In Hiroshima, Obama has said that he will only make brief remarks and speak on the nature of war in general. President Abraham Lincoln’s remarks at Gettysburg were also brief, a mere 10 sentences. He also spoke on the nature of war in general. You can say a lot in a short time. At a minimum, Obama should reaffirm his vision of the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
This would be powerful. But he can and should do more to reduce the risks of nuclear disaster.
The president could take a few steps:
- He could, with one sentence, end the requirement that our nuclear weapons be ready to launch within minutes. This is an obsolete Cold War doctrine that has no place in the 21st Century.
- He could take a least 50 ICBMs off of alert. These are the weapons scheduled for deactivation under the New START treaty. He could take them off alert now, and ask the Russians to make a reciprocal step, starting a process that could pull us back from the nuclear brink.
- He could take a small step to stop the $1 trillion in contracts he has ordered for a new generation of nuclear weapons by canceling the $30 billion new nuclear cruise missile – the least necessary and most destabilizing of the suite of new weapons now planned.
- He could pledge go to the United Nations Security Council and seek new resolutions against all nuclear tests and increasing our ability to detect such tests.
- Finally, he could encourage all members of Congress to visit Hiroshima. Before they spend $1 trillion on thousands of new weapons, they should experience what just one small nuclear bomb can do.
Even after taking these steps, the small nuclear briefcase, the "football" — officially known as the president’s emergency satchel — he'll have with him in Hiroshima, will still control enough power to destroy most human life on the planet.
Ploughshares Fund and its grantees won’t give up. We will do all we can to keep the world moving toward the reduction, and ultimately the elimination, of nuclear weapons.
Photo: Genbaku Dome - Hiroshima Peace Memorial by Flickr user, Miquel Lleixá Mora (cc).