Looking for the simple facts about nuclear weapons and the Two Futures Project? Well, look no further — we put together a “Fact Sheet” that you can either read below, or download in PDF format here.
What is the Two Futures Project?
The Two Futures Project (2FP) is a not-for-profit effort to educate American Christians about the need for a world free of nuclear weapons. We believe that we face two futures and one choice: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them.
We support the responsible, multilateral, global, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, as a biblically-grounded mandate and as a contemporary security imperative. By joining together with one voice of Christian conscience, we seek to encourage and enable our national leaders to make the complete elimination of nuclear weapons the organizing principle of American nuclear weapons policy.
We join in this work to the glory of God.
What does the Two Futures Project do? How do supporters get involved?
As Chuck Colson wrote in his BreakPoint column, there’s still time for us to act and prevent nuclear disaster—“but that commitment will only happen if the people insist on it. And for that, we need to be informed” (10/17/08). The Two Futures Project is responding to that call and taking the message of a nuclear weapons-free world to American Christians via presentations at churches, campuses, and conferences, as well as direct media and our website. Our goal is to equip Christians to become advocates for their position and to engage fellow believers toward the same end.
Though we are each individually powerless to confront nuclear weapons, together we can demand that those in authority over nuclear arsenals do the right thing. Supporters join the 2FP movement via our website, twofuturesproject.org, and part of signing up is alerting a supporter’s elected officials to the stand he/she has taken. We are also developing a number of specific programs and resources to help 2FP supporters engage, like our new Campus Network and our suite of leaders’ tools. Our resources are designed to help Christians bring their faith perspective to bear on this pressing contemporary problem.
How many nuclear weapons still exist, and who has them?
There are approximately 20,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. The U.S. and Russia share 95% of the global stockpiles. The U.K., France, and China each have several hundreds; Israel, India and Pakistan, several score; and North Korea, perhaps a handful. About three dozen countries have nuclear power facilities that could be immediately modified to begin a bomb program if they wished.
Why ban nuclear weapons? What makes them different from conventional weapons?
Nuclear weapons are uniquely destructive and categorically indiscriminate. Just one Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb (15 kiloton), if used in a terrorist attack on a major city, would:
- kill 60,000+ people in the immediate blast;
- contaminate 320 square miles, rendering it unlivable for a generation;
- require immediate medical attention for 150,000 people suffering from burns and radiation poisoning, causing the collapse of healthcare infrastructure;
- necessitate the evacuation of 6 million people; • cause $1 trillion dollars in immediate and direct damages.
In addition, the extended economic fallout would cripple the global economy, shutting down supply chains, investment, and charitable works. This would trigger a worldwide economic depression, with disproportionate suffering and death among populations already existing at subsistence levels.
Why act now, and why total elimination? Can’t we just keep them out of the wrong hands?
Former Cold Warriors like George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn warn that we are at a nuclear “tipping point.” In the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, the nuclear powers agreed to abolish their arsenals someday if the non-nuclear states refrained from building their own weapons. Now, nearly two decades after the Cold War’s end, the non-nuclear powers are growing impatient with a two-tier world of nuclear haves and have-nots. This dynamic threatens nuclear breakout; breakout means less control over the material needed for a bomb; less control means an increasing likelihood of use and eventual disaster through war, accident, or terrorism.
We’re committed by our own national law to pursue disarmament. Even more pressing, however, is the fact that the old status quo cannot hold much longer. The only alternative is to work deliberately toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. If, in a misguided attempt to maintain our own security by retaining our own nuclear arsenal indefinitely, we will not be able to contain the very proliferation that would itself be the most catastrophic security risk we can imagine.
Why American Christians?
As Christians, we cannot condone nuclear weapons because God abhors the shedding of innocent blood. Given this, the only plausible moral use for nuclear weapons is the deterrence of their use by other nations—and even that is morally problematic. But the logic of deterrence, which governed nuclear policy throughout the Cold War, is undone in the post-9/11 era, because nuclear terrorism by a non-state actor cannot be deterred by the threat of retaliation. In order to prevent nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands, we need international cooperation—which we can’t get unless we’re serious about a world without nuclear weapons, including our own arsenals.
