Nuclear Weapons: Never Again

27 Jul

In 2002, during the build up to the Iraq War, I visited the A-bomb memorial in Hiroshima with my Japanese wife. What I saw and read there was eye-opening and life changing. I am committed to ensuring that never again is a nuclear weapon used.

The fact that some of the United States’ leading conservative policymakers have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons is a watershed moment in that it suggests the possibility of a bipartisan goal of building a safer and more secure world free of these destructive and harmful weapons. Since Russia and the United States are the nations with the two largest nuclear arsenals, the two nations have a special responsibility, recognized in a joint statement following Obama and Medvedev’s inaugural meeting last April, to set an example for the rest of the world.

Work with Russia on Deep Reductions
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is set to expire in December of this year. U.S. and Russian negotiators began discussing the follow-on agreement to START in Rome on April 24. The terms of the follow-on agreement are likely to be negotiated alongside the Obama administration’s construction of the 2009-2010 Nuclear Posture Review. Whatever agenda the administration decides to push at the upcoming 2010 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference will also influence follow-on negotiations with Russia.

Although the START dialogue is technically only about nuclear weapons, it is really about the totality of U.S.-Russian relations. START is useful because it provides an existing framework – an opportunity – for reengaging Russia on a broad strategic dialogue. Russia and the United States also need to reach an agreement on the contentious issue of missile defense. Negotiating a follow-on agreement to START will allow the U.S. and Russia to discuss issues of transparency and verification as well. Among the additional practical steps the United States and Russia can explore together is the successful implementation of the U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact, a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that supporters say will strengthen the ability of the U.S. and Russia to solidify cooperative nonproliferation efforts, including efforts to engage Iran over its nuclear program.

Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
I support ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which lays a vital foundation for a credible, global nonproliferation regime. The CTBT serves as a confidence-building measure: U.S. ratification of the treaty will be seen by the international community as a proactive measure by the U.S. to meet its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Since broader international support for nonproliferation depends, to a large degree, on international perception of the U.S. keeping its nonproliferation commitments, ratification of the CTBT may be the best possible signal to send in this regard. I support President Obama’s commitment to work with the Senate to ratify the treaty, and I pledge to remind the President of this commitment.

Beyond the positive advantage of strengthening global nonproliferation norms, we should also keep in mind that nuclear testing is disastrous for the environment. Underground tests contaminate soil and groundwater. Above-ground tests spew radioactivity into the atmosphere, spreading it around the world. For example, one U.S. government report, released in 1991, declared the soil contamination from underground testing at the Nevada Test Site “a threat to human health and the environment.”

On Existing Stockpiles
Even if one were to accept the paradigm and framework that calls for a well-maintained, reliable nuclear weapons stockpile, the JASON Defense Advisory Panel report’s conclusion that even our oldest warheads have several decades of reliability left should put to rest fears of an unreliable stockpile. Additionally, “virtual testing,” conducted through computer simulations, utilizing data from previous tests, would be more than sufficient to meet the alleged testing needs of the current stockpile, and such computerized testing is allowed under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, should the U.S. do the right thing and ratify that treaty.

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. He has pledged to vote against funding for expansion of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

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