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Nuclear Posture Review

June 11, 2009

WAND has a great action going at the moment, although it seems that only US citizens can use the form on their web page. They are asking you to write to President Obama to encourage him to make sure the Nuclear Posture Review advances nuclear abolition. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear President Obama,

You have understood that nuclear weapons are more of a liability than an asset; they create more risks than they address. I too wish to see a world free of nuclear weapons, but I would like to see it in my lifetime.

As your Administration undertakes its Nuclear Posture Review, please ensure that the reviewers keep the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons firmly in mind. The policies and plans set forth in the Review should both reflect and further this ultimate goal.

Most importantly, the first step should be preventing the use of nuclear weapons. For this reason, while nuclear weapons are still in existence, it should be clearly stated that the United States does not intend to use them in a first strike, but only in retaliation, in the very unlikely event that another country uses nuclear weapons against it. They should not be used as a deterrence against conventional attack or for attack using biological or chemical weapons. This would be disproportionate and is quite clearly illegal under international law.

Preventing the use of nuclear weapons also means taking them off high alert. This should be a priority in talks with Russia about a follow-on treaty for START 1. If we could get away from the Launch-On-Warning posture, the world would immediately be a safer place. It would also improve the security relationship with Russia and end the Cold War definitively.

The new NPR should renounce the “Axis of Evil” and signal to all those countries that were named as targets that the US seeks to improve its security relationship with those countries.

Those are some of my suggested first steps. Who am I to be saying this? I am a disarmament expert from Germany and the UK that has been working for the last 30 years for the abolition of nuclear weapons. I work for the nobel-peace prize winning organisation The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)

Xanthe Hall, Berlin

If you want to take part in this action, go to WAND’s webpage.


  1. July 8, 2009 9:15 pm

    Deterrence in the 21st Century
    By `Peter G Cohen

    A new national security paper fails to explain the need for a nuclear deterrent.

    Last year Representative David Hobson, Chairman of the Appropriations Energy Subcommittee, insisted on a clear statement of our nuclear policy before committing to the creation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and expensive new weapons facilities to make it possible. This year, the U.S. Secretaries of Energy, Defense and State have released a document called “National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century.” This paper presents our nuclear weapons force structure and the reasoning behind it.

    The emphasis of the paper, as with similar statements in the past, is on the concept of maintaining a “credible deterrence.“ In other words, the goal is to wield such overwhelming destructive power as to prevent any nation from even thinking about threatening our friends, our allies or ourselves. To be “credible” means that we are really willing and able to incinerate the people of any nation that makes a move that we interpret as hostile to our friends or ‘interests.’

    One problem is that if the hostile action comes from a non-nuclear nation, conventional weapons would suffice. If the threat comes from a nation that possesses nuclear weapons, we run the risk of starting a nuclear war that could end civilization or even life on Earth.

    These weapons are so powerful and so indiscriminate in their results that it is difficult to imagine a situation in which they could be used effectively. The world would be shocked and revolted by any nation that started such an exchange. And the people of the surrounding region, having received fallout from the detonated weapons, would maintain their resentment and their genetically deformed children far into the future.

    The question becomes, are we not, in fact, deterring ourselves from more effective responses by placing these unusable weapons at the center of our defense policy? Just maintaining the existing stockpile costs some $50 billion a year. That money could be spent more usefully to invest in the future of our nation’s children, education, health, infrastructure, etc.

    What Are We Deterring?
    The Pentagon has stated that the greatest threat we might face is a nuclear weapon in the hands of fanatic extremists. A small, determined group would likely deliver such a weapon as air or sea freight. And suppose that it was detonated in one of our major cities. Perhaps a million people would be vaporized and thousands more poisoned by radioactive fallout. The fear and horror created by such an event would paralyze the nation for months. We would want to strike back, but where would we strike? Who would we incinerate? What good would our massive deterrent do against small bands of fanatics living in many countries?

    A more imminent threat is global warming. Scientists expect the wet places to get more rainfall and the dry places to get less. Rising oceans will flood the homes and farms of millions of people. They will migrate in search of food and clean water. Shortages will create instability in many nations. Worldwide chaos is likely. Obviously, the bomb is neither a deterrent nor a help in such events.

    Reassuring Our Allies
    Finally the Secretaries say, “We seek to assure our allies that the U.S. nuclear arsenal continues to serve as the ultimate guarantor of their security, thus obviating any need for them to develop nuclear weapons of their own.” Well, maybe so, but it didn’t seem to work with Israel or Britain. They went ahead and got their own weapons in spite of our ‘nuclear umbrella.’

    Nations tend to fight their neighbors. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which one nation would want us to eliminate its neighbor with nuclear weapons. The resulting fallout would cover and poison the nation we were trying to help. Furthermore, how could anyone benefit from living next to a radioactive desert?

    The fact is that our lives are now so intertwined with the lives of others, that security must be universal. We need to reaffirm our dedication to international security by strengthening the United Nations and its ability to retaliate against those who violate the peace. Our future security and that of our allies will lie in having highly mobile forces ready to respond to emergencies with troops, aid or both.
    We cannot continue to keep nuclear weapons at the center of our defense establishment. The events of our time have overtaken this Cold War relic. Nuclear weapons are no longer a reliable deterrent nor a guarantor of security. On the contrary, our nuclear weapons are the primary stimulus for more nations to acquire them. The sooner we begin serious negotiations for their reduction and abolition, the sooner we will be able to reduce proliferation and focus our funds and skills on the real problems of our time.
    # # #

    Peter G Cohen, artist and activist, was on a troopship bound for Japan when the bomb was detonated over Hiroshima. In the 1950’s he prepared materials for SANE’s campaign to end testing. In 1966 he was the first chairman of the Lehigh Pocono Committee of Concern. In 1968 he was an independent peace candidate for congress. In 1969-’70 Peter was Exec.Dir. of the New Democratic Coalition of PA and on staff for McGovern in 1972. He is the author of a web sight designed to inform and inspire anti-nuclear action.

  2. June 12, 2009 4:58 pm

    The “Contact Us” page on the White House website does not have a country field, implying that they only accept comments from U.S. residents. However, this is not the case. Members of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation from all over the world are able to submit messages to President Obama through the action alert site at

  3. Dan permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:08 am

    Thanks for the heads-up on this Xanthe. I’ll send a letter immediately.

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