With the Cold War raging, U.S. troops fighting in Korea, and powerful nuclear bombs being developed at an alarming rate, America had the right to feel gloomy in early 1953.
In response, President Dwight Eisenhower gave an address called the Chance for Peace. He called for disarmament, and to divert the savings toward helping developing countries. The Cold War, with its fears of surprise attack, unfortunately brought little hope of putting this proposal into action. But the Cold War is over now.
Currently, 25 members of the House of Representatives are supporting a resolution that would revisit the concept behind Ike's proposal. It is called the Global Security Priorities Resolution (H. Res. 278) and its objective is fewer nukes, securing nuclear materials to prevent terrorist theft, and diverting savings from disarmament toward fighting child hunger in impoverished countries.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) put forward the resolution in 2009. UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services, who see firsthand the suffering of children in developing countries, are rallying public support.
In Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan, child hunger threatens hopes for peace and stability. How can we expect those countries to be strong allies against terrorism and extremism if their children grow up malnourished and without an education?
Not enough funding is given to child feeding programs worldwide. The Global Security Priorities Resolution calls for using savings from nuclear disarmament for programs like school feeding. (photo credit: WFP/Heather Hill)
The resolution states “that an additional $5,000,000,000 annually in global assistance for school feeding and other food supports could eliminate hunger and malnutrition among the world's school-age children.”
What greater step toward peace could the world take than to ensure this investment in children?
Savings from nuclear disarmament could be used to bolster the McGovern-Dole program that provides school lunches overseas, as well as Food for Peace. McGovern-Dole received about $200 million last year, whereas U.S. spending on nuclear weapons programs was at least $52 billion in 2008, according to the Carnegie Endowment.
The resolution calls on the United States to take actions that will reduce nuclear stockpiles around the globe and, in time, make the savings from disarmament possible.
A new American-Russian START treaty is expected to reduce each side’s strategic, or long-range nuclear weapons. There must also be action on the tactical, or battlefield nuclear weapons, which are more vulnerable to terrorist seizure. Russia has thousands of these weapons and the U.S. has its own smaller stockpile. Nuclear disarmament is more imperative when you consider the possibility of Al Qaeda getting hold of such a weapon of mass destruction.
This is the ultimate fear for the world when it comes to nuclear weapons. Whereas states have to factor in the massive retaliation that will come their way if they use a nuclear weapon, a terrorist group has no such concerns. The Global Security Priorities Resolution emphasizes that terrorists are the greatest threat when it comes to nuclear weapons. The fewer nukes around, the better.
But just how do you get countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals?
There could be more confidence-building measures between nuclear rivals. Take the famous Open Skies proposal made by Eisenhower in 1955, which now covers 34 nations with cooperative aerial monitoring. Why not expand it to nuclear rivals such as India and Pakistan, or over the Korean peninsula? Such a step would make the climate more suitable for disarmament.
In addition, the U.S. should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Eisenhower, who proposed such a treaty in 1958, believed a test ban was significant as a stepping stone toward disarmament. He reasoned that if we can get one agreement, then we could get another, and another.
China, with its powerful nuclear arsenal, had indicated it would follow the United States in ratifying the CTBT. If the Senate rejects the CTBT again and the U.S. resumes testing, how do we expect China and Russia to react? We could easily see the U.S., Russia, and China holding nuclear test explosions, like in the old days. Does anyone want to return to that?
Certainly not, when trying to build international cooperation in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. With increasing scrutiny on government spending, will the public embrace the costs and effects of new nuclear testing and development? Not likely.
Nuclear weapons are expensive. dangerous to hold in this age of terrorism, and not going to promote peace. The Global Security Priorities Resolution recognizes that the real struggle for peace lies not in nuclear bombs, but in providing food, education, and hope for children.