The experts, and the Trump administration

By John Mecklin | November 21, 2016

It is fair to say that, during the presidential campaign just ended, Donald Trump did not always allow himself to be bounded by facts, science, and expertise. Questions about his positions on major global threats—including nuclear weapons and climate change, a scientific reality that he has called a hoax—abound, because those positions shifted shape through time, and according to the audience being addressed and the state of the presidential campaign. In one debate, Trump appeared to support and then oppose a change in US nuclear doctrine regarding first use of nuclear weapons—in the space of three sentences. Earlier in the campaign, he spoke in a way that suggested he did not know what the nuclear triad was.

Because of the uncertainty about the president-elect's knowledge base and openness to advice, I have asked top experts on nuclear weapons, climate change, and other existential threats to humanity to comment on how they think the expert community can best respond to Trump's election. That is: How can people with true expertise in major global threats be of most use in the coming four years in persuading and helping the Trump administration to take actions that protect humanity in the long-term?

The Bulletin will publish the experts' specific answers to that general question in coming weeks. I think— and hope—they can be of real use, inside and outside the new administration, during these unprecedented times.

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Henry Sokolski, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, executive director, EXPERT COMMENTARY

Nuclear critics contend that the United States subsidizes commercial nuclear activities too much, while nuclear lobbyists insist Washington should do far more. President elect Trump has yet to weigh in. Instead, he’s made a larger point: The “biggest problem, to me, in the world,” he claims, is “nuclear capability.” He claims he “hates nuclear more than any[thing].” This creates a dilemma. If nuclear weapons and their further spread are bad, should we lean on Americans to spend more on US nuclear projects that would unnecessarily set dangerous nuclear proliferation precedents for the rest of the world? 

Nuclear nonproliferation, like charity, after all, starts at home. Push “pro-nuclear” corporate cronyism domestically, and you can pretty much forget persuading other governments to forgo money-losing, proliferation-prone nuclear commercialization projects of their own--e.g., uneconomic power reactors (large or small), plutonium-generating fast reactors, spent fuel reprocessing plants, or additional national uranium enrichment capacity. All these bomb-starter-kit projects are financial rabbit holes that no private bank will finance. In the United States, they are impossible to sustain without new, additional government handouts--tax breaks, federal loan guarantees, liability caps, clean energy credits, targeted appropriations, and the like. Give in to the nuclear lobby here, then, and you give alibis for every would-be bomb maker overseas to follow.

Why would Trump ever get behind this? Culture wars is one answer. If subsidizing nuclear power drives my political detractors nuts (that is, the environmental, Saturday Night Live–watching, Brooklyn-bound progressive, New York Times-reading, save-the-planet Starbucks crowd), it must be good. Then, there’s making America great again. Trump was 25 when Washington got drunk on national commercialization patriotism, pushing such “winners” as the supersonic transport plane, the space shuttle, and the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. Nixon liked it. It was fun. Why not push nuclear commercialization black hole analogues--advanced integrated fast reactor fuel cycle systems, small modular reactors, advanced domestic enrichment programs, MOX fuel fabrication efforts--now? 

Such a program certainly would align well with the populist (Stephen Bannon) call for “economic nationalism,” aka deficit spending to build infrastructure. What’s infrastructure? Whatever you can convince the new administration is desirable. The nuclear industry has already made it clear what it wants. Why not fund it?

The short answer is: It costs too much. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Trump contends that success requires not just being “pragmatic” and “positive,” but “realistic.” This, he argues, puts a premium on being “informed.” Many, of course, dismiss Trump as being totally oblivious to facts. This, however, is a mistake. His electoral success, after all, was tied to a fairly savvy exploitation of advice and sophisticated data mining. Whatever you may think of him, it pays to remain curious.  

What else, then, does Trump think? 

Well, he is very eager to get back the $2.5 trillion American corporations have sent overseas. He also is blunt about the Export-Import Bank, which he describes as a “one-way-street,” “feather-bedding” arrangement that benefits “a few companies” that could “do well with out it.” He also doesn’t like it because he doesn't  think it is necessary. 

Nuclear lobbyists in Washington have a somewhat different view. They want Congress to fully fund the bank so they can tap it for billions of dollars to subsidize Westinghouse and General Electric reactor exports to China, India, and beyond. Subsidizing these exports, they argue, is essential to avoid “unilateral trade disarmament” for American reactor vendors.

