Curbing the global nuclear threat
Both the spread of nuclear weapons to more nations, particularly unstable states, and the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists demand our attention.
We want to add our voices to a chorus of national security experts who have proposed that the United States should embrace the goal of a "world free of nuclear weapons." George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan; William Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton; Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford; and Sam Nunn, former senator from Georgia, have all articulated the need for a new policy.
In spite of the end of the Cold War and significant cuts, both the United States and Russia still deploy several thousand nuclear warheads, of which 1,300 to 1,400 remain on hair-trigger alert, ready for launch within minutes of a warning of an incoming attack. (Remember that one nuclear warhead could destroy an entire city, resulting in millions of dead or injured people.)
While the risk of a premeditated Russian attack is almost zero, a mistaken, accidental or unauthorized attack remains a possibility.
Another problem is present U.S. policy that includes the option of using nuclear weapons against countries without such weapons to either pre-empt or respond to the use of biological or chemical weapons. This policy serves as an incentive for nations to acquire nuclear weapons to deter a pre-emptive attack.
The experts cited above outlined a series of steps that can be taken to work toward curbing the nuclear danger. They include:
* Changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time and thereby reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon.
* Continuing to reduce substantially the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them.
* Initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate, including understandings to increase confidence and provide for periodic review, to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking advantage of recent technical advances and working to secure ratification by other key states.
* Providing the highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world.
* Halting the production of fissile materials for weapons globally, phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and rendering the materials safe.
* Redoubling our efforts to resolve regional confrontations and conflicts that give rise to new nuclear powers.
While these steps seem perhaps idealistic and unattainable, we can't help but recall our personal life experiences. As boys, the idea of space travel was beyond our dreams and yet was achieved in our lifetime.
It takes a dedicated commitment to meet any goal. We call on all Utahns to consider the issue of nuclear weapons, study the positions of national security experts and join the chorus calling for the goal of their abolition. This goal is realistic, timely and essential for our nation and for humanity.
Our generation ushered in the nuclear age. We owe it to our children and posterity to assure that nuclear power be controlled and utilized for peaceful purposes only.
* SEN. JAKE GARN, a self-employed consultant, was mayor of Salt Lake City before representing Utah in the U.S. Senate from 1974 to 1992. A former Navy and National Guard pilot, he was the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1985.
JOHN W. BENNION was superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District and clinical professor of educational leadership and urban education at the University of Utah. He chairs the transition team for the new Jordan East Side School District.