November 12, 2009
In These Times
"Arms Control is Not Enough"
By Paul Magno
Early on a Friday morning, I switched on my radio to listen to the news as I slowly woke up. What a peculiar dream … President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Then I realized. I was awake. He actually was this year’s recipient for his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
I’m acquainted with folks who have labored for such a vision for quite a while. Twenty-five years ago, several friends and I entered a weapons factory in
Our action, like many Plowshares actions, concentrated on first strike nuclear weapons designed not for deterrence, but for a disabling assault on the
During the 1980s, much of the disarmament movement put great effort into understanding the substance of
The Reagan administration, hawkish as it was, had its hands full trying to maintain momentum for such weapons. A worldwide public debate over the politics and morality of nuclear weapons ensued, forcing Ronald Reagan to negotiate an agreement to destroy nuclear weapons with Michael Gorbachev. The result was the 1987 abolition of Euromissiles on both sides, unprecedented in the history of the nuclear arms race. The Pershing II, designed for a 20-year lifespan, was consigned to the scrap heap after only four.
These accomplishments came from widespread grassroots fervor based on a radical vision of disarmament. Today, new challenges confront us.
In the early 1990s, with the dissolution of the
Attention to the stealthy but steady advances in weaponry and hope for their reversal advance has seriously diminished from its apogee in the 1980s. But, as the Nobel committee recognizes, Obama has renewed the conversation with speeches on arms control promoting new warhead reductions, even envisioning their eventual elimination.
But arms control is not adequate. We need to understand how nuclear strategy and dangerous new advances in space weaponry combined threaten planetary devastation. As the sole superpower, the
Still, his Nobel award is our opportunity. For the first time in years, changing our country’s nuclear policy is on the table.
That can be our catalyst to build a new visionary peace movement. We need the skills and knowledge of vigorous policy analysts, a widespread grassroots movement objecting to these threats to life, and a nonviolent resistance movement that can impede the machinery of death and ward off omnicide.
We make a mistake if we invest the president with our hopes and wait for him to give us back a mere taste of the possibilities. Really, the hope is ours to employ, to fashion the disarmed world we want—the world to which we have a right. The question we need to answer: “Is it in us?”
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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