President Obama has linked two indispensable components of a safer world. He says that nuclear weapons must be abolished and he says that it may require his entire lifetime to accomplish. He is 48, so let us prepare for a forty year effort.
The trouble with long term goals is that we can’t imagine all the steps that might prove necessary. This is especially true in an era of lightning technological change and tectonic environmental change. We cannot forecast what a particular course of action will lead to, what sacrifices are worth while, what expenditures will pay off, or what tomorrow will bring for other nations and peoples, never mind ourselves.
A President who understands that nuclear abolition is the most important topic that he could address, and is willing to work toward the goal even though its time frame vastly exceeds his term of office, must be assisted. Here is how to do that. Think forty years ahead and imagine a secure world, one requisite of which would be the abolition of nuclear weapons. What would be the components of that world? List every condition and make that our agenda, no matter how unlikely some of the conditions might seem. Here is a starter list.
1. The world order must prohibit and prevent war, having in mind that war and the capacity for war inevitably put nuclear weapons into play. Nations and non-national antagonists like today’s terrorists will always reach for the most destructive weapons.
2. To prevent war will necessitate comprehensive law enforcement by regional and global agencies.
3. The empowerment of such agencies requires that they be held accountable, i.e., that their budgets, leadership, and policies are controlled by individuals answerable to the public. As these must be supra-national agencies, the democratic means of keeping them accountable must be supra-national.
4. Supra-national, cross-border democracy means local election of representatives to global and regional bodies, and it may mean election districts that cross national borders.
Though we are speaking of a forty or fifty year program, the smallest first steps will pay dividends. The safest approach, and politically, the only feasible approach, must be by small steps, experimental because no imagined finished product would suit the changed circumstances that passing decades will introduce. We are not talking about world government, because our subject matter is only security. We are not talking about holding a world constitutional convention because the components must emerge through trial and error.
What are the building blocks? How can citizens experiment with cross border democracy? Where can initiatives be taken that do not require national elected and other governmental officials to take impossible political risks, or the risk of experimenting and, inevitably, getting some of it wrong? The answer is that people in large numbers must use their cities and towns to reach counterpart municipalities in other countries. The must share political initiatives, elect representatives to common security conferences and, over time get to know one another well enough to make common cause, pressure their nations, and collaborate in peace enforcement.
The process will be as simple and easy to begin as it will be complex and difficult to grow to maturity. A few activists, or neighborhoods, or NGOs in a few cities and towns, in a handful of countries could have a first municipal security conference going in a year. The support that would give to President Obama’s ambition for abolition would be inestimable, though the aim would be far broader than supporting a particular national endeavor. The aim would be to invent global democracy, global law enforcement, and the end of war. These are the requisites of security. Given the nature of weapons of mass destruction, the survival of civilization depends on them.