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Remembering the Dawn of the Nuclear Age

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Remembering the dawn of the Nuclear Age

By Robert Dodge

Aug. 6, 1945, the world changed forever. In a flash, the city of Hiroshima was decimated by a single weapon - an atomic bomb. The dawning of the atomic age saw 140,000 people die from the blast in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki, hit by a nuclear weapon three days later.

Survivors of the bombings continued to suffer burns, infection, radiation sickness and cancer, which would ultimately result in another 160,000 deaths. From the moment of those events, war was rendered obsolete as a means of resolving conflict because, ultimately, any war could evolve into a nuclear war.

Man now held the tools to destroy life as we know it. Yet, to this day, man has failed to recognize this reality. Albert Einstein said, "With the unleashed power of the atom, we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe unless we change the way we think."

Sixty-two years later, what has been the global response and what leadership role has the U.S. taken? Do our actions reflect our principles and are they consistent with the desired outcome? Today, the world's nuclear arsenals hold the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs and the unthinkable appears increasingly possible.

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More nations are seeking nuclear weapons, and the U.S. and Russia still maintain thousands of nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert - vulnerable to accidental launch. "Loose" nuclear material and weapons in Russia and elsewhere are potential targets to theft by extremists.

Our response, at best, has been disingenuous when we decry the development of nuclear weapons by other nations. Our actions do not reflect our supposed principles. Instead, we are pushing to develop new nuclear weapons. That's right, the administration is seeking funding for the so-called "Reliable Replacement Warhead." This new nuke is part of a more dangerous program called Complex 2030. This is a plan to build a new generation of nuclear bomb-making factories in eight sites across the country - to produce thousands of new nuclear weapons for decades to come.

While the House of Representatives has moved to eliminate funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a Senate committee has kept it alive. A full Senate vote on whether to fund new nuclear weapons should come up in September.

Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill with bipartisan sponsorship that gives renewed hope to this issue: Senate bill 1914, the Nuclear Policy and Posture Review Act of 2007. It eliminates funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead through fiscal year 2010 and requires the administration to conduct in-depth reviews of U.S. nuclear policy and posture. Now is the time to thank Sen. Feinstein and tell our local senators that the U.S. should take the lead in reducing the nuclear threat.

Fortunately, there is a vision for global nuclear disarmament. Former Republican Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, joined by former Democrat Defense Secretary William Perry and former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, wrote a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed in January, stating: "The world is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous era. ... We endorse the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."

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With such respected, conservative leaders now advocating for the necessary steps to achieve that goal, the time is ripe for taking action to fundamentally change our nuclear-weapons policy. Their voices are added to growing international efforts to eliminate these weapons. These groups range from the International Mayors for Peace "2020 Vision Campaign," calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020, to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and its American affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Their efforts move us closer to the "tipping point" where this idea will be unstoppable. Regarding war itself, in a nuclear world, war does not work. This is not to say there is not conflict - serious conflict. Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

If we think that war is inevitable and man is doomed to perpetual war, then war will be the end of us. If, on the other hand, we accept that all wars must come to a close, then we must change how we think and work to identify alternatives to war in resolving conflict.

Fortunately, there already exists the methods to achieve this reality. They include:

- Diplomacy and nonviolent conflict resolution.

- Appropriate foreign aid.

- Adherence to international law and treaties.

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Robert Dodge is the father of 3 sons. He is a family physician in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and is president of the Ventura County Chapter. He also serves on the board of (more...)
 

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