There is only one problem: The most dominant “US” export reactor firm based in the United States--Westinghouse--is wholly foreign-owned (by Toshiba and Kazakatom) and the second largest US reactor firm--GE--hands over 80 percent of its export profits to a foreign stockholder (Mitsubishi). When Trump speaks about there having to be “a level playing field where everyone can compete fairly” and decries how “wrong and unfair” it is for the working class to “bail out out billon-dollar companies,” he probably has these foreign-owned, multinational, federal subsidy-seeking entities in mind.

As for leveling the playing field, there are two ways to go about it. One can pump up subsidies and handouts for firms and interest groups that get less than their competitors. The other is to eliminate energy handouts and lift restrictions on competition as much as possible. Trump has said plenty against Solyndra, Fisher, and renewable subsidies. He has said even more about the virtues of tapping more oil and gas and “lifting the restrictions on all sources of American energy.” As for handouts, he’s been mum.

What will Trump ultimately do?  Much depends on how eager he is to conflate building out infrastructure with walking back his reservations on global warming and carbon taxes. The nuclear industry is counting on him doing both, but, I suspect, the odds of this are no more than even. Then, there is the issue of nuclear proliferation: How much does Trump want to avoid being accused of encouraging Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to “go nuclear” or helping China produce and stockpile more bomb-usable fuels?” Judging from his and his Vice President-elect’s denials of nuclear lust, you’ve got to think plenty.

The endgame, of course, remains fuzzy. Trump claims he is “not OK” with even some nuclear proliferation. If so, at a minimum, he shouldn’t rush to force Americans to underwrite more nuclear bailouts, which will only make his nonproliferation policy efforts even less likely to succeed than his predecessor’s.

Robert Socolow, Princeton University, senior research scholar, EXPERT COMMENTARY

The Trump administration may well continue to trash climate science in the months ahead, thereby damaging science, the reputation of the United States, and the planet. Nonpartisan alliances, in which scientists join tough-minded captains of industry, military officers, and others, could provide the needed counterweight, jointly promoting climate change as a risk management problem requiring immediate action.

For many who have concluded that climate change is a central challenge to global well-being, sobering messages started arriving well before Election Day. Neither party wanted to talk about it. Democrats spoke about green jobs from wind and solar power, and Republicans spoke about reviving coal, but that was about it. A country so conflicted faced an enervating struggle, whoever won.

With Donald Trump’s victory, however, the scrimmage line for climate change has moved dramatically, and the game has become more dangerous. The most important argument now is whether climate science is to be taken seriously. During the primaries, nearly all of the Republican presidential candidates aligned themselves with the view that there is no need now to confront climate change--either because there is no trustworthy science to build on or, even worse, because science doesn’t matter.

In the months immediately ahead, potential presidential appointees are likely to trash climate science again. Again, they will call it a “hoax.” Some will be candidates for senior positions in the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. They may make their statements in widely televised confirmation hearings. It is already time for the science community to prepare to refute these claims effectively. Two conditions for success seem necessary: Hardheaded leaders in business and the military, especially those with influence within the Republican Party, must become allies. And scientists must find innovative ways to address the dissident views of climate change science that have had such a strong influence on the Republican Party.

The public policy problem of climate change is, at its core, a problem of risk management in the face of imperfectly understood risks. As a consequence, business and military leaders are natural partners, because they understand risk management. Captains of industry don’t bet their companies on outcomes that they prefer but have low probability. Nor are military leaders trained to underestimate threats. Instead, leaders in these arenas assess and reduce risks, invest in damage mitigation, and prepare for disruption. They go with the data and the odds, and they have an interest in the appointment of government officials who think strategically and understand urgency.

Today, when climate change is presented to the public by governments, environmental organizations, and the media, the emphasis is only occasionally placed on the management of uncertain risk. More often, the message is that there is a boundary between safety and catastrophe that must not be crossed–there is a cliff. The nonpartisan alliances that will be required in the United States in the next years will share more common ground if the risk management framing of climate change comes to the fore and the cliff metaphor recedes.

