Klaatu, Cronkite, Krieger

Published: July 29, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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Much has been made recently of the health care debate.  And it’s important.  But there’s another issue that is just as critical.

Around the time news icon Walter Cronkite died, a harmonic convergence of sorts took place in my office.  I had been revisiting a report by founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation David Krieger entitled, A Return to Sanity – United States Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.It’s an eleven page briefing addressed to President Obama distilling the wisdom and reasons why this country should take a strong leadership position on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In April, Obama addressed the issue in Prague.  “I state clearly and with conviction, America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Last week, Krieger wrote a memorial to Cronkite who, in 2004, received the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.  “He stood for what was decent and solid in the American heartland,” Krieger said.  “But Cronkite was more than an anchorman on the evening news… he was deeply committed to building a peaceful world.”

“The best security,” Cronkite told a United Nations panel, “perhaps the only security, against nuclear weapons being used again, or getting into the hands of terrorists, is to eliminate them.”

The third part of the convergence came last week when I turned on the television to catch the critical warning to the citizens of earth offered by space emissary Klaatu in the science fiction classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

What struck me most was not only the urgency of the message but how interchangeable the words between the fictional space visitor, Cronkite and Obama were; so much so that they could be stitched together to make a persuasive argument.

“There must be security for all or no one is secure.”

“…we’ve seen events move faster than our ability to control them… new threats and the spread of catastrophic weapons.”

“The threat of aggression by any group – anywhere – can no longer be tolerated.”

“Now it is up to the world’s people to impress the urgency of this situation upon their governments.”

“We must strengthen our cooperation with one another… to confront dangers that recognize no borders.”

“This does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly.”

So, how do we achieve this?

Earlier this month Krieger offered Five Proposals for Advancing President Obama’s Nuclear Disarmament Agenda:

1. A No First Use commitment will de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons in US security policy.  This should be reflected in the new US Nuclear Posture Review, which is currently in progress.  More than any other step the US could take, this will demonstrate to the world the US commitment to Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

2. De-alert nuclear arsenals, which remain on high alert status as a relic of the worst threats of the Cold War era.  Negotiate in the current arms talks with Russia to take all nuclear weapons off high alert status.  Understanding human fallibility, put the gift of increased time between the possibility of misperception or miscalculation and nuclear war.

3. Expand the concept of nuclear security for the Global Summit on Nuclear Security.  We applaud President Obama for taking the initiative to convene this summit in March 2010.  It provides an opportunity for states to go to the heart of nuclear security issues.  All states are endangered by any state’s nuclear arsenal.  It is not sufficient to focus only on nuclear terrorism.  It is necessary to focus also on existing nuclear arsenals and potential proliferation.  The bottom line is that nuclear security will require nuclear weapons abolition.  We propose that each participating state come to the table with its own Roadmap to Abolition and open a dialogue on achieving a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

4. Support a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone(MENWFZ) to prevent a regional nuclear arms race.  The pursuit of a MENWFZ was promised when the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was indefinitely extended in 1995.  Now, nearly 15 years later, there has been no progress.  At the same time, nearly every country in the region seeks nuclear power programs, moving them closer to weapons programs.  If double standards are not ended, Israel not challenged on its nuclear arsenal, and a MENWFZ not achieved, the region may see substantial nuclear proliferation, dramatically diminishing the prospects for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

5. Repeat the themes of the President Obama’s Prague speech in the United States.  Bring home to all Americans, and particularly our national security establishment, that a world free of nuclear weapons is not a fantasy and that the US is committed to pursuing this goal with a sense of urgency.  Continue to make the case to Americans that nuclear weapons do not and cannot provide for our security and we will be far safer and more secure in a world free of nuclear weapons.

“…the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” Obama emphasized.

“We must act now,” Cronkite stressed.

“The decision rests with you,” Klaatu reminded the world’s leaders.



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