Now is the Time for Nuclear Abolition!
March 17, 2021
Chicago Area Peace Action
Foreign Policy Working Group
We believe an important space in the Nuclear abolition discourse has been opened by the coming into force of the landmark Treaty for The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on January 22, 2021. The opening has been further widened by the evident increase in risk from the egregious behavior of the Trump administration with respect to all things nuclear weapons related, beginning with then candidate Trump’s question to a foreign policy advisor in 2016, “If we have these weapons, why can’t we use them?”
This was rapidly followed by his callous disregard for the importance of the Iran nuclear deal, (JCPOA), his complete lack of negotiating savvy in addressing the North Korean nuclear arsenal – and finally in his administration’s complete disregard for the INF, Open Skies and New Start treaties. These actions have enhanced the public’s recognition globally that, whether by design, miscalculation or accident, the probability of a nuclear weapon’s being detonated is no longer a statistical question of whether, but only of when. The presence of the nuclear arsenals, and the severely damaged treaty limits, mean that even with a more savvy president, unless major changes in the international, and especially the US, dialog occur immediately, such an event becomes inevitable. Contributing to reducing that risk is a responsibility we have accepted.
Our first and continuing goal in this campaign is to make that point evident to a public that is able, now, perhaps for the first time since the middle 1980s, to hear this message. The last time we had such an open public ear to the issue, we witnessed the largest nuclear arms reductions in the history of the nuclear age – led in part by one of the staunchest cold war presidents in history – Ronald Reagan.
We believe a moment has arrived that is even more ripe.
We begin with the recognition that our ultimate goal is for the U.S to become a signatory and then a State Party to the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW treaty). Realistically, we know that will not, cannot occur in the present political environment. We will need to move public opinion significantly before we can gain that political diplomatic win.
We choose to begin the campaign with what we judge to be the most achievable public policy: a congressional resolution coupled with a presidential statement that the United States will never be a “First Strike” or First Use country.
On the campaign trail, President Biden stated on more than one occasion that he would be the first president in US history to make that policy statement. And there is more than one bill in Congress addressing this. So, this seems a very real possibility in the near term.
Once that piece of policy is established, we believe it is essential to quickly pivot our attention to the land based (Inter-continental Ballistic Missile) ICBM program, one leg of the US nuclear “triad”. The current ICBM Minuteman III is scheduled to be upgraded over the next 9 years at a near term cost of $100 Billion with a 50 year price tag of $264 Billion over the life of the new weapon, currently referred to as the GBSD (Ground Based Strategic Deterrent). This upgrading is part of a 30 year $1.7 trillion US nuclear weapon escalation program currently referred to as “modernization”. Our work to disavow the necessity of this one program (GBSD) is the leading edge of a more comprehensive campaign to stop the entire $1.7 trillion program.
The ICBMs in missile silos do not have a defensive role; they will be the first targets in a nuclear exchange and thus are forced into the extremely destabilizing position of needing to be Launched On Warning (LOW), truly a first use strike force. Once the US has an avowed policy of No First Use, ICBMs become superfluous, and no money or international trust should be wasted on their so-called “modernization.”
As we pursue these two important policies objectives, we will continue to frame our work in an overarching narrative that nuclear weapons do not make us safer – indeed they make us more vulnerable to catastrophe on a global scale. Therefore, the US should revisit its 50-year-old unfulfilled commitment under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force on 3/5/1970 and is still in effect: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. We further mean to make the case that signing and ratifying the TPNW is the next logical treaty step – but this time the US must back up a signature with real action toward complete global nuclear disarmament. Our campaign will be working to ever increase public participation in pushing the US government in this direction, working on every step until nuclear weapons are eliminated.