As for the politically powerful dissident voices who challenge the legitimacy or the quality of climate science, the climate science community must pay greater attention to them. The National Academy of Sciences and similar institutions must promptly organize fora where mainstream scientists and dissidents treat each other respectfully in pursuit of the common goal of sorting wheat from chaff. The public can learn that there is nearly complete agreement that:

  • The Earth is a comprehensible system, and scientists have achieved a deep understanding of how it works.
  • The evidence underpinning climate science comes from four kinds of investigations: reconstructions of the Earth’s deep past; contemporary measurements (from space, the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land); modeling of components (clouds, ice sheets, ocean biota, forests) drawing on physics, chemistry, and biology; and numerical simulations at various levels of complexity.
  • The human species has become an exuberant participant in the Earth system and is already modifying it substantially.

The public can also learn that although much of climate science is well established, some issues remain contentious.

The media that promote and disseminate science can help greatly in this pursuit. For example, some contrarians insist that human activity will definitely have only minimal consequences for the climate. Such statements are nearly always flawed. They usually amount to saying that we could be lucky. Yes, we could, but we could also be unlucky. Severe consequences of climate change could arrive early rather than late. A wide range of outcomes of climate change are consistent with climate science. Effective communicators can invent clever graphics to convey the false certainty implicit in many contrarian views.

The United States has compelling reasons to continue to drive the international climate change agenda, much as it drove the Paris Agreement last year. Diplomats around the world will soon be negotiating new instruments that address the upside potential and downside peril of both global nuclear power and the aggressive management of the biosphere for climate-driven purposes. Industries not yet born will deliver “smart” buildings and infrastructure to the world. The US will not want to hang back.

But if the United States government slides into obscurantism, where science can be discarded when it leads to unwanted results, its influence in international affairs will sustain lasting damage. Already, the United States delegitimizes science with an intensity otherwise found only in countries whose governments adhere to religious fundamentalism. Science as a privileged way of knowing is not in jeopardy in most of the world. Much of what Americans take for granted--from the magnetism of America’s universities which attract the world’s most talented students, to the unchallenged supremacy of English in international discourse--could ebb away.  

The Paris Agreement features parallel voluntary actions by all nations. Each is allowed to tell the others: “I did it my way.” Accordingly, there is room for the United States to modify its current plan of action without weakening the agreement. Indeed, if the US were to make new commitments that have broad domestic support and evident durability, the result could be an even stronger agreement.

Author’s note: This commentary is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Cicerone (1943-2016), president of the National Academy of Sciences from 2005 to 2016, one of the great expositors of climate science.

Sharon Squassoni, Center for Strategic and International Studies, director and senior fellow, Proliferation Prevention Program, EXPERT COMMENTARY

Donald Trump’s inexperience with and casual attitudes about nuclear weapons during the campaign led more than a few observers to question whether he could be trusted with these ultimate extensions of the power of the US president. In campaign statements, Trump’s commitment to unpredictability as a strategy, his confusion between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and his suggestions that not only was nuclear proliferation inevitable, but that some countries such as Japan and South Korea should counter North Korea’s nuclear weapons with some of their own, were greeted with considerable skepticism. Did he really mean that? Will he change his mind? But most of all: Can President-elect Trump be influenced to reduce rather than increase nuclear risks?

Active involvement by outside experts and civil society groups will be important in the next four years to provide balance on crucial nuclear policy issues and keep up the pressure to reduce nuclear risks. There are a few factors in favor of outside influence.

First, the role of outside experts in helping to shape nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, risk reduction, and disarmament policies has grown dramatically in the last 20 years, thanks to improved access to decision-makers and availability of information. In nonproliferation, non-governmental organizations have been deeply involved in implementing cooperative threat reduction and export control assistance programs, as well as in Track II dialogue efforts parallel to official government negotiations. Other governments and international organizations have cultivated relationships with civil society and granted access to non-governmental organizations, and they may help outside experts in exerting pressure on the Trump administration.  Capabilities formerly in the exclusive domain of governments--like satellite imagery--are now available commercially. These assets will help amplify the voices of outside experts.

Second, President-elect Trump pays attention to the Twittersphere, and no amount of “handling” is likely to change that. He may not like what he will hear in social media and may think it is unfair, but he seems to be listening. Third, the fact that nuclear risks did not feature as a prominent plank in the Trump campaign platform could mean that the president-elect himself is not heavily invested in policies in this area, and therefore may be amenable to outside ideas. Because he is not beholden to the Republican Party or Washington insiders, advice from any corner--even from outside experts--may get a hearing.

Experts need to weigh in early and often on at least three key issues to keep risks from spiraling out of control: Iran, North Korea, and the strategic relationship with Russia. On Iran, experts should highlight the gains made thus far in reducing the risks of Iran’s nuclear program and the risks of withdrawing from the deal that restricts Iranian nuclear efforts. While it would be tempting to demand that the Trump administration provide a detailed, alternative game plan to the current Iran deal, Trump’s penchant for unpredictability suggests this is the wrong way to go. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for experts in the next four years will be to present their analyses in ways that appeal not to preservation of the status quo and to the values that many in the nuclear arms control and risk reduction community share, but to efficiency and good business sense. 

On North Korea, experts need to highlight not just the futility of a policy that puts China in the driver’s seat of negotiations, but also the extreme costs that would be incurred should the United States withdraw its forces and let Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear deterrents. With respect to Russia, outside experts should counsel the extension of New START, to give Trump and Putin time to explore how they intend to do business with each other.

One of the biggest challenges over the next four years will be for outside experts to play a long game and not waste too much effort on combatting the inevitable.

For example, the Trump Administration is likely to approach UN nuclear weapons ban negotiations in 2017 at best by ignoring them and at worst by ridiculing them. The disarmament community should accept that the ban is symbolic and focus instead on ensuring that nuclear weapon states do not build increasingly destabilizing capabilities as they modernize, that they continue to provide transparency into nuclear weapons programs, and that they continue strategic stability talks.

Finally, outside experts need to be open to the possibility that some progress is possible in unlikely areas. If Trump is truly sincere about his deal-making prowess, he might be able to cut a deal with the Senate to secure ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in his first two years in office. Whether that prize is worth whatever price Senate Republicans may wish to extract is another question. But it is certainly possible that outside experts who adopt a long-term, strategic approach can have more influence on progress on the CTBT and other important nuclear weapons issues than Trump’s disparate positions during the presidential campaign might suggest.

Frank von Hippel, Princeton University, Program on Science and Global Security, EXPERT COMMENTARY

A potential positive result from the election of Donald Trump as our next president could be that it will provoke a long overdue public debate over US nuclear weapons policy. Such a debate could educate Congress and force much needed steps toward reducing the dangers from the Doomsday Machine that the United States and Russia built and then walked away from after some downsizing at the end of the Cold War.

There is widespread concern that President-elect Trump may not be a thoughtful, cautious custodian of the US nuclear “button.” This concern highlights the absurdity of giving one person the authority to order the launch US nuclear weapons, an action that could well result in the end of our civilization. The rationale is that, given that the warning time for an incoming nuclear attack could be only a matter of minutes, there would be no time for democratic consultation. If a country has a survivable second strike force, as the United States does, however, that argument should not be the last word.

We have been extraordinarily lucky to get this far without a nuclear Armageddon. We cannot depend on such luck continuing. The only complete solution is to get rid of nuclear weapons. President Obama embraced that goal in his Prague speech of 2009, but there was little follow-up because of a lack of public engagement. As far as the general public is concerned, the threat of nuclear annihilation receded with the end of the Cold War. There is much more concern about the possibility of nuclear terrorism and President Obama initiated a series of Nuclear Security Summits focused on that issue.

Lacking public pressure for nuclear reductions and adamant Republican support for strategic ballistic missile defense, which poisoned Russian interest in further nuclear reductions, President Obama ended up achieving only minor reductions in New START and had to pay a very high price to get it ratified. In exchange for the votes of some Republican senators, President Obama agreed to a plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decades to replace every nuclear weapon delivery system in the US strategic nuclear arsenal and modernize the nuclear warheads carried by these delivery systems. Earlier this year, Obama failed even to carry his own officials when he proposed adopting a no nuclear first use policy. His Secretaries of Defense, State and Energy reportedly all objected, and he dropped the idea.

