In a major foreign policy speech in April in Prague the President outlined an ambitious strategy in pursuit of the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The President also stated: “I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime.”
This caveat has both irked disarmament advocates who think that abolition should happen much more quickly and has given credence to naysayers who consider such an undertaking to be too difficult. Perhaps, as Johan Bergenäs noted in World Politics Review, older generations may be too cynical to embark on such a monumental task.
In an effort to involve the next generation in the cause of reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, the State Department has launched a campaign to facilitate the exchange of ideas between future leaders of the U.S. and Russia.
As part of this new campaign, the State department arranged and facilitated a November 12th discussion at Foggy Bottom between American and Russian students on a range of non-proliferation issues including geopolitical changes affecting nuclear deterrence, the potential expansion of the nuclear club, and diplomatic remedies to instances of non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime.
Efforts at engaging future leaders are critical to reaching the “mountain top” mentioned in the now-famous Wall Street Journal Op-ed authored by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn. In the article, the four senior statesmen compare nuclear disarmament to climbing a mountain. We cannot currently see the top; however, we know it is there and it is important to begin the climb.
Granted, this may be perceived as naïve by the many cynics among us, but cynicism is what needs to be overcome if abolition is going to be realized in our or anyone’s lifetime. As Joe Cirincione puts it
“Cynicism in all its forms is still pervasive in the political process. Overcoming it will be our greatest challenge, for it can sap the will of officials, filling them with a fear of appearing weak or foolish, and demoralize proponents, who will shrink from commitment to an apparently hopeless cause.”
Frankly, it is time that our sense of urgency caught up with our destructive capabilities; it is time to begin the difficult task of eliminating nuclear weapons.