As it was partially designed to do, their statement seized the attention of arms control and peace and security professionals. Non-governmental organizations large and small, including the Arms Control Association, Peace Action, 2020 Vision Campaign, ACDN, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and many other others, have taken to quoting and invoking the "SPKN" manifesto as a means of instantly legitimating nuclear disarmament. Most disarmament advocates have adopted the practice of beginning fundraising letters, action alerts, and even their own research and analysis with a nod to the SPKN vision - noting that "even these esteemed men of government now join the growing chorus of voices calling for...." or similar accolades. One norwegian official writing on the Arms Control Association's web site goes so far as to praise the "courage and commitment" of Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn, and credits them with opening up political space in which "we might move beyond the false debate between the demand for overnight elimination and the demand that nuclear abolition must be "contemporaneous with the abolition of all evil in the world."
Praise like this is extremely dangerous and counterproductive for advocates of nuclear disarmament.
The goals espoused by Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn are not congruent with the holistic goals sought by most anti-nuclear organizers. Yes, on surface these four men are calling for "a world free of nuclear weapons," but once we delve into the details of their plan, beyond the gloss of the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page, we find something different than disarmament grounded in a wider vision of global justice.
What SPKN are actually building through their writings, conferences, and appeals toward a nuclear free future is a pragmatic strategy to maintain US military and economic dominance well into the 21st century. More so, they are establishing the basis for legitimized use of military force against would be proliferaters such as Iran, or any nation that is said to possess or seek WMD capabilities (remember Iraq?). Finally, they are contributing to a wider project of extending neo-colonial control over the technological capacity of the global south by denying these states any independence over their energy or security affairs.
A colleague an I have written about this political strategy, which we call anti-nuclear nuclearism at length here.
George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have not built their careers off of making peace and pursuing disarmament. In fact, quite the opposite.
Schultz is an insider of the Bechtel Corporation (its former president and board member). Bechtel is arguably the greatest nuclear enterprise in history. It is currently the manager of a vast portion of the US nuclear weapons complex, including the Los Alamos and Livermore weapons labs. Shultz was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the political action group that drummed up support for the invasion by arguing, among other things, that Iraq was pursuing WMDs. This is an example (an unfortunately botched one, even many neoconservatives now admit) of Shultz's wider foreign policy plans that are congruent to his call for a nuclear weapons free world.
Former Defense Secretary Perry is a close collaborator of Shultz. Both are Hoover Institute fellows and have used that conservative think tank to organize and mobilize their "nuclear free" message through books, conferences, articles, op-eds, TV appearances, and more. Perry also runs a center at Harvard University called the Preventative Defense Project. Similar to the work at Hoover, the PDP scholars and fellows are hard set on creating a new paradigm for US hegemony in the post-Cold War world. PDP formulates aggressive US military plans to "prevent the emergence of major new threats to the US."
Perry's co-director at the PDP is Ashton Carter. Perry and Carter have spent the last decade drafting articles and op-eds advocating US military strikes against North Korea, alarmist tracts about rising China, and rationalizations of the US-India nuclear deal. Here's a partial bibliography of Perry and Carter's work's. In their 2003 essay "Good Nukes, Bad Nukes," they promote their faux anti-nuclear politics as a way to create legitimacy for US military action against "bad guys." Defending the CTBT and calling for its ratification (which they see as a way to lock in US nuclear advantages and simultaneously legitimate US strikes against would be transgressors) they write:
"...the treaty does have an impact even on "bad guys" like Iraq, Iran and North Korea. When the United States moves against such regimes, it does so with the support of the global opprobrium for nuclear weapons that the treaty enshrines. This consensus undergirds the multilateral approach that is under way to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and was at the heart of the international pressure that persuaded Tehran to increase the transparency of its nuclear program. Even in the divisive case of Iraq, no one argued that Saddam Hussein should be left alone with weapons of mass destruction."Henry Kissinger; need I spell out why it's problematic for advocates of nuclear disarmament and general demilitarization invoke this man's name and opinions as though they are synonymous with our own? It's important to remember that Kissinger remains a realist strategist, no matter his specific political positions. If he's calling for nuclear disarmament it must be understood in the context of his unwavering attention to the preservation and extension of US power.
Kissinger's sign-on to the "world free of nuclear weapons" essay is probably the least surprising. He has never seen much use in nuclear weapons for the maintenance of US empire. The former Secretary of State began his career by publishing a very influential study on nuclear weapons, (Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. New York: Harper, 1957.), the underlying thesis of which is that the strategic deterrent capable of totally annihilating an enemy is rather useless in most every military engagement the US faces in imperial expansion.
At the time, Kissinger called on military strategists to rethink war planning and put more emphasis on the ability to engage in limited wars, with limited aims, where military victory might not even be necessary for the achievement of strategic victory. At the time he was not calling for nuclear disarmament under any rubric, however. His recent shift isn't all that tectonic though.
His call today seems based entirely on the new world order, the absence of the Soviet Union and the not yet appearance of another great power like it. Shultz, Perry and Nunn seem to agree. In the interim period between the rise of another hyperpower, another state capable of challenging US hegemony and empire, the most practical and useful goal appears to them as the adoption of the rhetoric of disarmament, with some small steps taken to legitimate their call.
According to their plan (which is extremely popular among incoming members of the Congress and Obama administration) the US will significantly scale back its arsenal and slow growth of the nuclear weapons budget. Other programs will be approved or slashed in order to ensure the appearance of a slow move toward eventual, distant US disarmament.
In the meantime, an aggressive campaign to secure nuclear materials (perhaps a more robust and fully supported version of the Nunn-Lugar Act), passage of the CTBT, selective attacks against states said to be seeking WMDs, promotion of nuclear energy far and wide, and general expansion of US dominance under the cover of anti-nuclear rhetoric will be the word of the day.
Is it clear now why uncritical invocations of SPKN's "world free of nuclear weapons" is both dangerous and counterproductive for genuine advocates of nuclear disarmament?