It would have been much easier to make progress toward nuclear disarmament during Obama’s presidency had there been a mass movement pressing for it. In 1980-83, the “Nuclear Weapons Freeze” movement sprang up to oppose the Reagan administration’s program to deploy thousands of warheads accurate enough to destroy Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles in their silos. The pressure became so intense that President Reagan switched to advocating nuclear abolition and ballistic missile defense and agreed to include in his joint summit statements with General Secretary Gorbachev the sentence, “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The Nuclear Weapons Freeze movement arose because of frightening statements from Reagan administration officials about the possibility of fighting a nuclear war. President-elect Trump has insisted on not ruling out using nuclear weapons first against ISIS because “I frankly don’t want the enemy to know how I’m thinking.” This indicates that he does not understand the taboo that has built up around nuclear weapons use in the seven decades since Nagasaki.

Could the general citizen uprising that has already begun because of fears of Trump administration actions against minorities and environmental regulations result in a new flow of youthful energy into the nuclear disarmament movement? That is what happened in the late 1960s when anti-Vietnam War activism bled over into other areas, such as environmentalism and opposition to the deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic-missile interceptors around U.S. cities.

Along with supporting a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons that the United Nations will begin negotiating in 2017, interim goals for a new movement could include a no-first-use policy, taking intercontinental ballistic missiles off launch-on-warning alert, eliminating the long-range, nuclear-armed cruise missiles that provoke fears of first strikes in China and scrapping the ineffectual national ballistic missile defense that has made it impossible to negotiate further reductions with Russia.

If a new generation of nuclear disarmament activists emerge, I am sure that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will provide them a forum to promote and refine their ideas, as it has done for generations of us going back 70 years to the original atomic scientists.


Lawrence J. Korb, Center for American Progress, senior fellow, EXPERT COMMENTARY

My advice to President-elect Trump would be to seize the opportunity to become a transformational president by taking some dramatic foreign policy steps that will not only enhance his place in history, but also enhance the security of the world and the United States (in other words, make America great again).

In nuclear weapons policy, I would advise him to adopt a no-first-use policy, (something he alluded to in the campaign debates), resubmit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate, follow the advice of former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright to cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,000 by eliminating the land-based component of the nuclear triad and the air launched cruise missile. This will not only enhance our moral standing in the world, but improve our relations with Russia and free up substantial funds in the defense budget to purchase the additional conventional forces Trump has argued are needed to protect this nation and prosecute the war against ISIS.

I would tell him not only to continue to implement the nuclear deal with Iran, but work with the Congress to remove the sanctions that prevent Iran from gaining the economic benefits they expected when they signed the agreement, thereby empowering the moderates in that country.

I would tell him to not only help to keep NAFTA, but work with our partners to modify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so it can be ratified by the Congress. Not only will this enhance our economy and increase our security in the Pacific by helping the United States deal with a rising and assertive China; it will also force China to make some of the changes he argues are necessary, if they wish to join the TPP.

Finally, I would encourage him to keep the pressure on our NATO and Asian allies to contribute more to offsetting the cost of the security we guarantee them. This will not only undermine the case of those in the United States who feel we are paying too large a portion of these collective security arrangements, but help combat the growing power of Russia in Europe and China in Asia.

I recognize that these steps will be difficult for him given his campaign promises. But they will not only make America great; they will give him a chance to become a great foreign policy president, in the mold of Nixon and Reagan, who went against their campaign rhetoric when it came to nuclear weapons and relations with Russia and China. Moreover, these steps will make it easier for a President Trump to get Congressional and public support in general.

Alan Robock, Rutgers University, Department of Environmental Sciences,

Dear President-elect Trump,

You will soon have control of the US nuclear arsenal. If it is ever used, it could kill almost every American, as well as the rest of humanity, because of the impacts of the smoke from fires that would be ignited, which would cool Earth’s surface and kill virtually all crops in the ensuing nuclear winter. You now have the opportunity to prevent this from ever happening, by quickly reducing our nuclear arsenal, saving us hundreds of billions of dollars in the process. Doing so will win you a Nobel Peace Prize. Here are the facts:

