02/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Memo to Obama: America's Gift

Dear President-elect Obama,

Our hearts join the chorus of hearts singing with joy that you have been elected President of the United States.

A two-class apartheid world, with nuclear weapon "haves" and "have nots", is incompatible with the cooperation needed to effectively protect the global commons, address crushing poverty, and ensure sustainable development.

We all depend upon the same climate, oceans and rainforests for sustenance. To protect these living systems, as well as address systemic poverty, legally verifiable and enforceable cooperative regimes are necessary. If one country can dump toxins in the ocean, all can register ships under that country's jurisdiction and similarly pollute. If one country has nuclear weapons, others will want and eventually get them. Global norms must be established to effectively address global challenges.

Bridges of cooperation are needed more than ever and nuclear weapons build walls. To expect countries to forsake short term economic opportunities for long term environmental responsibility while being second class security citizens is unrealistic.

Nuclear weapons are more hazardous than any problem they seek to solve. To use them against another nuclear weapon state is suicidal, against a state without them is patently immoral, and they have no utility against terrorists. Their possession by a handful of states is the greatest stimulant to their proliferation. The proposition that they can be retained in perpetuity and not be used by accident or design defies reason. Any use would be unacceptably catastrophic. There is no room for error.

182 countries have forsworn nuclear weapons and the entire southern hemisphere is covered by nuclear weapon free zones. It is time that the entire world was freed from the risk these weapons pose.

The practical and moral imperatives for their elimination converge in this historic moment. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his October 24, 2008 presentation Contagious Doctrine of Deterrence Has Made Non-Proliferation More Difficult, set forth a consensus agenda; we urge your leadership to help its realization. The Secretary General's proposals include:

1. All States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty fulfilling nuclear disarmament obligations through either multiple instruments or a nuclear weapons convention.

2. Nuclear weapon states unambiguously assuring non nuclear weapon states they will not be subject to threat or use of nuclear weapons.

3. Strengthening the "rule of law" by bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and starting negotiations on a fissile material treaty immediately, expanding nuclear weapons free zones, and adopting IAEA strengthened safeguards and Additional Protocols.

4. Improving accountability and transparency of nuclear weapon States.

5. Encouraging the General Assembly to convene a World Summit on weapons of mass destruction.

Progress could be enhanced if the Joint Chiefs of Staff were affirmatively tasked to work with security alliance counterparts -- NATO, ANZUS, and JASA -- and develop a technical plan to achieve a nuclear weapons free world, the Department of State was unambiguously instructed to advance diplomatic efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons free world, and the President promptly announced that the US will never use a nuclear weapon first.

Clearly, accomplishing ratification of a CTBT would bring positive change internationally and lend credibility to disarmament efforts. These positive effects would be fully undermined if new nuclear weapons warheads or new methods of testing were authorized. Moreover, US leadership in advancing cooperative security must be extended into outer space to prevent its weaponization which would stimulate another arms race.

These modest efforts will enhance the rule of law, make us all safer, and bring about the cooperative security system that the world requires. These bridges amongst us and to a safer future will be America's gift.


Jonathan Granoff
Global Security Institute