Editorial: Seeking a nuke-free world

President Obama told a crowd of 20,000 in Prague April 5 that the U.S., the only nation that has ever used nuclear weapons, has a “moral responsibility” to lead the way in seeking “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

He acknowledged the difficulty of achieving total nuclear disarmament but added, “We must insist, Yes we can!”

Obama’s speech was far more than a rhetorical exercise. He outlined a very specific agenda of measures to lay the groundwork for nuclear disarmament. It includes:

Negotiations with Russia on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to replace the START Treaty that expires next Dec. 5. Both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama are seeking another round of deep cuts in nuclear arsenals in that treaty, which could be signed in Moscow this summer. Obama’s ultimate goal is to draw other nuclear powers into the arms reduction effort.

Ratification by the U.S. Senate of the long-stalled Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty crucial to curbing the nuclear ambitions of both existing nuclear powers and nations seeking to develop these weapons.

Diplomatic efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A new treaty to ban the production of weapons-grade fissile material.

Obama signaled a shift in U.S. military doctrine when he said, “To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.” Consider that for more than half a century, the actual or threatened use of nuclear weapons has been the “big stick” of U.S. foreign policy.

By contrast, Obama speaks of “engagement” and resolving conflict based on “mutual interest, mutual respect.” What a breathtaking change from the Bush-Cheney doctrine of unilateralism and preemptive war.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) greeted Obama’s Prague speech but cautioned that “Obama cannot do it alone.” He will need strong grassroots support such as FCNL’s petition to the Senate, urging every senator to support Obama’s agenda.

This initiative deserves the support of all who seek peace and justice in a world free of nuclear arms.