Q: Reacting in part to recent missile tests by Iran and North Korea, President Obama and a unanimous UN Security Council last week endorsed a sweeping strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminate them. Is nuclear disarmament a religious issue? Is it a pro-life issue? Is support for nuclear disarmament a moral imperative? Should we pray for nuclear disarmament?
I applaud the President’s commitment to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons and to seek a world free from them.
Having served in a presidential administration at the height of the Cold War, I understand all too well just what a nuclear exchange would mean for the world. And as a Christian, I do believe that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, and the immorality of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, make this a profoundly religious question. Of course we should pray for nuclear disarmament, and work for it.
The spread of nuclear weapons, particularly falling into the hands of rogue nations or terrorists, is a grave threat to humankind. This is why last year, when respected figures such as George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, and William Perry, called for a massive effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, I was in complete support. That is a noble goal. These same gentlemen approved the president’s resolution, which the UN Security Council adopted last week.
There is also, however, a moral imperative to prevent violent regimes, such as Iran, from developing–and proliferating–nuclear weapons. The just war doctrine first advanced by St Augustine and embraced by western thinkers, does not countenance a pre-emptive strike unless there is absolute certainly of threat. But in the nuclear age, a retaliatory strike may be a meaningless deterrent, and the consequences of a nuclear attack in the first instance too horrifying to contemplate.
The immediate concern–not only from a religious and pro-life point of view, but for the sake of the world–is that negotiations and sanctions succeed. I pray we do not reach the point of what would be necessary if they fail.