Tag Archives: World Court

On Not Remembering Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III

28 May

 

[Prefatory Note: More than usual, I need to explain this post of an article by Vimal Patel published a few days ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Given the celebrity surrounding Robert Mueller since he was appointed Special Counsel to investigate charges of criminal wrongdoings associated with the 2016 election that brought us and the world, Donald Trump, the most anomalous presidency in all of American history, yet also part of a global trend toward ‘illiberal democracies,’ which may be a polite was of describing ‘democracies’ with a soft spot for fascism. In any event, Mueller’s thesis was devoted to litigation in the World Court (more formally known as the International Court of Justice) at the Hague, initiated by Ethiopia and Liberia, to challenge the extension of apartheid to the South West Africa mandate, now Namibia. I worked at The Hague on the second phase of the case as a member of the Ethiopia/Liberia team throughout the year 1964-65, while on leave from Princeton. I will write about the case in a few days. Mueller’s paper was devoted to the first phase, the much contested question as to whether the ICJ should accept jurisdiction.

Mr. Patel’s article is concerned with what struck him and others as strange, that someone with conservative politics should choose to work with someone on the left, especially given the polarizing effects of the Vietnam debate raging on and off campus. I have lightly edited the published text for clarity.]

 

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

“Robert Mueller’s Undergraduate Thesis Adviser Has a Great Memory. But He Doesn’t Remember Mueller”

By Vimal Patel, MAY 24, 2018

 

 

Robert S. Mueller III, special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, wrote an undergraduate thesis at Princeton U. on “Acceptance of Jurisdiction in the South West Africa Cases.”

 

 

Before Robert Mueller became a war hero, headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and led the inquiry into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, he had another feat to accomplish.

 

The year was 1966, and he had his senior thesis to complete at Princeton University. The senior thesis is a big deal, and has been described as the defining Princeton academic experience for undergraduate seniors.

 

Mueller’s 117-page thesis was titled “Acceptance of Jurisdiction in the South West Africa Cases.” It dealt with a court case at The Hague about the extension of apartheid to a South African territory, Namibia.

In the acknowledgments section, Mueller acknowledged just one person, Richard A. Falk, “for his stimulating guidance in the preparation of this Thesis.”

 

The Chronicle tracked down Falk, who is 87, in Turkey, where he has a home along the coast. He also lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he is a research fellow in the University of California’s Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies.

 

“He must have been fairly low profile.”

 

Falk has a razor-sharp memory, and 53 years later, can recall details of the case he argued at The Hague, like the final vote count and the name of the judge who cast the tie-breaking vote. But he has no memory of Mueller.

 

However, after The Chronicle alerted him about his star student, he reread Mueller’s thesis. Falk spoke to us about Princeton in the 1960s, and what he thinks about the quality of the thesis after all these years. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Can you tell me how you were involved with the case Mueller wrote his thesis on?

 A.It was a very important case that had complicated political ramifications. It ended up to the surprise of almost everyone of being decided in favor of South Africa. I was involved with the litigation team of the governments that brought charges. The judges were split, 7 to 7, and the president of the International Court of Justice, an Australian and colonialist, Sir Percy Spender, had a second vote to break the tie, and cast it in favor of apartheid, South Africa’s position. The whole case involved whether South Africa was living up to its mandatory duties as set forth by the international community. The main question was whether extending apartheid to Namibia, then South-West Africa, was consistent with the mandate.

 So a key question was whether apartheid would be allowed in Namibia?

 A. Yes, whether South Africa was living up to its obligations [to govern Namibia] by extending apartheid to Namibia. And the South African argument was “It’s the best solution. After all, it’s what we do for our own people.” It was at the height of apartheid. And it made the international community very angry. The court’s decision actually accelerated Namibia’s process of independence, because people were so angry at the decision. It also led to the restructuring of the personnel of the court. It was an extremely controversial decision. It was a big breakthrough for the anti-apartheid campaign. That’s why the jurisdictional issue was politically interesting. That’s what Robert Mueller was obviously preoccupied with at the time. When I first got your message, it didn’t even occur to me that you were referring to this Robert Mueller, who has become a celebrity.

 You don’t have any memory of Robert Mueller?

A: Unfortunately, no. None. And I remember many of my senior-thesis students. I taught at Princeton for 40 years. You do have a quite close relationship with your senior-thesis students. It’s the big thing your last year at Princeton. You can probably text me the names of 10 others, and I would remember at least eight of them.

