It is now two minutes to midnight.
For some time I have feared that the threat of nuclear disaster has grown beyond the risk we faced during the darkest years of the Cold War. The events of the past year have only increased my concern that the danger of a nuclear catastrophe is increasingly real.
I am saddened but not surprised by the Bulletin’s decision to move forward the Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been to global midnight. Deteriorating relations between nuclear armed states, false alarms, careless rhetoric combined with provocative actions, and the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race have all contributed to the precarious position the world finds itself in today. We are failing to learn from the lessons of history as we find ourselves blundering headfirst towards a second cold war.
The last and only other time the Doomsday Clock was this perilously close to midnight was in 1953, the year that the United States and the Soviet Union developed the first thermonuclear bombs. A quote from the Bulletin report of that year rings as true today as it did back then, “Only with the general recognition of the desperate seriousness of this situation, and of its threat to the survival of our own and other nations of the Western world, can the necessary remedial policies be put into operation.”
Let this moment be our wake up call. The clock is ticking - the time for action is now.
- William J. Perry
19th U.S. Secretary of Defense
January 25, 2018
What can we do to roll back the clock?
- Today, countries around the world are positioning themselves to make nuclear weapons more, rather than less, usable. We must renew our vision of a world free from nuclear weapons as is expressed in the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.
- North Korea is now a nuclear armed state, and we must learn to accept North Korea as it is, not as we wish it to be. The United States should work with China to pursue dialogue with North Korea towards the goal of halting further testing of nuclear weapons. Diplomacy is the solution.
- We must renew our commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program so far as Iran continues to comply with the agreement and reestablish a clear and consistent nuclear policy with our allies around the world.
- We should review our 1.7 trillion dollar new nuclear modernization effort in order to only replace the weapons we need for today’s threats — and forgo the rest. At a time of tight defense budgets, a dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar taken away from other military needs, such as sustaining conventional forces and countering terrorism and cyberattacks.
- We should phase out our land-based ICBMs, as these weapons are some of the most likely to trigger an accidental nuclear war from a false alarm, such as the one that recently occurred in Hawaii.
- We should declare a no-first use policy in order to set a global standard for nuclear deterrence and reinforce the axiom that a nuclear war can never be won and should not be fought.
Learn more about what you can do by learning about the history of nuclear weapons and the modern risk of nuclear terrorism through our free Stanford Online educational programs: