By William Lambers
President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima must be forward looking, to a world at peace and without nuclear weapons.
The president should build support for an initiative first proposed by a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, to end nuclear weapons testing globally. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is the key to unlocking the door to a future without the crushing burden and fear of nuclear weapons.
But the United States, Israel, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea have yet to ratify the treaty. Japan has ratified the treaty and has been outspoken in its support. We should listen.
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II, a conflict that caused so much suffering for Americans, Japanese and many other peoples.
During the Cold War, nuclear weapons testing proliferated, causing much international tension. Eisenhower, in his second term, was influenced greatly by his science advisers that a ban on nuclear testing was possible and essential for national security.
Ike’s efforts did help lead to a limited treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 banning nuke explosions in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. The treaty had the support of both Republicans and Democrats.
But with underground tests allowed to continue, the treaty was only a stepping-stone. We have not yet taken that crucial next step, ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty was rejected by the Senate in late 1999, much to the disappointment of the world.
Since that time there has not been much progress toward nuclear disarmament. The United States and Russia still have thousands of nukes each. And China, India, Pakistan and other nations are well armed with nukes. With no treaty in effect, nations could resume testing nukes at any time, and this would cause a major arms race.
Today, the risk of nuclear terrorism or accidental launch makes nuclear disarmament a very crucial goal for all nations.
Then there is the cost. The disarmament group Global Zero estimates that nations will spend a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons over the next decade.
How can we justify pouring money into these weapons when there is so much hunger, disease and poverty? These issues threaten stability more than anything. Look at the massive number of refugees around the world. We can’t ignore their plight.
Japan and the United States, once at war, can now walk together in peace. What is more fitting than for the two nations to lead a global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons? The right place to start would be to end nuclear testing by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
William Lambers is the author of “Nuclear Weapons and the Road to Peace.”