David KriegerThe US Air Force is standing down its plan to launch a nuclear-capable missile on the United Nations International Day of Peace.  It’s a very small step, but it is a step in the right direction.  It’s possible that the Air Force planners didn’t know about the International Day of Peace or even that there is such a day.  There is such a day, though, and it is observed annually by the countries of the world on September 21st.

When the Air Force announced that it had scheduled a test of a nuclear-capable Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile for September 21st, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation notified its Action Alert Network.  Members of this Network sent over 7,000 messages to President Obama calling for cancellation of the offending missile test, and for the president to act in taking US nuclear weapons off high-alert status. 

Perhaps those thousands of messages awakened someone to the inappropriateness of demonstrating a nuclear show of force on the International Day of Peace.  But perhaps not.  In announcing the cancellation of the missile test, a spokesperson said it was being postponed in order to complete “post test analysis” of another Minuteman III test that failed on July 27th.  It makes sense to study previous failures, but one wonders why the Air Force would announce a test shortly after a failure, and then use the failure as the reason to cancel the new test.

At any rate, the US has precluded one serious mistake, that is, to have thumbed its nose at the world community by performing a nuclear-capable missile test on the International Day of Peace.  Regardless of its public justification for standing down its missile test, it was the right decision to cancel it. 

The International Day of Peace will now be a slightly more peaceful day.  But the fact remains that the United States and Russia each maintain some 1,000 nuclear weapons on high-alert status, a Cold War posture that has no place in the 21st century.  President Obama could take a meaningful step toward his stated goal of a world free of nuclear weapons by taking all US nuclear weapons off high-alert status.  This would be showing real leadership, the kind of leadership hoped for from the United States.

The United Nations General Assembly called in its Resolution 55/282 in 2001 for the International Day of Peace to “be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence….”  It would be a major step for the United States to actually observe the International Day of Peace by observing a ceasefire in its current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and its hostilities in various other countries.  That would send a message to the world that the US is ready to begin leading an international effort for peace, rather than being so quick, determined and persistent in seeking to settle disputes with its powerful military forces.