This week, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, incinerated and vaporized by American nuclear bombs 71 years ago. For the U.S., as with Japan's own wartime atrocities that still deeply rankle the emotions of its Asian neighbors, the profound apology that matters is not about the past but the future. It is about taking convincing actions today that ensure what happened in the past never happens again. That future-oriented apology remains lacking all around. (continued)
This week the nation got to experience March Madness a few days early with Donald Trump's back-to-back town halls. On Tuesday, Trump said he supports nuclear non-proliferation but also suggested that South Korea and Japan get nuclear weapons of their own (the latter has a pretty good rationale for being nuclear-free). The next night, when asked if women who have abortions should be punished, he replied, "there has to be some form of punishment." And no, this wasn't an early April Fool's joke. He walked back the statement the next day, but perhaps this is the reason why three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. But as extreme as the statement was, it's worth noting that mainstream Republican policy has been punishing women seeking abortions for years at the state level - putting up unnecessary roadblocks, mandating outdated procedures and making life as miserable as possible for vulnerable women. Madness indeed.
How do these events inform us about the future of nuclear power, or its place in addressing climate change? One view is that nuclear power is safe and cost-effective, with long periods of stability and reliability interrupted infrequently by accidents. The other view is that power from the atom is unsafe and costly, with catastrophic accidents separated by periods of stability leading to a false sense of security.
A new type of high-speed arms race is heating up between the U.S., Russia and China -- and it's threatening to go nuclear. Washington had always intended the new "hypersonic boost-glide" weapons to remain purely conventional, but Russia and China seem to be pursuing nuclear variants. If the hypersonic arms race heads in a nuclear direction, Washington may be pressured to follow.
Most Americans struggle to recognize or understand their country's permanent security state, in which elected politicians seem to run the show, but the CIA and the Pentagon often take the lead -- a state that inherently gravitates toward military, rather than diplomatic, solutions to foreign-policy challenges. Viewed through the lens of history, the main job of U.S. presidents is to be mature and wise enough to stand up to the permanent war machine.