Monday, September 28, 2009

Obama and Nukes: Talking the Talk, Awaiting the Walk

Analysis: Two longtime opponents of nuclear weapons reflect on heady times as the Obama administration puts disarmament back on the map.

feature photo
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and President Barack Obama at Thursday's Security Council Summit.U.N.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possess over 98 percent of the more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Today, President Barack Obama led a session of the council focusing on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. We take that opportunity to present a dialogue between David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation — an organization strident in its opposition to nuclear weapons — and Richard Falk, professor emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and the chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Falk and Krieger have written widely on nuclear dangers and are co-editors of the 2008 book At the Nuclear Precipice: Catastrophe or Transformation?

David Krieger: How seriously should we take the changes that are being proposed by the Obama administration? Do you see these proposals as a serious turning away from catastrophe toward transformation?

Richard Falk: I think that this is a much more hopeful time to consider these various issues bearing on nuclear weapons and, at the same time, it's a rather confusing and complicated time. Of course it's appropriate and accurate, I think, to welcome the kind of rhetorical leadership that President Obama has so far exhibited, particularly in his Prague speech of April 5. One has to hope that this is more than a rhetorical posture, but represents, as he said in the speech it did, a serious commitment to take concrete steps toward the objective of a world free from nuclear weapons. But one has to look at two other factors here that make me, at any rate, somewhat less optimistic about the real tangible results.

The first is the continuing confrontation with Iran as a potential nuclear weapon state on the unspoken assumption that we still will be living in a world where some countries are allowed to have those weapons and others are forbidden. It would be a very different confrontation, from my perspective, if it was coupled with a call for a Middle East free from nuclear weapons altogether or a dual call to Israel and Iran that would take account of the existence of a nuclear weapon state in the region already. But as far as I can tell there is no disposition to do that.

No comments: