Looking back on last week's International Day of Peace, I can't help but reflect on a headline that recently caught my attention: "World Spending on Nuclear Weapons Surpasses $1 Trillion Per Decade."
The source of this information, a recent report from the co-founders of Global Zero, Bruce Blair and Matt Brown, goes so far as to say that this figure of $1 trillion by the 8.5 nuclear states (North Korea is halfway there) is a conservative estimate: "It would go higher still if the true intentions of many non-nuclear weapons countries could be divined and their secret weapons programs added to the total."
Despite the passage of the New START agreement with cuts in the overall size of their nuclear arsenals, the U.S. and Russia will increase spending due to decisions by both nations to upgrade and replace aging nuclear production factories, missiles, submarines, and bombers. The U.S. alone is on track to increase its investment in nuclear weapons infrastructure at a cost of $85 billion over the next decade, and to spend another $100 billion on upgrading strategic nuclear forces during this period.
But have you heard anything from the Tea Party or the vanguard of GOP budget cutters about this spending? I will answer the obvious - not a peep. In fact, that $85 billion price tag was the cost Republican senators, led by retiring lawmaker John Kyle (R-AZ), exacted to get enough Republicans to cross over and vote for the New START Treaty.
It is estimated that the core cost (research, development, testing, maintenance) and full cost (unpaid/deferred environmental and health costs, missile defenses, incident management, etc.) of our nuclear arsenal in 2011 alone are $34 billion and $61.3 billion, respectively. If all this doesn't strike you as the leaders of a Super Power attempting to perpetuate its standing in weaponry, while the rest of the country is slowly sliding into what some call a new "downgrade" status, then maybe you just love nuclear weapons - or the false sense of security they provide.
I have come to believe that the possession of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable risk for humans on earth, not to mention the entire planet and its fragile ecosystem. Moreover, the threat of nuclear terrorism posed by a non-state actor acquiring these weapons, or the threat of an accidental use by a nation state, makes even the possession of nuclear weapons a threat to God's creation.
I ask audiences, "Have you ever changed your mind about something? If you haven't, pinch yourself, you may be dead." My reasoning is as follows:
I used to think that it was just morally wrong for any nation to use nuclear weapons. There has only been one nation to do so - ours. So we have a special responsibility to bear here. But then I became persuaded that the weapons themselves are morally objectionable. In the 66 years since the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb, eight additional states have joined the nuclear club. Proliferation to non-state actors, such as terrorists, puts the planet at a near "tipping point."
Two developments are inching the world towards this point of no return. The first is Iran's nuclear ambitions. If it were to reach nuclear status it would prompt a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East. The second is terrorists' efforts to acquire fissile material, which is, as the Financial Times recently editorialized, "particularly worrying because the logic of mutual assured destruction that kept the finger off nuclear buttons during the Cold War does not apply to terrorist groups."
What is needed is a more aggressive "multilateral approach" toward shedding ourselves of these weapons, according to Global Zero. By shrinking our own arsenal, we encourage our non-nuclear cousins not to seek such weapons themselves.
But all of this begs the question for people of faith, not just in these United States but around the planet. Can we live with this growing budget devoted to replacing and modernizing of weapons that should instead be reversed in numbers and ultimately eliminated?
To divine the wisdom of the Almighty is not always easy. But it seems to me that this is not a hard call. When a path toward inevitable destruction is so frighteningly obvious, hiding in plain sight albeit by a veil of super secrecy by our own government, it's time for someone to call "halt."
Communities of faith here in the U.S. and abroad uniting to stop this unconscionable spending on nuclear weaponry is a strategy that could work. And since we are the only country to have ever used these weapons, and regarded rightly or wrongly around the globe as a "Christian nation," the moral imperative for us to take the first step is obvious.
The rationale for that first step is exactly what has been supplied by the report from Global Zero. The only question is, will anyone listen? Will people who call themselves by the "Prince of Peace" even listen? I hope, and pray, so. It is our only way out of this mess.
You can join Reverend Cizik in calling for a halt to nuclear weapons spending by signing Global Zero's Cut Nukes petition: http://cutnukes.globalzero.org.