The Global Zero campaign, an international effort started in 2008, seeks a phased reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.
But let's also propose a second Global Zero campaign, one which calls for zero hungry people on this planet. The two causes, both of which can further peace and development, would be wise to help each other.
The Global Security Priorities Resolution (H.Res 278) is one way these double global zero campaigns can work together. This resolution, currently in the House of Representatives, calls for taking steps toward nuclear disarmament and diverting savings toward fighting child hunger.
All nations today share the fear of nuclear terrorism. There is no telling what terrorist group will seek to obtain a nuclear weapon or where and how they might use it. No deterrence or diplomacy will work with terrorists.
However, there is a possible defense against this type of attack. The fewer nuclear weapons and less material around, the less likely terrorists will be able to get hold of such a weapon. This is why agreements to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, as well as fissile material, are so important. Fear of nuclear terrorism is a driving force behind Global Zero.
1953 test of a tactical nuclear weapon in Nevada (National Archives photo)
The recent Russia-US START treaty reducing strategic nuclear weapons is a positive step forward. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) must also be ratified to help set the stage for more disarmament agreements.
Nuclear arsenals drain resources from any society which chooses to maintain them. A Carnegie Endowment report estimates that the U.S. spent at least $52 billion during 2008 on its nuclear weapons program. In harsh economic times, Americans are going to be much less likely to give the government the green light to spend wildly on nuclear weapons.
The expenditures that nations put into nuclear arsenals draw resources away from the fight against global hunger. Over one billion people suffer from hunger and many food programs in developing countries lack the funding they need to be carried out. These food shortages cause malnutrition and stunted growth in children and instability in countries, and can even threaten the fate of governments. Just a fraction of the cost of the global nuclear arsenals can alleviate a great deal of the hunger and malnutrition that exists.
Citizens should be critical of huge expenditures for nuclear weapons while such vital food for peace programs have to struggle to get funding. Initiatives like school feeding programs run by the World Food Programme in Iraq or the U.S. Army's Strong Food Project in Afghanistan should get the financial support they need.
There is strength in numbers. That is why the two Global Zero campaigns would be wise to help each other. In this way, they can advance the great causes of nuclear disarmament and ending world hunger.