As the midterm election season speeds up the legislative calendar, a proposal for setting new global priorities, transferring resources from nuclear weapons to satisfying basic needs, especially those of children, is making its way through Congress. It has just received endorsement from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Lutheran World Federation. Other church and civic bodies are expected to lend their support in the coming weeks. Here is a report from our editor in chief, Drew Christiansen, S.J.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has given its support to a new international initiative connecting cuts in nuclear weaponry to the well-being of the world's children. Peter Cardinal K.A. Turkson, above, President of the Pontifical Council, in a letter to America dated July 15, wrote that the Council “approves” of the Global Priorities Initiative “and offers it its full support.”

A generation after the end of the Cold War and a decade after the September 11 attacks, the Global Priorities Initiative is an attempt to take beginning steps to realize purposeful savings from reduction in nuclear arms in the direction of constructive peace-building. In his letter, Cardinal Turkson commended the initiative’s interest in “reducing the expenditure on Nuclear Armaments and channeling saving made on the humanitarian side.”

In a parallel move July 26, the Lutheran World Federation, in its 11th assembly, called upon its member churches “to co-sponsor and otherwise assist the Global Priorities Campaign.” Commenting on the churches’ endorsements of the Initiative, the campaign’s international coordinator Arnold Kohen said, “This is a real breakthrough. It helps pave the way toward concrete success in the not-too-distant future.”

A bipartisan U.S. Congressional measure (H. Res. 278), the Global Security Priorities Resolution, introduced by Democratic Representative Jim McGovern and Republican Representative Dan Lungren, now has 34 co-sponsors and is likely to be the subject of action in the U.S. House of Representatives before adjournment for the fall electoral campaign in October. Proponents hope that a similar measure will also be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

The resolution seeks an intermediate reduction in U.S. and Russian arsenals to 1,000 deployed nuclear warheads and a total of no more than 3,000 weapons on each side, to be achieved in the near future. The resolution affirms that savings created by reductions in nuclear arsenals should be utilized for global child survival and related nutritional, health and educational needs of children as well as for increased nuclear security measures.

An international statement promoting the Global Priorities initiative underscores the importance of Congressional action. The international statement also calls for a United Nations resolution to help set the stage for specific international measures of this nature in the years ahead, working with agencies doing similar work. Toward this end, a series of international consultations with experts, religious and political leaders and civil society will begin this fall.

Given the U.S. electoral schedule and political climate, Mr. Kohen noted the importance of gaining further momentum for the Initiative this fall. “After more than a decade of preparation we have a unique opportunity, which comes at a time of deep economic uncertainty and fractious political circumstances. Nonetheless, with strong efforts by our expanding collaborative network, we hope the Global Security Priorities Resolution will be adopted this fall, which would represent a key component in advancing this Initiative.”

Cardinal Turkson’s letter is available here.

For more on the Global Priorities Initiative, the bipartisan House Resolution and the International Statement, visit www.globalpriorities.org.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

 

Comments

Vince Killoran | 7/31/2010 - 3:41pm
Powerful words.  Thanks David.
David Cruz-Uribe | 7/31/2010 - 8:22am
The connection between hungry children and nuclear weapons was spelled out over 50 years ago by Eisenhower in his "Cross of Iron" speech.  His argument remains cogent:


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
National security is a serious issue, but it cannot become a mantra to blind us to the fact that our defense spending comes at a terrible cost.
Gabriel Marcella | 7/30/2010 - 11:00am
Padre Drew,
Reducing the number of nukes could indeed save a lot of money. Just maintaining and securing them is very expensive. Moreover, we don't need so many for our national defense. Our conventional technological superiority is part of the deterrent. If we could turn swords into plowshares we should focus resources on simple, doable, and relatively inexpensive goals, such as: potable water, diet, basic sanitation, and medicine. In Latin America, as an example, potable water is hard to find. These are eminently doable and would not require large outlays of money. They will require, however, what much of the devloping world is short of: political will and administrative capacity. This is the area where the GPI needs to do more work. An exhortation is fine, but how will the real work be done? 
Vince Killoran | 7/30/2010 - 9:45am
The "link" is in setting budget priorities, i.e., spend less on a dangerous, expensive item (nukes) and more on an important, compelling item (children).  The nukes put us all in danger, especially children since they will be around alot longer than us to deal w/them.

