During some of the most tense years of the Cold War, President Dwight Eisenhower tried to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. Ike said of nuclear weapons, “It’s an expensive business. And it could be finally more dangerous than ever, merely because of the spreading of this knowledge and this know-how.”
Ike organized a suspension of nuclear tests, along with the Soviets, in the final years of his administration. This move was considered risky, with no treaty or functioning monitoring system to detect cheating. But we survived.
And now, today, there is some apprehension in the Senate over ratifying the new START Treaty which would reduce Russian and American strategic nuclear weapons. Cutting down our strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 apiece should not make Americans worry for our national security.
What should worry Americans are the very reasons Ike cited: expense and danger. Nuclear spending, with the Cold War long over, really is hard to justify these days. Threats today can be deterred with powerful conventional capabilities, reducing the need for nuclear weapons. Step-by-step reduction of nuclear arsenals is the right policy, particularly when you consider the threat of nuclear accidents or terrorist theft.
Then there is the cost. Continuing to maintain large nuclear arsenals over many years is a heavy burden for society to carry. When you overspend in this area, you actually weaken national security. You’re essentially taking away from domestic and foreign policy priorities.
On the international front, the great threat today is the massive hunger crisis afflicting nearly one billion people. Our national security objectives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and many other countries are threatened where populations are suffering from poverty and hunger. As Herbert Hoover once said, hunger is a force “more destructive than armies.” If you take resources away from this fight, you cause grave damage to the national security interests of our country.
Millions of children dying each year because of lack of nutrition is not peace. Millions more children lacking nutrition and educational opportunities is not the road to peace. Failure to prioritize national security strategy toward reducing hunger is a tragic mistake. As Senator Richard Lugar said, “Achieving food security for all people also would have profound implications for peace and U.S. national security. Hungry people are desperate people, and desperation often sows the seeds of conflict and extremism.”
Reducing nuclear stockpiles over time can free up resources toward a sustained struggle to achieve food security. House Resolution 278 states, “Savings generated in the long term by significant reduction of nuclear armaments will be appreciable, with estimates as high as $13,000,000,000 annually.”
The resolution also says that “an additional $5,000,000,000 each year in global assistance for proven child survival interventions could save the lives of 6,000,000 young children each year.” In addition, “the World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimate 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.”
The numbers speak for themselves. It’s about getting foreign policy priorities in order. It’s time to get started on START and food security.