Nukes In The News

In case you haven’t noticed, my colleague Zach likes to use puns in his blog-posts. But I wonder if I use bomb imagery too much when I think about current events. A story blows up, it explodes. Someone rockets into the news or launches a new campaign. A new development is a bombshell or else it lights a fuse for something else. I worry that such language might obscure the true cost of these weapons, so let’s just say that nuclear weapons have gained a prominent presence in the news lately.

North Korea, who so often takes the lead in our discussions of nuclear weapons, did not disappoint last week. Sources confirmed that North Korea conducted its third successful test of a nuclear weapon, claiming they had managed to create a smaller, more easily deployable warhead. With South Korea displaying its military might in response and China making its discomfort known, this test has deepened the international uneasiness about North Korea’s nuclear program and worsened the already tense dynamic in the region. Moreover this was the first nuclear test carried out by the new North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, giving the appearance that he shows no interest in changing his father’s policy.

Whether intentionally or not North Korea’s nuclear test was confirmed just before President Obama gave his State of the Union address. President Obama denounced the test in his speech saying, “The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations.  Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further.”

The President went on, however, to discuss nuclear weapons and the need for nuclear disarmament more broadly. He called for the renewing of arms talks with Russia, saying “we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands.” Before his speech the President coupled these statements with a report outlining a plan to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly a third. While this move is likely to meet opposition in Congress, many experts have argued that such a reduction would not only move us closer to a secure, nuclear-free world, but would save the United States a considerable amount of money.

The politics of this decision are further complicated by the current debate around Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense. Senator Hagel has strongly endorsed a dramatic reduction to the United States’ nuclear arsenal (a position he is joined in by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former vice-chairmen of the Joint Chiefs General James Cartwright). While this position has gained the former senator considerable support from those, like the RAC, who advocate for nuclear disarmament, it has drawn a fiercely critical reaction from many in the Senate.

The Union for Reform Judaism has been calling for a reduction to the American nuclear arsenal for over 50 years, so you can bet that we’ll keep you posted on developments as these issues progress.