How to Create a Nuclear Weapons Policy for the People

Russia’s war in Ukraine raises the use of nuclear weapons policy in 2022 to heights not seen since the Cold War. In the midst of this global crisis, the Biden administration has finalized a classified version of its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), outlining the government’s approach to nuclear weapons. The unclassified version is now set to be released sometime this fall. Since the first NPR in the 1990s, no government has seriously considered the human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons, or considered whether nuclear weapons actually make anyone safer. Nor has the government addressed the inherently white racist, imperialist, and patriarchal nature of these weapons, which maintains a clear power imbalance not only between government and citizens, but also between the nuclear powers and the rest of the world.

How is that possible? How can the administration of a duly elected President so openly and without apparent consequence ignore the security concerns of most people living in this country? In short, our democracy is broken. Creating the NPR is inherently a mysterious and exclusionary process. A small group of unelected individuals, led by the Secretary of Defense, rarely representing the country, draft an ideologically unified document used to justify continued nuclear posturing. There is no accountability to voters or the public. Dissenters are eliminated.

President Biden’s NPR could be NPR for the people. It could offer a broader and broader view of true security. It could acknowledge the damage that US nuclear weapons have done to the people of the US and around the world. It could truthfully consider the costs and alleged benefits of nuclear weapons, which are costing the United States millions of dollars every hour. While this may sound like a utopian vision for policy making, given the indiscriminate nature of nuclear weapons, an NPR should be the norm for all people. Furthermore, it is not “realistic” or “rational” to continue maintaining and upgrading a vast arsenal of weapons that could lead to catastrophic global famine and a return to the Ice Age.

Regardless, all signs point to a Biden NPR that maintains an undemocratic status quo, does not anticipate the harms of nuclear weapons, or meaningfully promotes true human security.

TThe mere manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons causes devastating disease and pollution—without anyone ever dropping a bomb. And the impacts are most likely to be felt by women and children, who are disproportionately affected by radiation exposure, and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, who are treated as dumps radioactive pollution.

Mining for uranium for nuclear weapons poisoned groundwater for indigenous peoples like the Diné (Navajo) and Hopi of the Southwest, leaving them without clean drinking water and causing generations of cancer and other health problems. For decades, Diné members who worked in the mines without proper protective equipment were exposed to deadly radiation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *