From Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
In a recent editorial, The New York Times proposed that "All Americans need to be part of [the] discussion" to reassess "where nuclear weapons fit in today's world" and went on to suggest cuts to the US nuclear weapons budget. The proposed reductions make good sense, but it will take more than looking at numbers on a spreadsheet for "all Americans" to be able to take part in a reassessment of nuclear weapons policy. At a minimum, it will take an end to government secrecy about nuclear forces; an honest account of the effects of nuclear bombs if used "by accident, miscalculation, or madness"; and recognition by government officials and experts alike that ordinary citizens can know enough about nuclear weapons to make intelligent decisions based on their own interests.
All but a small group of experts have been kept out of nuclear decision-making on the grounds of national security. Even so, citizens have found effective strategies over the years to influence these decisions. They protested nuclear testing in the 1950s, publicly criticized the build-up of nuclear arsenals in the 1980s, and took to the streets against the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. These protests, in turn, spurred leaders to negotiate an end to atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963, a halt to the US weapons build-up of the early 1980s, and, finally, an end to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
These successes have led to a safer world, yet they have been achieved within a framework of deterrence and strategic games, where nuclear weapons often are treated as bargaining chips. This old framework of deterrence, balancing, and arms control may not be sufficient to bring about irreversible change. And, as important as they are, we may need more than treaties and budget reductions to deal with weapons of mass destruction. Pushing back the hand of the Doomsday Clock for good will depend on our ability to develop new habits of thought and what I call a "democratic theory of disarmament.">> more... >>