An Age of Possibility
This April 15th tax day finds the country and, indeed, the world in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. As we fund our nation’s priorities, each expenditure must be carefully considered for its investment in our future. We can stay the present course or make changes for a better tomorrow and a more secure future.
The greatest threat to our collective security and survival remains the use of a nuclear weapon or nuclear war. Our nuclear policy — a remnant of the Cold War and its fiscal expenditures — actually adds to our insecurity. The allocation of dollars to nuclear weapons programs and, ultimately, the cost to our society has never been transparent and must be addressed as we re-examine our priorities.
This year, with the convergence of economic crisis, nuclear security threats, public sentiment and President Barack Obama’s articulation in Prague of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the potential to fully reconsider these expenditures is possible.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported in January that, in 2008, the U.S. spent in excess of $52 billion on nuclear weapons programs. These figures align with previous reports by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, placing nuclear expenditures for 2008 at approximately $54 billion.
That translates to $6.7 billion for California and more than $160 million for Ventura County and $1.6 billion for neighboring Los Angeles County. These dollars represent opportunities lost.
When Americans are surveyed regarding our economic concerns, they include quality jobs, healthcare access, energy policy, environmental protection, education and security. Imagine the possibilities of redirecting nuclear funds.
The vision of a world without nuclear weapons is no less monumental than President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to put a man on the moon or President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 call to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Obama is ready to “put an end to Cold War thinking” and has committed the U.S. to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national-security strategy.” Eliminating nuclear weapons was once thought to be fantasy. It is now mainstream, from the former senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Sam Nunn, to former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry — the so-called “gang of four” — who have called on the U.S. to take the lead in international efforts to eliminate these weapons.
It is important to understand that no one is advocating unilateral disarmament or overnight change. No one is suggesting countries like Israel give up their weapons before anyone else or that any of this will be easy. With the U.S. and Russia holding 96 percent of the global nuclear weapons arsenals, estimated at 5 billion tons, we must initiate the process. There will always be those who will say impossible, but without the vision of these thinkers, we know what the unthinkable probabilities are.
So, this spring, we must seize the opportunity to re-examine our future. Now is the time for us to raise our voices and let our leaders know of our priorities. Let ours be an Age of Possibility.
— Robert Dodge, M.D., of Ventura is co-chairman of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (http://www.c-p-r.net), president of Ventura County Physicians for Social Responsibility (http://www.PSR.org), board member of Beyond War, http://www.beyondwar.org.