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s work is more critical than ever. But to succeed as a civil society organization, the Foundation needs greater personal and financial support from civil society. Those who give low priority to abolishing nuclear weapons are rolling the dice on the future of their children, grandchildren and all generations to follow. Abolishing nuclear weapons is the Foundation’s mission; it is also a responsibility of all of us alive on the planet today.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.