Just hours after the conclusion of the International Day of Peace on September 21st, the United States conducted a test of an unarmed Minuteman III Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The missile was launched in the early morning hours from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The US maintains 450 Minuteman III missiles armed with nuclear warheads on high alert at military sites in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
The Air Force has announced that it plans to test another Minuteman III missile in the early morning hours of September 26th. Later that same day in New York, the United Nations General Assembly will be holding its first-ever High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament.
These tests are acts of arrogance, actually hubris of the highest order. Instead of participating at the Presidential level in the UN High-Level Meeting, the US is sending its missiles flying. What kind of example of leadership is this from President Obama, a Nobel Peace Laureate who has eloquently stated that America has a “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”?
The US claims that these tests are important for allowing it to ensure a safe, secure and effective deterrent. Yet, the US government doesn’t see it that way when other nations conduct tests of nuclear-capable missiles. And US leaders fail to grasp that nuclear deterrence is little more than a hypothesis about human behavior that can fail catastrophically at any time.
In this time of continued economic tightening, when the Congress seeks to cut back on food stamps for those in need, do we really want the government to waste tens of millions of dollars on 30-minute muscle-flexing missile tests? In addition to the inability to assure that these weapons will not be used by accident or design, they are obscenely expensive and the funds used to maintain them could be far better used for meeting basic human needs.
The UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament offers an exceptional opportunity for US leadership. But will we grasp that opportunity? President Obama should call off the Minuteman III missile test scheduled for September 26th. He should personally attend the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament where he can play a constructive role in moving the world toward zero nuclear weapons.