  • There are 15,350 nuclear weapons on the planet, with Russia (7,300) and the United States (7000) accounting for almost all of them. The other seven nuclear nations are France (300), China (260), UK (215), Pakistan (130), India (120), Israel (80), and North Korea (10). New START, signed by presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, requires each side by next year to reduce deployed warheads to a maximum of about 2,000 each, but the treaty does not limit the much larger number of weapons that are in storage or reserve. The United States has embarked on a modernization program for our nuclear arsenal that will cost about $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion) over the next 30 years. What a waste of money for weapons we can never use. Please cancel this modernization program, and consider all the other things we could do with this money.
  • In the 1980s, American and Russian scientists, working together, discovered that smoke from fires ignited by nuclear explosions would be so dense that it would block out the sun, turning Earth cold, dark, and dry, killing plants, and preventing agriculture for at least a year. In the last decade, working with some of the same scientists, particularly Richard Turco, Brian Toon, and Georgiy Stenchikov, and using modern climate models and computers, I found that this nuclear winter theory was correct, that the effects would persist for more than a decade, and that the New START-reduced nuclear arsenals will still be able to produce this nuclear winter. It is an unfortunate fact that cities burn. San Francisco burned for three days and nights after the earthquake in 1906. Tokyo, Hamburg, Dresden, Darmstadt, and multiple Japanese cities burned after bombing in World War II. Some modern buildings burn even more easily, as can be seen in the skyscraper fires started with discarded cigarettes in Dubai. Modern megacities would produce a lot more smoke than the assumptions made in previous studies. We also found that if either the United States or Russia attacked the other with their current arsenal, it would produce so much climate change that it would kill everyone in the country that did the attacking, even if there was no retaliation. This mean we live in a world of Self-Assured Destruction (SAD) in addition to Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Thus any nation threatening a first strike attack would be acting as a suicide bomber. In addition, we found that a very small nuclear war between any two nuclear nations, using only 100 or so small, Hiroshima-size atomic bombs, with a total explosive power of much less than one percent of the current global arsenal, could produce enough smoke to cause climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. It would not be full nuclear winter, but it could sentence 1 to 2 billion people to death by starvation. To prevent the possibility of a nuclear winter, the United States and Russia need to immediately reduce their arsenals to the same levels as all the other nuclear states, a couple hundred. After all, how many do you need to use as a deterrent? A couple? To prevent the nuclear famine that would result from even a very small number of weapons targeted on cities and industrial areas, arsenals need drastic reductions.
  • Partially as a result of the growing awareness of the global impacts on climate and food that would result from a nuclear war, three international conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear war were held: in Norway in March 2013; in Mexico in February 2014, and in Austria in December, 2014. This worldwide movement resulted in the Open-Ended Working Group meetings of the United Nations in 2016, culminating in a UN resolution to have negotiations in 2017 toward a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons; the resolution was supported by 123 nations. The United States voted against this resolution, but now is your chance to change US policy and support this ban on nuclear weapons next year. The world has banned chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions, and land mines, but not the worst weapons of mass destruction of all, nuclear weapons. As discussed above, they cannot be used in any rational way. Nuclear weapons cannot be used to fight terrorism or cyber threats. However, there have been many instances when nuclear weapons were almost used by accident or confusion. One can also imagine hackers getting access. Now is your chance to make the world much safer by ridding it of this threat.
  • Proliferation of nuclear weapons has already produced nine nuclear states. As we all know, Iran was on track to become the tenth, but was stopped by an international agreement, done in collaboration with Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union. This has made the world much safer and sends a message about the international community's wilingness to stop other nations from obtaining nuclear weapons. You have an obligation to reiterate US support for this agreement. Any attempts to dismantle it will result in Iran getting nuclear weapons sooner and embolden other countries wishing to move in the same direction.

There are several first steps you can take to make the world safer. 

You can change our nuclear policy to one of no first use of nuclear weapons. There are no circumstances in which we should use nuclear weapons to attack anyone. We can defend the Unnited States with our modern, precision-guided weapons, which do not require wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians.

You can take US land-based missiles off of hair-trigger alert. Any use of nuclear weapons requires deliberate thought, not immediate reaction during a time of panic and possible misinformation. What a message of peace taking US missiles off high-alert status will be to the world.

You can stand down our land-based missiles and begin to dismantle them as part of a rapid reduction of our nuclear arsenal. No treaty with Russia is needed, and President George H. W. Bush set a precedent for this by reducing our nuclear arsenal as the Soviet Union was coming apart. This unilateral action will have the two-fold effect of making accidental nuclear war much less likely and setting the world on a path to reducing the threat of global nuclear war and nuclear winter.

Your presidency is an unprecedented opportunity for positive change in the world. Reducing the threat of nuclear war and nuclear winter will make the United States safer and richer, and cement your status as a world leader. Please take advantage of this chance to be a real winner.

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