World War II veterans were still living when our family moved back to Iowa in 1993. In each conversation with one of them, I asked about the Aug. 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan and the Nagasaki bombing three days later. To a person, they felt the bombings were warranted, agreeing with President Harry Truman’s decision to drop them. As they aged and died a couple changed their minds.
We have come to accept what President Ronald Reagan and Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev said in Geneva, Switzerland 36 years ago, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Since then, the U.S. rushed to undo arms control measures. Under President George W. Bush we withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Under President Trump, we withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Deal), the New START Treaty, and the Open Skies Treaty. Hard work of arms control, and compliance with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, seemed to have been abandoned.
On the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombings we are heartened by the June 16 meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders released a joint statement, “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” They pledged to launch a bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue to lay the groundwork for future arms control. We can only work toward the idea that this time it sticks.
~ First published in the Solon Economist on July 29, 2021.