We recognize that even one nuclear blast would be a great sin for the innocents it killed, the damage done to the creation we are supposed to care for, and the poverty that the economic fallout would create.
Our horror at the possible evil of a nuclear blast motivates us to act in the present and prevent that future from coming about. The world needs the leadership that our faith demands.
Who supports nuclear weapons elimination?
On the security side, top experts from around the world are in agreement: we must abolish these weapons before they abolish the world we know. In America, supporters include seventy percent of the living individuals who have served as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Advisor. Christian support for the elimination of nuclear weapons has been expressed by Evangelical, Catholic, and other Christian leaders across political lines, along with many denominational declarations.
Can you really put the nuclear genie back in the bottle? Doesn’t human nature make this unrealistic?
It’s true that we can never “un-invent” nuclear weapons. But the elimination of nuclear weapons is fundamentally a supply chain problem, because the material needed for a nuclear bomb cannot be found in nature. Furthermore, only nation-states have the resources to create highly-enriched uranium and plutonium, and they cannot do so in secret, because the facilities required to make nuclear material are immense and readily identifiable from satellite surveillance. In other words, we can control the Bomb because we can control the bomb material—despite human nature.
Doing so will be challenging, requiring rigorous international safeguards and a global monitoring system—but it is possible, given the right political will. Moreover, in a world where nuclear weapons have been de-legitimized and banned—as we have already done with chemical and biological weapons—there would be little incentive to cheat, given that doing so would be a de facto declaration of war against the entire world. The conventional might of the world’s nations would easily overwhelm any nation aspiring at nuclear breakout in a disarmed world, especially given how long it takes to build a substantial arsenal.
Isn’t disarmament doomed by the example of history? What nation would give up such power?
Actually, the vast majority of nations have already renounced nuclear weapons by their participation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Many of these nations, like Brazil, at one point deliberated on whether to develop nuclear weapons capacity, and rejected that course. And the former states of the Soviet Union decided to give the nuclear weapons deployed on their soil back to Russia.
But the most powerful example is certainly apartheid-era South Africa, which had a secret nuclear weapons program that had produced six bombs. When President F.W. de Klerk came to power, he told his advisors that they needed to do two things in order to bring South Africa back into the community of nations: 1) abolish apartheid and 2) abolish their nuclear weapons. South Africa completed its disarmament in 1991, becoming the first nation to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons it had developed itself.
Do you have a position on nuclear power?
The Two Futures Project does not have a pro or con position on nuclear power per se. However, we are concerned by the possibility of nuclear power plants being the target of, and magnifying into catastrophic proportions, a future terrorist attack. We also believe that if a decision is made to embark on the expansion of nuclear power, the new infrastructure must have built-in technological and diplomatic safeguards to ensure that the peaceful use of nuclear technologies cannot be used as a back door into a weapons program.
What about Iran?
A nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and every moral and practical step should be taken to prevent it. That said, Iran is a perfect example of the need to make the elimination of nuclear weapons the direct goal of present policy. Doing so would not solve the Iranian problem immediately, but it would give us much more powerful tools to deal with the situation. Iran flirts with nuclear capabilities because of the two-tier world of nuclear haves and have-nots; it is presently able to flaunt international will because the U.S. and Russia cannot preach nuclear temperance from the atomic barstool. If the nuclear powers demonstrated good-faith leadership toward a world without nuclear weapons, global pressure on Iran would increase substantially. Such a position would de-incentivize nuclear breakout, and stimulate the development of technological and diplomatic safeguards that would make our world safer.
Isn’t it naïve to disarm overnight, and to trust that other countries will follow our example?
Yes. That’s why we do not advocate unilateral disarmament, nor do we expect immediate results. However, the leadership of the United States is essential in forging a lasting worldwide consensus built around the long-term vision of multilateral and verifiable nuclear disarmament. This would set our “compass point” and establish the kind of international leadership our situation requires. Additionally, there are a number of immediate threat-reduction steps, many of which the U.S. could undertake unilaterally, as well as bilateral actions we could do with Russia. Complete nuclear disarmament will take decades, however, and will require a phased and verifiable process that increases both national and global security.