On June 16th, Representative James McGovern introduced H.Res. 1185 - Embracing the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons into the U.S. Congress. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services for review and has been cosponsored by six representatives.
H.Res. 1185 highlights the general dangers of nuclear proliferation and specifically addresses the numerous risks and costs associated with operating the U.S. nuclear program and maintaining its arsenal.
It notes, for example, that “the use of… a tiny fraction of [the existing]… 14,500 [nuclear] weapons… could cause worldwide climate disruption and… famine” that would threaten the human race with unprecedented disaster and potential extinction. The resolution also points out that 95% of the remaining global nuclear stockpile is controlled by either Russia or the United States, and that “current nuclear weapons policies of the United States do not inherently prevent their use.” This lack of sufficient safeguards, coupled with hostility and noncooperation between the preeminent nuclear powers, has created an environment wherein “‘only luck [has] prevented nuclear war.’”
Moreover, funding for U.S. nuclear forces foists a tremendous burden on American taxpayers. H.Res. 1185 cites projections from the Congressional Budget Office that place the estimated cost of the U.S. nuclear program at $60 billion per year for the next decade. This figure does not account for the expenses of the Nuclear Modernization Plan, which will require $1.5 trillion over the next 30 years. The very existence of nuclear weapons places a multitrillion-dollar drain on a government budget and an economy in desperate need of investments in healthcare, affordable housing, and accessible education.
In light of these facts, H.Res. 1185 urges the U.S. government to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: a United Nations agreement signed by 191 states that is intended to accomplish the “total elimination of nuclear weapons.” While the United States is a signatory to the treaty, the U.S. government has demonstrated little inclination to adhere to its terms. H.Res. 1185 calls on the United States government to honor its commitments by “mak[ing] nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of [its] national security policy.” Among its specific proposals are the renunciation of preemptive nuclear strike options, the moderation of absolute executive authority over nuclear weapon use, the de-escalation of U.S. nuclear weapon readiness from hair-trigger alert status, the cancellation of U.S. nuclear weapon modernization and enhancement, and the ultimate elimination of U.S. nuclear arms.
H.Res. 1185 is a step in the right direction. It acknowledges the reality that the entirety of the human race lives under a menacing cloud of possible annihilation and that the world cannot afford to continue under the assumption that reason, discretion, and the aforementioned luck will prevail. It recognizes the fact that a single wrong move by merely one actor is the difference between prosperous, harmonious human societies and the utter destruction of civilization. And it serves as a compelling reminder to Americans that the United States has one of the biggest roles to play in achieving a world that is just, safe, and free from aggressive violence.
Americans who are concerned with the hazards and expense of the U.S. nuclear program should call their representatives and encourage them to sponsor H.Res 1185. U.S. representatives must understand, in no uncertain terms, that the American people are no longer willing to contribute to or tolerate a culture of aggressive violence that places millions of human lives at stake.