The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: Is It Possible?

I don't know the answer to the above question. But it's amazing that the idea now gets such serious discussion. Today, the president led the UN's passage of a resolution calling for such a goal. And while resolutions are all well and good, this one comes at a time when serious policy makers and one-time hawks now see the end of nukes as a realistic thing. Reagan's Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and one of his arms control pointmen, Richard Burt, are on board with Global Zero, the group that's pushing this the hardest.

It's probably the most serious public discussion of nuclear weapons since the early 1980s, when the nuclear freeze movement captured the imagination of the left. The idea then was simply not to produce any more nuclear weapons, an idea rejected by the Reagan administration and many Democrats because it essentially made it impossible to keep up with the Soviets. By the end of the decade of course, there were substantial arms reductions as a result of the START treaties.

When Jonathan Schell of The New Yorker wrote his seminal piece on the abolition of nuclear weapons, The Fate of the Earth, it was embraced on the left but considered soft headed. Leon Wieseltier, my former colleague at The New Republic, wrote a lengthy response called Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace that made the grim case for deterrance which had, after all, kept nuclear weapons from being used since Nagasaki. Now the idea of abolition is in the air, and it's not just coming from a New Yorker writer. Kind of amazing, yes?

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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