Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation released a trailer for its upcoming documentary, 33 Minutes, which addresses the need for a missile defense system to protect the United States and its allies from nuclear devastation. The documentary will come out in February, 2009:
Like all propaganda pieces, the documentary trailer plays on emotions, but I think that fear might be a useful tool to make folks demand that the new government continue Strategic Defense Initiative development. It also brings out some heavy-hitters; it features a Who’s Who of the Reagan administration. I was shocked but excited to see Thatcher make an appearance, given her health in recent years. Her appearance, along with the clip of Reagan, also makes me a bit sad . . . how in just a few decades, political leadership in the United States (and in the United Kingdom) could devolve so much.
I am glad that the Heritage Foundation is attempting to renew public support for S.D.I. If we cannot remove nukes from the world, we should make sure that we have a chance to stop them. Nearly thirty years after Reagan first privately proposed the idea and twenty-five years after he addressed the world about it, it is inexcusable that we do not yet have an adequate defense system in place. You see in that failure another inherent difficulty with democratic regimes—they by nature are short-sighted and without long-term memory. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans largely thought that we would have everlasting peace. Just seven years after September 11, A.D. 2001, we have forgotten about terrorist threats. Our successes make us foolishly comfortable.
Even worse, there is no longer widespread concern about nuclear weapons, though nuclear capabilities are spreading among unstable regimes like Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. Shamefully (that they were ever used), the United States has been the only power to use nuclear weapons in war—only twice, right at the beginning of the atomic age. The absence of nuclear warfare since then, I am afraid, has numbed people to its danger. Non-proliferation has not made much headway in decades—Reagan, often accused as a war-monger—despised nuclear weapons and tried to rid the world of them. When the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. were the only nuclear superpowers, treaties, protocols, and warhead quota were acceptable strategies to ensure peace through strength, self-interest, and mutually assured destruction. As weapons technology spreads, we need stronger measures. The chief and secondary powers and the United Nations should spearhead a strategy to dismantle existing warheads, to ban all future nuclear weapons development, and to enforce such rules internationally—imagine the International Atomic Energy Agency with real teeth, where the whole world has the will to uphold the ban relentlessly.
Yet, for a truly global movement to ban nuclear weapons, intense widespread international pressure must occur. For there are always political and financial incentives for self-serving people to skirt the rules for the highest bidder. The threat and actual execution of swift and merciless international military and economic action would be needed to counter such tendencies. However, if history be our guide, that energy will not manifest in people around the world until we see a major city annihilated by a nuclear bomb. Human beings are creatures of remorseful hindsight.