Wednesday, July 4, 2007
This July Fourth, we find ourselves immersed in an ever-earlier quadrennial presidential campaign. As the country celebrates the founding of our nation, candidates try to define themselves with messages that resonate with the American people. In poll after poll, Americans identify the war in Iraq; the environment and threat of global warming; healthcare access and cost; education costs and opportunity; and the economy among their top concerns.
In reflecting on our freedoms, we must take the real opportunity to engage these candidates in a dialogue on issues that truly affect us and the world. At this critical time, this dialogue has the potential to define and identify who we really are as a nation and what role we will play in the world.
The issue perhaps more critical to our immediate survival, yet barely mentioned, is the threat of nuclear war and the Cold War's nuclear legacy that threaten us to this day. We remain oblivious to these threats, and awareness of these issues is somehow barely noted on the political landscape. Amazingly, just this week, as though stuck in the "Atomic Age," the Los Alamos National Lab "celebrated" the first plutonium nuclear pit (the nuclear trigger at the heart of nuclear weapons) in 18 years. This at a time when we demand other nations cease all nuclear activities.
This year, the threat to our future was perhaps best acknowledged with the joint bipartisan statement Jan. 4 by Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn. In their statement, published in the Wall Street Journal, they called on the United States to take the global leadership position in working to eliminate all nuclear weapons, recognizing that they no longer add to, but rather threaten, our security.
As we contemplate the profoundness of their statement and awareness, and in light of recent history, we identify many critical questions that must be asked of our potential future leaders. These relate not only to nuclear war, but to war and conflict itself.
In identifying and shaping the candidates' positions, significant questions that require serious consideration and response include:
1.In its Jan. 4 letter to the Wall Street Journal, a bipartisan group states that reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. It proposes setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Do you agree or disagree and why?
In follow-up questions:
— Would you support having the U.S. take the lead in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban and Anti Ballistic Missile treaties?
— Will you support/introduce legislation to eliminate funding for new nuclear weapons programs?
2. Given our history with war, the many costs incurred and the questionable benefits or accomplishment, what concrete policies/steps would you take to move the U.S. in the world community away from war to resolve conflict?
3. Do you support the principle of pre-emptive war for all countries?
4. The U.S. is the largest provider of arms to the Third World and developing countries. Would you support international treaties banning small-arms sales?
5. How best can the U.S. help the Israelis and Palestinians achieve agreement on coexistence and in a way that builds respect with the Arab world as well as the people of Israel?