 That’s fascinating to me because you have an impressive ability to recall half-century-old details.

 A: I could talk about the details of the case for hours. I spent a year working on it.

Robert Mueller does strike me as sort of an unmemorable and unflashy person.

He must have been fairly low profile. I had some very right-wing students, like, for instance, Richard Perle, who became one of the lead intellectuals of the neoconservative movement. I remember him extremely well. He was there around the same period as Mueller.

 

The chair of the department of politics at Princeton was surprised that Mueller would thank you in his thesis, calling it an “odd pairing.” Mueller ended up serving in Vietnam. You questioned the legality of the war. Mueller would become a Republican. You were a controversial leftist. But yet there he was, working with you.

A: It’s an irony I suppose. I’m glad you brought this to my attention. I would have never known about my forgotten connection to this currently prominent personality who may have the fate of the nation in his hands.

What do you remember about Richard Perle?

 A: I remember lots of things some of which I am reluctant to discuss. Despite the political gap between our views, we were quite friendly. The seminars were small at the time, so you knew many of the graduate students quite well. He’s one of the few people who eventually left Princeton as a graduate student, because the department was too liberal for him. There are many arguments about what goes wrong at Princeton, but very few have ever claimed that it was too liberal as an institution.

It was more on the conservative side, as far as universities go, during this time?

Definitely. It prided itself on being conservative. And its alumni were extremely conservative. I had a lot of trouble over the years with the alumni, especially the older alumni. Princeton changed a lot in my 40 years there, and being a visible progressive faculty member I was associated with some of the changes, like bringing women into the university. And some of the more progressive political initiatives that occurred during the Vietnam period particularly. I favored most of these changes, but played very little role in bringing them about.

So having someone like Robert Mueller, who would end up serving in Vietnam and becoming a Republican, wouldn’t be out of character at Princeton in the 1960s?

Not at all. He would be a mainstream Princeton student — in the early 1960s, at least. Princeton changed during the 1960s. and he’s just about at that point where it did become briefly — I wouldn’t say radicalized — but I would say the student body became quite progressive. That’s what alarmed and angered many of the alumni at the time, particularly older alumni who wanted Princeton to remain as they had experienced it.

Would it be fair to say you were more of an anomaly than Robert Mueller at the Princeton of the sixties?

A: Oh, much more. Mueller would not be seen as an anomaly at all in that Princeton atmosphere. It was a year when there was growing tension among students about the Vietnam War. The draft was present, but there were also many pro-war students. Some students began to express the view, “Why should we risk our lives for a war that had no meaning for us?” Because I don’t remember Mueller at all, I don’t know if he expressed any views about this back then. But it was a key moment in the evolution of the political atmosphere at Princeton. It must have affected him deeply, because there was growing tension by 1966 in the university community, and since I was probably the most visible critic of the Vietnam War among the faculty he would have been well aware of this fact.

How does it feel knowing that one of the most talked about people in the United States thought so highly of you and acknowledged you in his senior thesis?

Of course, it is pleasant, and far better than the reverse. On one level, it’s amusing. I do wish my memory extended to the experience of knowing and working with him at that time. It’s one of those experiences that I didn’t appreciate at the time but later acquires a special significance.

 

Robert Mueller throughout his career seems to have earned a lot of bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans found him to be someone they could work with. And it’s interesting to me that his productive relationship with you more than half a century ago — someone with presumably wildly different views — alludes to the kind of person he would become.

A: I think that’s a good insight. From what little I know about him as a public personality, he is somebody that comes across as careful and impresses people with his professionalism. He doesn’t flaunt his ideological views the way someone like Richard Perle would have, or some of the well-known people on the right, orthe left for that matter.

Any general thoughts on his thesis?

A: I was extremely impressed with the maturity and sophistication of the analysis, which was quite unusual for someone who had not yet attended law school. Even though, from my perspective, it sided too strongly with the conservative interpretation of these complex legal issues, he did so in a judicious way and was very fair in his assessment of opposing views. These are exactly the kind of qualities you would look for in someone given this nationally sensitive role of looking into potential wrongdoing by the president of the United States.

____________________________________________________________

Vimal Patel covers graduate education. Follow him on Twitter @vimalpatel232,or write to him at vimal.patel@chronicle.com.

