Following a 30-year siesta during which most Americans believed the risks from nuclear weapons had simply evaporated, we have awakened to reality, a sobering new reality. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry (age 89) believes "today, the danger of some sort of nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War."
The dangers are all around us and take various forms: increasing tensions between the US and Russia; Russia's provocative breaching of a landmark missile defense treaty; the aggressive policies of a nuclear North Korea; a new nuclear arms race, encouraged by US plans to rebuild its entire nuclear triad of missiles, submarines and bombers; and a stagnant disarmament process. Add to this an American president who is both completely unschooled in nuclear weapons and policies, and psychologically unpredictable and uneven.
It is this sobering constellation of threats to the entire human community that has propelled us at WPSR to rapidly ramp up our strategic commitments on nuclear issues, as well as our organizational capacity for action.
Ultimately it is at the national level that advocacy needs to focus because the policy decisions are fundamentally at the Congressional level. Thus, our efforts to impact nuclear policies must concentrate on our Washington members of Congress. For PSR, the horrendous risks from these weapons of Mutually Assured Suicide have always been nonpartisan. Although Congressional Democrats have generally been more open to arms treaties and reduced arsenals, for the most part the US has long had a single nuclear policy, based on deterrence and a "strong" nuclear posture.
As former Commander-in-Chief of the US Strategic Nuclear Command, General Lee Butler, has argued, "I see deterrence in a very different light….It has suspended rational thinking about the ultimate aim of national security: to ensure the survival of the nation." If the results of a full-scale nuclear exchange, for whatever reason, embraced national suicide, how distorted has the defense of our own "national security" become?
The need for objective scrutiny of our ossified policies and a searing debate about how to move beyond our Cold War thinking are stalled by the unrelenting opposition and unexamined objections of the "nuclear priesthood," the military/industrial/Congressional complex that so dominates our policy processes. We at WPSR will not acquiescence to the faded, unchallenged scriptures of this nuclear priesthood. We are committed to reassert the voice of prevention, individual conscience, moral awakening, and reason in the interests of a safer world community.
Our initiatives to impact nuclear policies include: meeting with all 12 WA members of Congress in 2017; formation of a WA Coalition to Stop the New Nuclear Arms Race (currently at 18 organizations) to join the educational and lobbying effort; creation of a panel of WA power brokers from business, healthcare, faith, labor, and academic communities to join our campaign to educate and influence our members of Congress; and, the launching of a public education campaign to further mobilize our citizenry.
This campaign is led by a Nuclear Weapons Abolition task force comprised of 15 members, many with long histories advocating against nuclear weapons.The pace and efficiency of our work is greatly aided by the recent addition of a full-time organizer, Lilly Adams, supported by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund, with whom we are working closely.
These politically unprecedented and unnerving times have called us to arms. We have almost certainly the most extensive and strategic nuclear weapons abolition program of any of the 20+ PSR chapters, and we are committed to the vision of re-establishing a state-wide civil society anti-nuclear movement which we have not seen since the height of the Cold War. We also see this as a model for other states, and we are encouraging PSR chapters across the country to adopt our strategic vision. The hill is steep, but, like Sisyphus we never give up.
Bruce Amundson, MD