This, from the GPI website:"[H]uman secuity can be achieved through determined measures to eradicate extreme poverty and to realize economic, social, and cultural rights."
Tom Maher | 7/30/2010 - 2:18am
Military security is always a requirement in a dangerous world.  Military preparedness is a constant effort and funding requirement.  Obsolete military programs must be replaced by modern and forward looking military requirements.  We as a nation can not  lapse into isolationism as we did prior to World War II where we allowed the world to take care of itself and hoped the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would keep us free from the ever widening wars in European, Africa and Asia.  But the U.S. was pulled into the war anyway, a war we were not prepared for fight.   Most nations had armed forces many times larger and much better armed than the United States.   But like most other neutral nations we were attacked anyhow and we were forced to fight for our survival. .  Most of the other nuetral nations were attacked and overrun.  We were lucky to survive  and recover from the devastating surprise attack on Peral Harbor.  Other nations such as Poland, Norway and France were immeadiately destroyed and subjugated.   Britain's civilian population centers were repeatedly bombed.  This was the second time a World War broke out in twenty years.  The horror of a world war can be repeatted at any time.   Peace is not automatic.  Nations must be militarily prepared or world wide war can break out at any time for any generation.  It is exteremly unwise to believe peace is the normal human condition.  Military expenditures are crtically needed to to maintain national and world security.       
Anonymous | 7/29/2010 - 11:39pm
''Are you arguing that cuts to nuclear weapons can't be made?  That the money can't be used for another reason?  If that's your claim then you should know that this kind of thing happens all the time. it's a fairly unremarkable part of the legislative process. Maybe you oppose the bill on other grounds but you haven't exactly stated your position.''


Maybe I should say it again: ''I am not against reducing the nuclear weapons in the world.  I am not against providing more help for children.  Maybe someone should provide a coherent link between the two. ''

Why take two unrelated items and pair them.  Each can be addressed on its own merits.  Linking them just confuses the issue of why one with the other when there is no relationship, nil, zip, nada, nothing, zilch, didly squat etc.  Is that clear?  I could have just as soon as said limit nukes and preserve the rain forrest or support cancer research or build a new bridge over the Hudson or build a fence on the Mexican border.  Take your pick for a non sequitur.
Vince Killoran | 7/29/2010 - 5:20pm
I followed the link to the Library of Congress page and found quite a bit of detail on the justification for the bill and specific dollar figures so I'm not certain what you're asking-or claiming.  

Are you arguing that cuts to nuclear weapons can't be made?  That the money can't be used for another reason?  If that's your claim then you should know that this kind of thing happens all the time. it's a fairly unremarkable part of the legislative process. Maybe you oppose the bill on other grounds but you haven't exactly stated your position.


Red wine does have health benefits-one glass/@day. As for me,  I've taken up enough space here today so I'm signing off and will enjoy a cold beer.

Vince Killoran | 7/29/2010 - 4:13pm
Pour yourself a nice glass of chardonnay Cosgrove and visit the GPI website. They provide the answer to your question.
Anonymous | 7/29/2010 - 3:48pm
I have a question.  What percentage of GDP is represented by the money to keep up the extra 2000 nukes if that is the goal, to reduce them from 3000 to 1000.


What is the percentage of anything else one can think of?  I bet more is spent on chardonnay each weekend than is expended on keeping the nukes up.  This is a silly comparison just as is comparing costs of less nukes to ensuring children get a decent upbringing.  If someone wants to get a hearing on an important topic, get rid of any puerile comparisons.  Actually I think the linking of chardonnay drinking to the proper bringing up of children has more in common.
Anonymous | 7/29/2010 - 3:06pm
I am not against reducing the nuclear weapons in the world.  I am not against providing more help for children.  Maybe someone should provide a coherent link between the two.  Reducing nuclear war heads will save a relatively very small amount of money in a budget of either the Soviet Union or the US.  Finding ways to help the financing of the needs of children dwarfs any savings from such a project.


What I object to is taking two unrelated concepts and making an ad hoc connection that has no basis with each other.  Children needed help long before there was anything such as nuclear weapons and will need it just as much if and when they are gone.  Maybe some commenters should try to explain the rationale rather than taking shots at other commenters.  That way a dialogue could get started and people might learn something.
Anonymous | 7/29/2010 - 1:31pm
''transferring resources from nuclear weapons to satisfying basic needs, especially those of children, is making its way through Congress''
 
This is silly and a non sequitur.  It is the kind of folly we get in when do gooders get involved.  Reducing nuclear weapons may be a really good objective.  Satisfying basic needs of children is a really good objective.  In no way are they related.  Any connection is a feel good exercise and achieving both have nothing to do with each other.  The money gotten from one has no relation to the success of the other.
 