______________________________________________________________

Advertisements

Why Arms Control is the Enemy of Nuclear Disarmament

9 Jul

Why Arms Control is the Enemy of Nuclear Disarmament

 

No First Use: Arms Control versus Disarmament Perspectives

 

I have long believed that it is important to disentangle the advocacy of nuclear disarmament from the prevailing arms control approach. The core difference in perspective can be summarized as follows: arms controllers seek to stabilize nuclearism, reserving nuclear weapons for use as deterrent weapons of last resort; nuclear disarmers seek to get rid of nuclear weapons as reliably as possible, and forever; disarmers regard their possession, development, and potential use as deeply immoral as well as dangerous from the perspective of long-term human security.

 

President Barack Obama ever since his 2009 speech at Prague projecting a vision of a world without nuclear weapons has confused public understanding by straddling the fence between these two incompatible perspectives. He often talks like a potential disarmer, as during his recent visit to Hiroshima, but acts like an arms controller, as in the appropriation of $1 trillion for the modernization of the existing nuclear weapons arsenal over the next 30 years or in NATO contexts of deployment.

 

There is a quite prevalent confusion among those constituencies that purport to favor nuclear disarmament of supposing that the adoption of arms control measures is not only consistent with, but actually advances toward the realization of their objectives. Such reasoning is deeply confused in my view. It is not just that most formulations of arms control regard nuclear disarmament, if at all, as an ‘ultimate’ goal, that is, as no goal at all falling outside the domain of policy feasibility.

Obama signaled his own confusion in two features of his Prague speech: first, indicating without giving any rationale (there is none) that achieving nuclear disarmament might not be achieved in his lifetime; secondly, avoiding any mention of the legal imperative of a good faith commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament that was unanimously endorsed by an otherwise divided court in the International Court of Justice historic Advisory Opinion of 1996.

 

Incidentally, the label ‘advisory’ is deeply misleading as this legal pronouncement by the highest judicial body in the UN System is the most authoritative interpretation attainable of relevant international law by distinguished jurists drawn from the main legal and cultural traditions active in the world. For such a diverse group to agree on the legal imperative of disarmament is notable, and for it to be ignored by a supposed advocate who is in a position to act is both revealing and irresponsible.

 

My view of the tension between the two perspectives can be briefly articulated: arms control measures unless tied to a disarmament scenario make the retention of nuclear weapons less prone to accident, inadvertent use, and unnecessary missions while reinforcing the logic of deterrence and indirectly expressing the view that a reliable nonproliferation regime is the best that can be hoped for ever since the nuclear genie escaped confinement. Such an approach makes the advocacy of nuclear disarmament

appear to be superfluous idealism, at best, and an imprudent

challenge to deterrence and realism, at worst. There is a coherent argument for such a posture, but it is not one that credible supporters of a nuclear zero or nuclear disarmament should feel comfortable with as it undercuts their supposed priority to eliminate the weaponry once and for all, although moving to zero by verified stages. This contrasts with the central undertaking of the arms control community to live with nuclear weapons as prudently as possible, which translates into nonproliferation, safety, prudent foreign

policy, non-provocative weapons development and deployment, and trustworthy crisis management.

 

Printed below is a recent editorial of the Arms Control Association proposing the American adoption of a no first use policy as a crucial declaratory step in advancing their agenda of nuclear prudence. Its line of argument well illustrates the overall nuclearist logic of the arms control establishment, which also tries to justify its proposal by showing that nuclear weapons are not needed to fulfill America’s worldwide geopolitical ambitions. These ambitions can be satisfied in all circumstances, it is alleged, except a nuclear attack by a nuclear weapons state, by relying on U.S. dominance in conventional weaponry.

 

Here is a further issue raised: for states that possess or contemplate the possession of nuclear weapons, yet are vulnerable to conventional weaponry of potential adversaries, the implicit rationale of the Arms Control Association editorial is that such states have strong

justifications for retaining, and even for developing such weaponry. In effect, countries such as Iran and North Korea can read this editorial as suggesting that they need nuclear weapons to deter surrounding countries with superior conventional weaponry from exerting undue influence via intervention or coercive diplomacy. In effect, the Arms Control Association no first use position, by treating that the U.S. Government and think tank policy community as its target audience, is undercutting the ethical and political rationale for nonproliferation as a rule of world order. As security is the acknowledged prime value in state-centric world order, an argument justifying nuclear weapons for the leading military power in the world is in effect providing non-nuclear states that feel threatened with a powerful

argument for acquiring a nuclear deterrent.

 

A final clarification: I have long favored the adoption of a no first use policy on its own merits, including at the height of the Cold War. It not only underscored the immorality and criminal unlawfulness of any initiating use, but if properly explained could be taken as a vital step in a disarming process. As long as no such posture was adopted even by the United States, with its formidable conventional military options, it meant that the potential use of nuclear weapons was never taken off the geopolitical table. This meant, as well, that the nuclear weapons labs were encouraged to envision potential roles for these weapons of mass destruction and design weaponry configured to carry out such missions.

 

In effect, a nuclear disarmament position also entails a repudiation of geopolitical ambitions to project worldwide military power as the United States has done ever since the end of World War II. This grandiose undertaking has weakened the UN, undermined respect for international law, and subverted democratic institutions within the United States and elsewhere, all while making the country more insecure than at any time in its history and its enemies more bold and aggressive. The common flaw of dominant political actors is to underestimate the will and capability of its militarily weaker adversaries to develop effective modes of resistance. Both the Vietnam experience and 9/11 should have imparted this basic message that the United States was endangering its future (and that of the world) by its posture of geopolitical hubris built on the false belief that the effective agent of change in the twenty-first century is military

dominance. The nuclear dimension of this hubris is particularly dangerous, and ultimately debilitating.

 

It is long overdue to distinguish arms control from disarmament. Arms controllers have made such a choice, purging genuine advocates of disarmament from their ranks as dreamers. The arms control voice is welcome in government even when their proposals are rejected because they collide with geopolitical goals. In contrast, the voice of disarmers is popular among the peoples of the world. Obama’s Prague speech made such a worldwide social impact, and continues to resonate, because it was widely heard (incorrectly) as putting the United States firmly on a disarmament path.

 

Unfortunately, after eight years of an Obama presidency it is as clear as ever that it is civil society alone that carried the disarmament torch during this period, somewhat backed by a series of non-nuclear governments that are not complicit beneficiaries of America’s nuclear umbrella (e.g. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). In this spirit, although not always sufficiently clear about the policy implications of their nuclear disarmament agenda, the best vehicle for those favoring nuclear disarmament is the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and such initiatives as Chain Reaction 2016 and the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.

 

*********************************************************************

 

Editorial Published on Arms Control Association (http://www.armscontrol.org); posted June 30, 2016

 

Take Nuclear First-Use Off the Table

The Cold War standoff that gave rise to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ended a quarter century ago, and U.S. and Russian deployed arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms control agreements.

Unfortunately, the risks of nuclear weapons use are still far too high, in part because the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use remain largely the same.

President Obama in 2009 at Hradčany Square Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: White House)

Early in his presidency, President Barack Obama made clear that he sought “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

On June 6, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes pledged that the president “will continue to review whether there are additional steps that can be taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our own strategies and to reduce the risk of inadvertent use.”

One very important step would be for Obama to declare that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Such a decision could unwind dangerous Cold War-era thinking and greatly strengthen U.S. and global security.

Limiting the circumstances under which the United States would use nuclear weapons was a goal laid out by the “Nuclear Posture Review Report” in 2010, which said the United States should pursue the objective of making deterrence against a nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of the nuclear arsenal.

Nevertheless, current policy still leaves several dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons-use options on the table, including the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict to pre-empt a real or suspected nuclear attack, to counter the possible use of chemical or biological weapons, or to halt a massive conventional military threat against U.S. forces or allies.

Today, the United States and Russia still deploy thousands of nuclear warheads on hundreds of bombers, missiles, and submarines. Current U.S. strategy requires that there are enough nuclear forces available to destroy nearly 1,000 enemy targets, many in urban areas, and that these weapons can be launched within minutes of a decision to do so.

Maintaining such a capability plays a large role in compelling Russia—and may soon help to lead China—to field a sizable portion of their nuclear forces in a launch-under-attack mode in order to avoid a disarming nuclear strike. This, in turn, increases the chance that nuclear weapons might be used or dispersed by U.S. adversaries in a crisis.

As Obama correctly said in 2008, the requirement for prompt launch is “a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

By adopting a no-first-use policy, the United States could positively influence the nuclear doctrines of other nuclear-armed states, particularly in Asia. Such a shift in U.S. declaratory policy could also alleviate concerns that U.S. ballistic missile defenses might be used to negate the retaliatory potential of China and Russia following a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack against their strategic forces.

