From the September/October 2009 issue of The National Interest.
SIXTY-TWO years ago, Dean Acheson warned President Truman that nuclear weaponry was "a discovery more revolutionary in human society than the invention of the wheel" and that "if the invention is developed and used destructively there will be no victor and there may be no civilization remaining." Dean Acheson was certainly no woolly-eyed disarmer. He promoted the Atlantic alliance as a bulwark against Soviet expansion. Yet, he recommended approaching Stalin to explore international controls for a global ban on nuclear weapons.
Two months later, U.S. and British officials reached the extraordinary decision that international controls must be the responsibility of the United Nations-a new and yet-untested organization. Dean Acheson chaired a committee which recommended an international authority to restrict the use of atomic energy to entirely peaceful purposes. The United States and its allies were convinced our world should never have nuclear weapons and indeed at the time there were none. Alas, because of Stalin's opposition to intrusive verification and his distrust of the United States, this well-intentioned American transformation of the international order reached a dead end.
But this idea of abolishing nuclear weapons has now been revived. Distinguished American statesmen and strategic experts have begun to advocate a world free of nuclear weapons as a long-term goal. In fact, when President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met in London on April 1, 2009, their joint statement said: "We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world..."