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Advocating for New START

Posted by Eline van Schaik on November 11, 2010

Fair Game Summit: Women & Nuclear Security

On Oct. 17th & 18th, the White House Project, an organization that aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors  up to the U.S presidency, organized a 2-day summit on Women & Nuclear Security.  I attended on behalf of our security program at PSR.  Valerie Plame-Wilson, the ex-CIA agent played by Naomi Watts in the new movie Fair Game, opened the conference with an inspiring keynote speech, making many points relevant to PSR’s work.

With ratifying New START, the Senate makes an important step towards abolition, according to Plame.

Some abolition advocates worry that New START is too modest, and there is no doubt that the ideal of a nuclear weapons free world is still far away. But New START is not just about reducing the stockpiles of the US and Russia. Ratifying the treaty will help build an international consensus  about non-proliferation. ‘Pariah states’ will develop, states that will not be able to participate in the community of nations due to their commitment to nuclear weapons. This treaty is an opportunity for the United States and Russia to lead by good example, Plame said.

Many readers of this blog will agree with this message.  But how can we, as a community and as advocates for non-proliferation and abolition convey this message to the broader public?  According to many speakers at the Women & Nuclear Security Summit, the key is leadership and inspiration. For advocates, organizing is important, but in this case mobilizing is even more so. A simple phone call to a Senator or a letter to the Editor of your local or state newspaper can make a difference.

That is why now is the time to get your colleagues, friends and family, whether in the medical profession or not, out to support this Treaty and call their Senators to make their position known. In one of the very interesting panel discussions at the Summit, the fact came up that some Senators are known to have swayed on a vote after less than 35 phone calls.

The truth is, however, that this is far from the only pressing issue in our society today. And how to engage the people around us when paying the water bill at the end of the month and getting food on the table have become of increasing importance in our daily lives? New START and nonproliferation in general are not always easy to direct focus to when we need to deal with these other issues every day.

We shouldn’t give up. There is a precedent. The prohibition of the use of chemical and biological weapons once faced stiff resistance from people saying that “now is not the time” and we need it for our national security. Now, conventions have led to world-wide bans of both weapons. Also, the argument that nothing has happened since Hiroshima is no longer valid, if it ever was. The world has profoundly changed. Nuclear material getting in the hands of terrorists is a serious threat. There is no longer a need for a nuclear stockpile for the sole purpose of deterrence.

And as Valerie Plame Wilson said at the end of her keynote speech, the best argument is still the devastating destructional power of nuclear weapons: “If we don’t get this one right, nothing else matters anymore. It’s that simple.”

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