Shifting to a no-first-use policy would not, in any way, undermine the U.S. ability to deter nuclear attack by another state. It is well established that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, and given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Given the overwhelming U.S. conventional military edge, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. U.S. nuclear weapons are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical, biological, or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors.

A no-first-use policy would not undermine confidence in U.S. defense commitments to key allies. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with a nuclear-armed state, such as Russia in the Baltic Sea region or elsewhere, the employment of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal escalation of nuclear weapons use. As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons first-use to counter non-nuclear attacks lacks credibility.

In remarks delivered in Hiroshima May 27, Obama declared that “among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Yes, we must.

A U.S. no-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process. It would put a spotlight on the dangerous nuclear doctrines of Pakistan and North Korea, where the risk of nuclear weapons use is perhaps most severe, and challenge them to reconsider the first-use option.

By encouraging a new norm against first-use of nuclear weapons, Obama could help ensure, for this generation and those to come, that nuclear weapons are never used again.

 

 

If Obama Visits Hiroshima

24 Apr

 

 

There are mounting hopes that Barack Obama will use the occasion of the Group of 7 meeting in Japan next month to visit Hiroshima, and become the first American president to do so. It is remarkable that it required a wait of over 60 years until John Kerry became the first high American official to make such a visit, which he termed ‘gut-wrenching,’ while at the same time purposely refraining from offering any kind of apology to the Japanese people for one of the worse acts of state terror against a defenseless population in all of human history. Let’s hope that Obama goes, and displays more remorse than Kerry who at least deserves some credit for paving the way. The contrast between the many pilgrimages of homage by Western leaders, including those of Germany, to Auschwitz and other notorious death camps, and the absence of comparable pilgrimages to Hiroshima and Nagasaki underscores the difference between winning and losing a major war. This contrast cannot be properly accounted for by insisting on a hierarchy of evils that the Holocaust dominates.

 

The United States, in particular, has a more generalized aversion to revisiting its darker hours, although recent events have illuminated some of the shadows cast by the racist legacies of slavery. The decimation of native Americans has yet to be properly addressed at official levels, and recent reports of soaring suicide rates suggests that the native American narrative continues to unfold tragically.

 

The New York Times in an unsigned editorial on April 12 urged President Obama to make this symbolic visit to Hiroshima, and in their words “to make it count” by doing more than making a ritual appearance. Recalling accurately that Obama “won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 largely because of his nuclear agenda” the editorial persuasively criticized Obama for failing to follow through on his Prague vision of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons. A visit to Hiroshima is, in effect, a second chance, perhaps a last chance, to satisfy the expectation created early in his presidency.

 

When it came to specifics as to what Obama might do the Times offered a typical arms control set of recommendations of what it called “small but doable advances”: canceling the new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile and ensuring greater compliance with the prohibition on nuclear testing by its endorsement coupled with a recommendation that future compliance be monitored by the UN Security Council. The Times leaves readers with the widely shared false impression that such measures can be considered incremental steps that will lead the world over time to a nuclear-free world. Such a view is unconvincing, and diversionary. In opposition, I believe these moves serve to stabilize the nuclear status quo have a negative effect on disarmament prospects. By making existing realities somewhat less prone to accidents and irresponsibly provocative weapons innovations, the posture of living with nuclear weapons gains credibility and the arguments for nuclear disarmament are weakened even to the extent of being irrelevant. I believe that it is a dangerous fallacy to suppose that arms control measures, even if beneficial in themselves, can be thought of as moving the world closer to nuclear disarmament.

 

Instead, what such measures do, and have been doing for decades, is to reinforce nuclear complacency by making nuclear disarmament either seem unnecessary or utopian, and to some extent even undesirably destabilizing. In other words, contrary to conventional wisdom, moving down the arms control path is a sure way to make certain that disarmament will never occur!

