It was President Ronald Reagan who said his goal was "to reduce substantially, and ultimately to eliminate, nuclear weapons and rid the world of the nuclear threat." Reagan set in motion treaties reducing nuclear arms. Likewise, President Obama has also advocated the elimination of nukes.
That is what we should expect from our president, to take steps toward global nuclear disarmament. Who among the candidates will carry the torch?
When the atomic bomb was first revealed to President Harry Truman in 1945, the warning of nuclear terrorism and rogue states came with it. Secretary of War Henry Stimson told Truman ”the future may see a time when such a weapon may be constructed in secret and used suddenly and effectively with devastating power by a willful nation or group."
Here we are today with ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that threaten every nation's security. As long as these terrorists and nuclear weapons exist you have that dangerous combination to fear.
What if they get a nuke? In this sense, nuclear weapons elimination is a goal very much in the interests of all nations.
Republican Jeb Bush and Democrats Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE, Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor MORE (I-Vt.) have stated their support for the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide.
And there are other compelling reasons. Look at your wallet. Every person has to open theirs to pay for nuclear weapons. The costs are staggering. Global Zero estimates the world will spend $1 trillion on nukes over the next decade. The United States leads all nations in this spending.
Why put so many resources into these weapons of mass destruction?
President Dwight Eisenhower was deeply troubled by the development of nuclear weapons. He knew we had to find some way out, stating, “it is perfectly stupid for the world to continue to put so much in these agencies and instrumentalities that cost us so much.”
What security does a nation really have with nukes? Their hefty price tag comes at the expense of every other program integral to your nation and security.
There are critical issues every nation shares. The record number of refugees, hunger, poverty, natural disasters, diseases and so many other problems that need attention. None of these urgent issues are given enough resources.
Every dollar we put into nukes is less resources for these issues. It's time to get real as to what problems we really face in the world. They are not to be solved by throwing money at nukes.
What we could be doing more of is converting the nuclear programs into peaceful uses to solve some of these problems.
We should all be deeply troubled by the lack of a global ban on nuclear weapons testing. North Korea's nuclear weapons test rattled the world literally and figuratively earlier this year. We don't want other nations to take up this provocative and costly act.
The United States, China, Israel, Iran, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Egypt have yet to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This would be a powerful psychological step for these nations to agree to ban nuke testing. It's within their reach.
History can provide us with some inspiration. Long before the advent of nukes, Britain and the United States once stood on the brink of a naval arms buildup on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. It was right after the War of 1812 had ended.
By no means was the prospect of a new war out of the question between the two rivals. Britain and the United States opted to disarm their warships on the Lakes. The Rush-Bagot agreement of 1817 averted what would have been a costly and dangerous arms race.
President Reagan’s disarmament advisor, Eugene Rostow, used the Rush-Bagot Agreement as an historical example for arms control in the nuclear age. Rostow said the agreement was a “genuine influence for restraint” during a time of tension between the U.S. and Britain over Canada.
Today, the reducing of nukes can have the same impact for regional rivals like India and Pakistan and globally. It can help usher in a real peace and not the false one that mutually assured destruction created.
Reducing nuclear weapons among all nations, on a step by step basis, is a policy that all candidates should embrace. It’s not easy and it will take hard work.
But each president is expected to build upon what the previous administration has accomplished. We need to be making progress, not stepping backward.
So as the campaign unfolds, look for who has the vision and the plan on reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons. Like Reagan once said "My hope, way in the back of my head–is that if we start down the road to reduction, maybe one day in doing that, somebody will say, ‘Why not all the way? Let’s get rid of all these things’."
Lambers is an author, journalist and Charity Miles all-star. His writings have been published by the New York Times, History News Network, Des Moines Register, Huffington Post, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Spectrum, the magazine of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.