July 16, 2015

PONI Live Debate: Global Zero + An Excerpt From "The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors And Their Quest To Ban The Bomb"

Description of "The Partnership" [Source: Harper Collins Publishers]:
Illuminating and thought-provoking, The Partnership tells the little-known story of their campaign to reduce the threat of a nuclear attack and, ultimately, eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. It is an intimate look at these men—Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and the renowned Stanford physicist Sidney Drell—the origins of their unlikely joint effort, and their dealings with President Obama and other world leaders. Award-winning journalist Philip Taubman explores the motivations, past conflicts, and current debates that drive, and sometimes strain, their bipartisan partnership. Through their stories, he examines the political and technological currents that shaped nuclear strategy during the Cold War—including the 1986 Reykjavik summit, at which Reagan and Gorbachev narrowly missed a landmark agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons—and illuminates how the end of that conflict gave rise to the dangerous realities of today. He reveals the heated discussions taking place in Washington and in nuclear-weapons laboratories, and spotlights current threats and the frantic efforts of America and its allies to prevent the spread of fissile materials.

Meticulously researched and compellingly told, The Partnership demands that we turn our attention to an issue that has the potential to alter our world order. Philip Taubman has provided an important and timely story of science, history, and friendship—of five men who have decided the time has come to dismantle the nuclear kingdom they worked to build.
An excerpt from, "The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors And Their Quest To Ban The Bomb" by Philip Taubman:
The thought of abolishing nuclear weapons was not much on the minds of policymakers in Washington or other capitals as the new millennium opened. With the Cold War receding into history, American and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles were diminishing. Despite the nuclear ambitions of India, Pakistan, and North Korea, the threat of a global nuclear war seemed all but inconceivable.

As Shultz, Kissinger, Perry, Nunn, and Drell turned their calendars to 2000, the idea that the five men would band together to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons seemed far-fetched, to put it mildly. That the men could give new life to the dormant concept and galvanize world leaders would have sounded even more improbable.

"Going to Zero," cognoscenti shorthand for nuclear disarmament, was a red flag for nuclear weapons sophisticates. To them it bespoke of a flaky idealism and profound ignorance about the realities of the nuclear age and the centrality of nuclear weapons in American defense doctrine. Ronald Reagan and George Shultz had been pilloried for discussing the abolition with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik. Most Reagan aides thought their boss's repeated allusions over the years to a world free of nuclear weapons were daffy and not to be taken seriously.

The United States continued to rely on its nuclear forces as the ultimate guarantor of its security. While the nation might no longer need to keep Russia at bay by threatening to pulverize it if it ever attacked the United States, defense planners still relied heavily on nuclear weapons to deter aggression, especially aggression involving weapons of mass destruction---nuclear, chemical, or biological. America's allies in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the theory went, depended on Washington's "nuclear umbrella" to deter attack by erratic nations like North Korea and Iran and to be able to forgo the development of nuclear weapons themselves. The nuclear gospel held that nuclear arms had helped preserved the peace after two convulsive world wars. Speaking realistically, opponents of zero said, there was no way to erase the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons, so it was futile to try. Even moving toward zero would be reckless because the balance of power would become much more unstable as nations gave up their weapons, giving any country with just a handful of warheads a potential advantage over its adversaries.

Beyond all those factors, skeptics of zero like Harold Brown, a former defense secretary, and Brent Scowcroft, who served two presidents as national security adviser, feared it would undermine more concrete steps that could be taken to reduce nuclear threats. They thought it would distract attention from measures that might actually make a difference and, worse, equate such steps with the agenda of radical antinuke campaigners.

Scowcroft put it well. "I would not absolutely rule out that the day would come when nuclear weapons would be outlawed. But to me the basic problem is that you cannot disinvent nuclear weapons. And a world without them is likely to be a much more tense and alarming world than we can imagine, because in that world a country that cheats and develops them immediately becomes a superpower, comparatively. And human nature being what it is, it's hard to imagine a world where that wouldn't happen."

For Scowcroft, the emphasis should be on preventing the use of nuclear weapons rather than banishing them. "The right question is, what steps can we take so that nuclear weapons are never used? And to me zero is not that. But it is numbers of weapons, it is the character of the different weapons."

Kissinger, Perry, Nunn, and Drell wrestled with similar doubts, and even Shultz, who threw his arms around zero at Reykjavik, knew that eliminating nuclear weapons would be a devilishly difficult matter. "I didn't know how to get to zero," Perry recalled. "I couldn't imagine quite how you would get there or how you would function once you were there."

Kissinger couldn't, either. Skeptical about the Clinton administration's nuclear weapons policy, he said in 1998, "The national security strategy of the United States is built around nuclear weapons. Yet the rhetoric of the administration stigmatizes them in such absolute terms as to come close to undermining that policy. The administration is right to resist nuclear proliferation but it must not, in the process, disarm the country psychologically. Nuclear weapons cannot be abolished; no inspections system could account for them all." [Source: Taubman, Philip. 2012. "The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors And Their Quest To Ban The Bomb," Part 4, Chapter 23: Going to Zero. Pg. 287-89. HarperCollinsPublishers: New York].
Video Title: PONI Live Debate: Global Zero. Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies. Date Published: October 24, 2013. Description:
"Resolved: Global Zero would make the world more secure."
Ambassador Richard Burt, U.S. Chair of Global Zero and Managing Director at McLarty Associates

Dr. Clark Murdock, Senior Adviser to the Defense and National Security Group and Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues, Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) is pleased to invite you to a live debate over the goal of Global Zero.

In his 2009 Prague Speech, President Obama pledged "to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Although admitting this goal may not be reached within his lifetime, the President sparked a heated public debate over the desirability and feasibility of eliminating all nuclear weapons. Proponents argue that nuclear weapons are outdated tools of the Cold War, presenting an unacceptable risk of accidental or miscalculated use. On the other hand, opponents argue that nuclear weapons are secure and have prevented major power conflict for almost 70 years. Ambassador Richard Burt, U.S. Chair of Global Zero and Managing Director at McLarty Associates and Dr. Clark Murdock, CSIS Senior Adviser and Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues, will engage each other and the audience on a debate over Global Zero.