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Peace Action's Organizing for Nuclear Disarmament

The Obama Administration has what might be termed a “lip-service” strategy it has to enunciate but probably doesn’t really think is viable - negotiate another treaty with Russia to go down to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads each (possibly including the issue of reducing or eliminating tactical nukes in Europe), ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Given the strengthened Republican forces in the Senate, none of those treaties appear to be realistic in the near term. Also, US insistence on pursuing the provocative chimera of missile defense, NATO expansion and the gargantuan US conventional military superiority all complicate progress toward fewer nukes with Russia. So does the Administration have a “real” strategy beyond New START? It’s not clear it does. Regardless, we in the peace and disarmament movement need our own strategy moving forward.

If we agree those are important objectives (and we have advocated CTBT and FMCT for a long time) that still need to be advocated, but are not politically feasible for the foreseeable future, what is our “real” strategy, and can at least some of it be “synched up” with an Administration strategy? Our work over the next five years may well take the form of a “Nuclear Disarmament Triad,” if you will.

1. Opposition to U.S. (and other nuclear powers’) complex/arsenal “modernization”

The Obama Administration has proposed approximately $185 billion over the next ten years to “modernize” the nuclear weapons production complex (including three new bomb factories at Los Alamos, NM, Kansas City, MO and Oak Ridge, TN) and upgrade delivery systems (missiles, bombers and submarines). This exorbitant and hypocritical bailout for the Dr. Strangeloves must be strenuously opposed, as it directly undermines progress toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Instead, we should support conversion of the weapons laboratories, and increasing funding and prioritization of warhead dismantlement and environmental restoration at nuclear complex sites.

2. Non-treaty executive actions

This may be our best to make real progress in the next five years, by mobilizing support for concrete, non-treaty executive actions the president could take to make real progress toward his professed goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Different steps might be advocated – taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, eliminating tactical (short-range) nuclear weapons from Europe, ditching one leg of the US nuclear triad, promoting a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East (ultimately this probably would require a treaty, but among the Middle East states, so it wouldn’t require US Senate ratification), or others.

3. Building a real global campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons

The current “non-starter-ness” of this idea in U.S. politics (which is no small matter of course) notwithstanding, there is at least the foundation of a real global campaign for nuclear weapons abolition by Non-Governmental Organizations working in alliance with non-nuclear states, along the lines of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in the 1990’s.  Mayors for Peace, the Nobel Peace Laureates Campaign, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Abolition 2000 Network, Global Zero and relationships strengthened by the work in 2009-10 around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference are all solid building blocks.

Recently, ten non-nuclear states formed the Cross-Regional Group on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament to push for abolition. The ten countries are Germany, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Poland, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Other states that have consistently advocated nuclear disarmament include, among others, Indonesia, South Africa, Malaysia, Brazil and Norway. Details of such states’ plans will need to learned, information must be shared, campaigns must be coordinated, but we are at a point where raising the aspiration of the global elimination of nuclear weapons – while connecting it to near-term objectives – is a realistic endeavor, worthy of our vision of a just, peaceful, nuclear weapons-free world.

In the next two years, Peace Action may participate in an international campaign in support of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, along with international peace movement allies and leading governments. A UN conference on this issue is to be convened in 2012.