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Monday, June 24, 2024
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A worldwide effort

President Obama holds landmark nuclear weapons summit

For many Americans, the world changed on September 11, 2001. Perhaps more than anything, it made people realize that in the 21st century, the nature of our enemies has drastically changed.
In the 20th century, our enemies were very well defined and easily visualized, as they were entire nations. Though the leaders of these rival nations could do a fair amount of damage with their power and self-interests, they were also responsible for the protection of huge populations.
Today, we are not fighting against a nation that can be pointed out on a map. We are fighting against invisible terrorist groups that have little regard for human life, whether it is their own or somebody else's. These groups are also not responsible for the protection or well being of anybody else, as a government is, which makes them much more dangerous and harder to predict.
Experts believe there is enough nuclear material (mostly uranium and plutonium) floating around the world to make some 120,000 nuclear bombs. In this day and age, nobody can afford this material falling into the wrong hands. It is not an issue that solely pertains to the United States —it is one that applies to the entire world.
President Obama has realized this, and admits that the United States has not done nearly enough to try to solve the problem since 2001.
While campaigning, Obama pledged to lock up all loose nuclear material in the world during his first four years in office. Though experts say he is not currently on pace to do so, the landmark summit he held in Washington on Monday and Tuesday is a huge step in the right direction.
Leaders from 47 different nations assembled over two days to address the issue – which was the largest gathering of heads of state since the foundation of the United Nations in 1945.
Progress has already been made.
Last week, the United States signed a treaty with Russia that requires both nations to begin reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. In the past few days, the United States has reached agreements with Canada and Mexico to make a research reactor less dangerous and to send used nuclear fuel back to the U.S.
Additionally, both Ukraine and Chile announced that they will give up their stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make a dangerous weapon.
These announcements are all good signs, but leaders need to show the world more than handshakes and photo opportunities. Real deadlines and stipulations need to be enforced, and each nation must be required to follow up on the promises it makes.
Leaders can begin to prove their dedication to taking real action by uniting together and reaching out to nations like Iran and North Korea. North Korea has made efforts to build a nuclear weapon, and Iran is suspected of trying to do so as well. Both nations, however, were not invited to Obama's summit.
Perhaps Obama should have extended a welcoming hand to these nations. What good will further alienation of these two nations do for anybody? The snub may provide Iran and North Korea with leverage for not cooperating. The rest of the world needs to figure out a way to effectively reach out and communicate with them.
Finally, there needs to be complete transparency regarding the nuclear issue. People have a right to be scared during times like these, and many are asking why addressing this problem has suddenly become so important.
Overall, Obama should be applauded for undertaking such an ambitious effort. He has shown that all of the people of the world have a common problem and he has put the United States at the forefront of the problem's solution.


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