Lawrence S. Wittner: One of the ironies of the current international situation is that, although some government leaders now talk of building a nuclear weapons-free world, there has been limited public mobilization around that goal—at least compared to the action-packed 1980s.
Lawrence Wittner: When it comes to military appropriations, the U.S. government already spends about seven times as much as China, thirteen times as much as Russia, and seventy-three times as much as Iran.
Lawrence Wittner: At this point, we might well wonder if it was such a good idea to overthrow a democratic, secular nationalist like Mossadeq to preserve the profits of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now renamed BP). Indeed, given the sordid record of BP and other giant oil companies, we might wonder why we tolerate them at all.
Lawrence Wittner: Reflecting on the contrast between the Obama administration’s nuclear abolition rhetoric and its record, Kevin Martin, executive director of America’s largest peace organization, Peace Action, concluded that supporters of a nuclear-free world needed to wake up to the reality that the administration’s nuclear disarmament activities were going to be quite limited without very substantial movement pressure.
Lawrence Wittner: In one way, Rand Paul is quite right. Anti-discrimination laws do turn the tables on businessmen, who find that they can no longer mistreat employees and customers on the basis of race, religion, national origins, or gender. And isn’t that ban on discriminatory behavior a good idea?
Lawrence Wittner: So why should humanitarian aid be extraordinary? Why not make it routine? Long before the earthquake, Haitians were the poorest people in the hemisphere, suffering from widespread hunger, disease, and illiteracy. Could not the United States — the richest nation in the world with a public whose major anxieties (to judge from the vast attention given to weight loss) seem to result from over-eating — manage to share a bit of its affluence by regularly providing food aid to starving Haitians?
Lawrence S. Wittner: The ongoing danger of nuclear terrorism provides yet another reason to rid the world of fissile material and its final, terrible product, nuclear weapons. Let’s not forget that.
Of course, a case can be made that it is better for a nation to win a war than to lose it. But perhaps it is time to learn from the world’s tragic, blood-stained history that there is a third alternative: using our intelligence and creativity to resolve conflicts without war.
nstead of resorting to outdated thinking, what if Obama had drawn upon modern instruments of international and interpersonal relations? What if he had adopted a program of change in the way the United States relates to the world?
But let’s give Glenn Beck and his ilk their due. If there were a more effective global organization, that world body would be able to reach across national boundaries to cope with global warming, defend human rights, prosecute war criminals and terrorists, regulate multinational corporations, provide famine relief, enforce arms control and disarmament, and prevent military aggression.
Today, when the call for a nuclear-free world has been revived by the nuclear powers, skeptics might wonder if it is merely another propaganda ploy. Are the warriors and would-be warriors ready to forgo their nuclear toys? Probably not.
The most obvious weakness of national military preparedness is that it often fails to protect nations from the war and destruction it is supposed to prevent.
But where an active citizenry avails itself of its democratic rights to provide for the general welfare, public options work just fine. Let’s use and cherish them.