Today, Senator Barack Obama will propose setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world. This proposal should be be celebrated. It is a sign of Obama's commitment to a sane security and foreign policy -- consistent with an understanding that the US is safer when it respects international rule of law and cooperation.
This is not a radical proposal--a characterization you're likely to hear from many inside-the-beltway pundits and security analysts. They may try to label Obama as a candidate disconnected from reality. But then they could level the same charges at Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn. All four men, earlier this year, called for a revival of Ronald Reagan's vision of " a world free of nuclear weapons" in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
As our Peace and Disarmament correspondent Jonathan Schell wrote, "the oped marks a sea change in established opinion, which previously (with the hugely significant exception of Reagan) had formed a solid phalanx of opposition to nuclear abolition." What is increasingly clear, Schell goes on to point out, is how "the nuclear danger is ripe and overripe for public rediscovery, which has in fact already begun. This time, it's clear that the goal of all efforts would not just be amelioration--a freeze or reduction or a test ban--but the long-deferred holy grail of all who have struggled against the danger for more than 60 years: the abolition of nuclear arms."
Obama is a leader who appears to understand what is at stake if the US squanders the post-post Cold War opportunity to build a nuclear-free world. What is encouraging is that he is not alone. According to Peace Action, more than 70 percent of Americans support the global abolition of nuclear weapons.
And in May, Senator John Edwards, in an under-reported event at the Council on Foreign Relations, announced his support for a nuclear-free world. Obama and Edwards understand the imperative of ridding our planet of weapons of mass destruction. Isn't it time to ask the other leading Presidential candidate where she stands on the issue?
Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.
© 2007 The Nation