 

As mentioned, many arms control moves are inherently worthwhile. It is only natural to favor initiatives that cancel the development of provocative weapons systems, disallow weapons testing, and cut costs. Without such measures there would occur a dangerous erosion of the de facto taboo that has prevented (so far) any use of nuclear weaponry since 1945. At the same time it is vital to understand that the taboo and the arms control regime of managing the nuclear weapons environment does not lead to the realization of disarmament and the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

 

Let me put it this way, if arms control is affirmed for its own sake or as the best way to put the world on a path of incremental steps that will lead over time to disarmament, then such an approach is nurturing the false consciousness that has unfortunately prevailed in public discourse ever since the Nonproliferation Treaty came into force in 1970. The point can be express in more folksy language: we have been acting for decades as if the horse of disarmament is being pulled by the cart of arms control. In fact, it is the horse of disarmament that should be pulling the cart of arms control, which would make arms control measures welcome as place holders while the primary quest for nuclear disarmament was being toward implementation. There is no reason to delay putting the horse in front of the cart, and Obama’s failure to do so at Prague was the central flaw of his otherwise justly applauded speech.

 

Where Obama went off the tracks in my view was when he consigned nuclear disarmament to the remote future, and proposed in the interim reliance on the deterrent capability of the nuclear weapons arsenal and this alleged forward momentum of incremental arms control steps. What is worse, Obama uncritically endorsed the nonproliferation treaty regime, lamenting only that it is being weakened by breakout countries, especially North Korea, and this partly explains why he felt it necessary back in 2009 to consider nuclear disarmament as a practical alternative to a continued reliance on nonproliferation, although posited disarmament more as a goal beyond reach and not as a serious present political option. He expressed this futuristic outlook in these words: “I am not naïve. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” He never clarifies why such a goal is not attainable within the term of his presidency, or at least its explicit pursuit.

 

In this regard, and with respect to Obama’s legacy, the visit to Hiroshima provides an overdue opportunity to disentangle nuclear disarmament from arms control. In Prague, Obama significantly noted that “..as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” [emphasis added] In the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, the judges unanimously concluded that there was a legal responsibility to seek nuclear disarmament with due diligence. The language of the 14-0 ICJ finding is authoritative: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control.” In other words, there is a legal as well as a moral responsibility to eliminate nuclear weapons, and this could have made the Prague call for a world without nuclear weapons more relevant to present governmental behavior. The Prague speech while lauding the NPT never affirmed the existence of a legal responsibility to pursue nuclear disarmament. In this respect an official visit to Hiroshima offers Obama a golden opportunity to reinvigorate his vision of a world without nuclear weapons by bringing it down to earth.

 

Why is this? By acknowledging the legal obligation, as embedded in Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty, as reinforcing the moral responsibility, there arises a clear

imperative to move toward implementation. There is no excuse for delay or need for preconditions. The United States Government could at this time convene a multinational commission to plan a global conference on nuclear disarmament, somewhat resembling the Paris conference that recently produced the much heralded climate change agreement. The goal of the nuclear disarmament conference could be the vetting of proposals for a nuclear disarmament process with the view toward establishing a three year deadline for the development of an agreed treaty text whose preparation was entrusted to a high level working group operating under the auspices of the United Nations, with a mandate to report to the Secretary General. After that the states of the world could gather to negotiate an agreed treaty text that would set forth a disarming process and its monitoring and compliance procedures.

 

The United States, along with other nuclear weapons states, opposed in the 1990s recourse to the ICJ by the General Assembly to seek a legal interpretation on issues of legality, and then disregarded the results of its legal findings. It would a great contribution to a more sustainable and humane world order if President Obama were to take the occasion of his historic visit to Hiroshima to call respectful attention to this ICJ Advisory Opinion and go on to accept the attendant legal responsibility on behalf of the United States. This could be declared to be a partial fulfillment of the moral responsibility that was accepted at Prague. It could even presented as the completion of the vision of Prague, and would be consistent with Obama’s frequent appeals to the governments of the world to show respect for international law, and his insistence that during his presidency U.S. foreign policy was so configured.

 

Above all, there is every reason for all governments to seek nuclear disarmament without further delay. There now exists no geopolitical climate of intense rivalry, and the common endeavor of freeing the world from the dangers posed by nuclear weapons would work against the current hawkish drift in the U.S. and parts of Europe toward a second cold war and overcome the despair that now has for so long paralyzed efforts to protect the human interest. As the global approach to nuclear weapons, climate change, and neoliberal globalization should make clear, we are not likely to survive as a species very much longer if we continue to base world order on a blend of state-centric national interests and dominant actor geopolitics. Obama has this rare opportunity to choose the road not often traveled upon, and there is no better place to start such a voyage than at Hiroshima. We in civil society would then with conviction promote his nuclear legacy as ‘From Prague to Hiroshima,’ and feel comfortable that this president has finally earned the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize prematurely bestowed.