Graham Allison Calls for Citizen Follow-up to "Countdown to Zero"
Belfer Center Director Says Citizen Action Needed to Reduce Nuclear Dangers
Memorandum, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
August 9, 2010
Author: Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School
The Belfer Center is honored to have a number of our scholars and alumni prominently featured in the film Countdown to Zero. It is a testament to our long-standing commitment to providing leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation.
Translating words into deeds, however, will require private citizens to take action. For her work in pushing nations around the world to sign a treaty banning land mines, Jody Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. When she began, the thought of banning a universally accepted weapon was dismissed as a utopian fantasy. Besides, she occupied no position of authority and had no special standing on a matter that required decisions by presidents and national legislatures. Nonetheless, with seven colleagues and a fax machine, Williams carried out an unprecedented lobbying and publicity campaign. In less than a decade, a citizens' initiative convinced 150 nations to renounce land mines, destroy current stocks, and prohibit future manufacture of this weapon.
Someone asked one of my colleagues here at the Center, what would a nuclear Jody Williams do? Colleagues here have developed a list:
- 1. Encourage your friends, community organizations, and schools to watch Countdown to Zero and hold a post-film discussion using the film's Discussion Guide and website. Listen to a discussion of the documentary by the film's director, Lucy Walker, and others on National Public Radio's "On Point."
- 2. For a vivid illustration of the impact of a terrorist's small nuclear bomb on the neighborhood in which you live, click here or download the Just Nuke It iPhone app.
- 3. Order a free DVD of the Nuclear Threat Initiative's Nuclear Tipping Point and host a home screening for family and friends. The film features statesmen Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn making the case for both near-term steps to reduce nuclear dangers and movement toward the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons
- 4. Stay informed. Subscribe to the Belfer Center's email updates featuring our latest research on all things nuclear, including a recent op-ed by Senior Fellows William Tobey and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen on nuclear smuggling.
- 5. For a factsheet on nuclear terrorism, a timeline of al Qaeda's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, analysis of the recent Nuclear Security Summit, and more, see the Belfer Center's Essential Backgrounder. Check the nuclear issues website regularly for up-to-date research, commentary, and analysis from the Belfer Center.
- 6. Sign up for regular news updates on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation from our colleagues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Partnership for Global Security, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
- 7. Especially during campaign seasons, citizens can talk directly to candidates. Write your Senators and Representatives, and ask them what specific actions they have taken to reduce the nuclear threat.
- 8. Write your local newspaper making the case for urgent action to reduce the nuclear danger.
If you can add to the list, don't be shy.
Two years ago, conventional wisdom declared the U.S.-led global financial order to be sound, stable, and resilient, despite repeated warning signs to the contrary. Today we all wish we could have acted in time to prevent a Great Recession. As Countdown to Zero clearly demonstrates, the global nuclear order today could be as fragile as the global financial order was two years ago. We dare not wait for a catastrophic collapse of the nonproliferation regime. From the consequences of such an event, there is no feasible bailout.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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