A Miracle?

President Obama’s speech today, committing America to seek a world free of nuclear weapons, was about as close to a miracle as such a speech might come.

Here is what I extracted as most important:

Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of [nuclear] weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. …

Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked – that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable. …

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.”

Despite the hope that this speech holds – or perhaps because of that – the cautions expressed in my last email still apply. Let us not repeat the mistake of twenty years ago when a similar miracle turned to dust because the public lost interest, mistakenly believing the problem was solved. Miracles are too precious to waste and, should we do that, it is far from certain that we would be granted yet another chance.

Martin
================================
Martin Hellman
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering
Stanford University

For the full text of Obama’s speech click here

Archives of earlier emails and other resources are at http://nuclearrisk.org/resources.php.

About Nuclear Risk

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects your credit card. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic.
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