Hopes for Obama in Hiroshima


I am pleased that President Obama has decided to visit Hiroshima before the end of his term.

A visit to Hiroshima is an excellent opportunity for the President to reaffirm "the commitment of the United States to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” he pledged in his speech in Prague at the beginning of his administration.  He could point to the destruction wrought at Hiroshima by only one bomb, and note that today there are thousands of bombs, most of them with far more destructive power than the Hiroshima bomb. What is at risk today is not only one city, but all of civilization. He could argue that we must take immediate steps to reduce the danger from nuclear weapons, and ultimately to eliminate them as a threat to our civilization. There is no better place than Hiroshima, still bearing the scars and suffering of the world’s first use of these weapons, to make the point that nuclear weapons are an existential threat to mankind.  

Obama should conclude by outlining concrete steps for the U.S. to take that would reduce nuclear dangers, such as:  

  • Announcing that the U.S. was adopting a “no first-use” policy, telling the world that our nuclear weapons were solely to deter the use of nuclear weapons, and that we would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.  

  • Affirming that our deterrence can be effectively achieved with our submarine and bomber forces and that he is withdrawing his support for the rebuilding of our ICBM force.

  • Declaring that in order to reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear war, he is revising our policy by eliminating  “launch on warning.”

  • Requesting that the U.N. Security Council resolve that nuclear testing is a threat to world peace and should be outlawed.

Any of these actions would be a significant move towards the goal of the president’s Prague speech. Announcing specific actions by the U.S. sends the world an important message that we believe nuclear weapons are a grave danger to humanity, and that the U.S. is prepared to take concrete actions to lower that danger and ultimately, to eliminate it.

William J. Perry
19th U.S. Secretary of Defense