 
Nuclear weapons reduction is a function of global security concerns and any progress there should be under that umbrella.  Keeping global security in place is a complicated issue and it should not be related to children's needs in any way.  A lot more than children are affected by nuclear weapons.  If I was going to worry about children then I would want to reduce the financial burden and physical threat of war upon people who have to raise the children.  The objective should be to find what can be done there instead of linking two unrelated items in a big-hearted gesture.
Vince Killoran | 7/30/2010 - 1:26pm
Michael has it just about right (" Nukes kill people, so we should stop funding the killing of people and, instead, help the children!"), except that we spend an incredible amount of money on these nukes that can be better spent elsewhere. There's nothing "artificial" about that position.



As for politicians manipulating public opinion with the way they refer to legislation we need look no further than talk of "death taxes" and the "Patriot Act." The title "Global Security Priorities Resolution" seems fairly mild in comparision. 
Anonymous | 7/30/2010 - 12:50pm
I understand JR's position.  He sees this for what it is: creating an artificial link between two hot-button issues, where people's emotions get in the way of a logical, reasoned analysis: Nukes kill people, so we should stop funding the killing of people and, instead, help the children! 

This is "feel good" legislation with little practical impact, except to rally incumbent Congressional support as midterms rapidly approach.  Stay tuned for leglislation to "End the War in Afghanistan and Pay for Cancer Research."  They already have the "Raise Taxes on the Mean, Greedy Rich People to Help the Unfortunate" legislation in the works.

Call me when they come up with the "Reduce Congressional Salaries and Perks to Finance Struggling Small Businesses" legislation.

Playing to public empathy is no way to run a country.
Anonymous | 7/29/2010 - 4:59pm
'Pour yourself a nice glass of chardonnay Cosgrove and visit the GPI website. They provide the answer to your question.'

I did read the GPI link and saw nothing that made the link between the two.  I could just as readily listed another thousand ways to save money and it would have the same relevance.  Maybe some could provide what the link is since I don't see one.  The only link I could find is that both generate emotional reactions.

Actually I do not drink chardonnay.  I am a diet Coke and beer drinker.  Occasionally I will have a glass of red wine which I understand has some health benefits.
Vince Killoran | 7/29/2010 - 3:21pm
I thought the rationale that the GPI folks offered was compelling so it isn't clear-aside from your unsubstantiated assertion-that it isn't.

Resources are scarce.  Legislators and policy makers must pick and chose. They set priorities.  If you don't believe there is a connection between defense spending and social spending in the legislative process just look at LBJ's "guns & butter" defeat at the hands of the GOP after the the 1966 elections.
Vince Killoran | 7/29/2010 - 2:45pm
There is no evidence to prove Tom's claims: The failures of the Carter Administration had absolutely nothing to do with the number of USA nuclear warheads.
Tom Maher | 7/29/2010 - 2:31pm
I strongly agree with JR Cosgrove analysis.  This is the agrument put forward iby Jimmy Carter during his Presidency.  It was a disaster that should not be repeated.   Carter reasoned we had so many nuclear warheads  we could afford to slack off and still be secure.  Then money spent on security could be divereted to other uses.  Nothing ill would happen. What could possibly go wrong? 

So many security thongs went wrong for  President Carte.   The United States was repeatedly surprised under the Cartter administration by new and growing security threat which Carter was mil;itarily unprepared for.  He let down his guard and every nation took advantages of the United States unpreparedness.  When Carter came to office there was detante; when he left office there was the largest number of threats the courty has ever face including the threat of Iran which we still face today. 

Every generation has it own threats to peace which always takes society by surprise,  Mostly becaue noone is paying close enough attention.  For example right now Iran is in the finishing stages of developing nuclear weapons.  It  is so inconvienent but ture.  Any day now  Iran will have the capacity to use these weapons as they have threatened to do to all there precived adversaries such as Isreal with real  prospects of starting World War III .  It is wishful thinking to take world and national security for granted.  

World  and? ?n?a?t?i?o?n?a?l? ?s?ecurity ??is ????an ????e?s?s?e?n?t?i?a?l? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????cost ??f?o?r? ?e?v?e?r?y? ?g?e?n?e?r?a?t?i?o?n???.? ? Without security? ???????????????????????????????????? the world will rapidly turn into the chaos of another world war. ? 
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Vince Killoran | 7/29/2010 - 2:25pm
I guess being called a "do-gooder" isn't that bad!

The figurative legislative/policy wall that Cosgrove constructs between nuclear weapons spending and providing basic needs for children is entirely in his own mind. Has he actually followed the link and read the information on the GPI website?