Sidebar: Four Political Figures, Two Op-Eds, One Documentary

The world’s languishing debate about nuclear proliferation was re-ignited when four prominent Cold War patriarchs went public in 2007 with an urgent plea to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry roused a resistant political establishment with two op-ed essays in The Wall Street Journal, the first in January 2007, then a follow-up a year later.

A documentary featuring the four co-authors will soon be released by the Nuclear Security Project (, an initiative of former Senator Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative. A complimentary DVD of the documentary will be sent to all Reflections subscribers. Non-subscribers can order a free copy of the film online at

The four co-authors were prompted to write their op-eds in the face of several worrisome global trends. In the post-Cold War world, they wrote, the old super-power doctrine of deterrence was less and less effective. North Korea’s effort to build a nuclear weapon, and Iran’s refusal to stop its uranium-enrichment program, place the world on a “precipice of a new and dangerous nuclear era.”

Most alarming, they said, is the increasing likelihood that non-state terrorists will obtain a nuclear weapon.

Ending these threats to global security demands action on several fronts. The authors argue for a re-invigorated commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which envisions the elimination of the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear powers.

The authors believe the United States must lead a joint international effort to rekindle the vision of President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev of two decades ago, when the two leaders shocked experts by calling for the elimination of nuclear arms.

The four co-authors urged several proposals, including:

• Initiate a bipartisan process with the Senate to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (This agreement would ban all nuclear ex- plosions. But it has not yet come into force because nuclear powers such as the U.S. and China have not ratified it.)

Provide the highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium, and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world. There are nuclear weapons materials in more than 40 countries around the world, and recent reports allege attempts to smuggle nuclear material in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

• Halt the production of fissile material for weapons globally; phase out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce; and remove weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and render the materials safe.

The authors noted many responses of support for their arguments. Supporters include prominent figures: Madeleine Albright, Richard V. Allen, James A. Baker III, Samuel R. Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Warren Christopher, William Cohen, Lawrence Eagleburger, Melvin Laird, Anthony Lake, Robert McFarlane, Robert McNamara, and Colin Powell.

“Progress must be facilitated by a clear statement of our ultimate goal,” the co-authors wrote. “Indeed, this is the only way to build the kind of international trust and broad cooperation that will be required to effectively address today’s threats.”

See, the web site for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, for in-depth information and briefings on nuclear weapons issues.

See, the web site for the Nuclear Security Project, for more on the goals outlined in the two op-ed essays.