Other U.S. anti-nuclear weapon initiatives

By , August 8, 2007

After reading Kate Hudson’s comments about the dynamic disarmament movement in Britain, I feel a
twinge of envy. I cannot imagine 100,000 people in the United States demonstrating against the
Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program, nor can I imagine Defense Secretary Robert Gates
agreeing to a televised debate against a veteran disarmament activist. Britain seems to be leaps
and bounds ahead of the United States in this regard, but perhaps the United States is making
strides toward disarmament in a different way.

The most significant gain in 2007 for anti-nuclear work took place days after the New Year, when
Wall Street Journal op-ed, entitled
“A World Free of Nuclear
surprised the country. Endorsed by eminent national security experts, including
former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam
Nunn, and former Defense Secretary William Perry–along with 17 former ambassadors and national
security officials–the statement grew out of a consultation commemorating the twentieth
anniversary of the 1986 Reykjavik summit, in which Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev nearly
agreed to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The op-ed marked the increasingly prevalent view that
only a nuclear-weapon-free world will ensure that no city will ever again be destroyed by a nuclear

Increased support for a nuclear-weapon-free world changed the dynamics on Capitol Hill this
year, where the Bush administration has been hard-pressed to find support for RRW. The House zeroed
out all funding for the production of new warheads, calling instead for the creation of a yearlong,
bipartisan commission to reevaluate the U.S. strategic nuclear posture.

Grassroots voices have helped create a climate for policy change. Close to 1,000 people turned
out during the busy holiday season last year to testify during hearings on the administration’s
proposal to rebuild the nuclear weapons complex, and more than 30,000 individuals submitted
comments to the Energy Department. But the very fact that the most significant recent arms control
development came from elite, center-right policy makers is telling: The landscape of nuclear
disarmament in the United States is changing.

Continued success depends on concentrated, locally led efforts (the kind that have made Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament so successful), as well as a coordinated effort to depoliticize the
elimination of nuclear weapons and gain support across the political divide.

With such politically diverse people and groups working toward the shared goal of a
nuclear-weapon-free world, we have a new opportunity to reach out to conservative Americans eager
to embrace Reagan’s legacy. At the same time, the U.S. disarmament movement is steadily cultivating
congressional champions, broadening their bases, and collaborating to create visionary campaigns
and coalitions akin to highly creative and locally grounded efforts of
Step It Up,
The One Campaign, and
The Save Darfur Coalition. Innovative
collaborations such as the
Muslim-Christian Initiative on the Nuclear Weapons Danger,
Healthy From the Start Campaign, and
for a Nuclear Weapons Free World
have the potential to build new alliances nationally and
locally, coordinate the efforts of diverse organizations, and lead a rebirth in the U.S.
anti-nuclear movement.


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