Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
How Feasible Is Obama's Nuclear Disarmament Agenda?
Not since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, decades ago, talked of abolishing nuclear weapons has an American president pledged to work toward that goal. Yet, speaking in
Furthermore, Obama linked his announcement of this lofty aim with a discussion of specific actions that his administration would take in 2009. These included signing a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the Russians-one setting the stage for further nuclear cutbacks involving all nuclear weapons states-pursuing U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and negotiating an agreement with Iran to avert that nation's development of nuclear weapons.
This ambitious nuclear disarmament agenda has a number of things bolstering it. A START Treaty seems particularly negotiable. At peace with one another and with upwards of 95 percent of the world's 26,000 nuclear weapons in their possession, Russia and the United States have little need for vast, unnecessary Cold War-style nuclear arsenals. Moscow proposed sharp reductions years ago and, with even Senate Republicans in favor of U.S.-Russian arms agreements,
Ratification of a nuclear test ban treaty also has considerable momentum. Negotiated and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the CTBT enjoys substantial popularity among the American people and has already been ratified by such
Although a non-proliferation agreement with
But what about the broad goal of a nuclear-free world? Here, too, there is some cause for optimism. Even during the election campaign, Obama spoke and wrote of nuclear abolition, and there is no reason to assume that he has changed his mind on that score. Furthermore, the idea of nuclear abolition-long popular with the general public-has been gaining support in recent years from political elites, particularly former national security officials. Even many high-ranking military officers have begun to wonder about the value of these weapons that they are never able to use.
Nevertheless, some serious obstacles remain.
NATO's expansion to Russia's borders has angered Russian leaders in recent decades, and the
Ratification of the CTBT is even more problematic. With
An agreement by
Finally, nuclear abolition remains far from certain. What if the
Even so, it appears likely that, in the next few years, at least some nuclear disarmament efforts will prove fruitful. Moreover, the failure of one or more of them need not derail the overall movement toward a nuclear-free world. To avoid this situation, Kevin Martin, the executive director of Peace Action (the largest peace and disarmament organization in the
Overall, then, the
Dr. Wittner is professor of history at the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs