From the Archives: “The Bertrand Russell Society Urges President Obama to Go for Broke in Eliminating Nukes”

At its 2016 annual meeting, the Bertrand Russell Society, a group of scholars and admirers of the late Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a Nobel Prize winner, logician, philosopher, and social activist who advocated against nuclear weapons, has urged President Obama to intensify his activity during the remainder of his term, and to fulfill his 2009 pledge to work towards the abolition of nuclear weapons; declare a “no-first-use” policy; take ICBMs off hair-trigger alert; and invite Russia to do likewise. The members approved the following statement:

We, members of the Bertrand Russell Society,

–Cognizant of the unparalleled catastrophe that the use of thermonuclear weapons would cause,
–Concerned about the danger of accidental nuclear use engendered by renewed Cold War-like hostilities between the US and Russia, and
–Mindful of President Obama’s much welcomed 2009 avowal to advance the cause of a nuclear free world,

Urge that:

–President Obama publicly reaffirm his 2009 commitment to nuclear abolition and make it a central focus of the remainder of his term in office; and as much needed steps to avert a nuclear catastrophe, that he forthwith:
—-(1) declare a no-first-use policy for US nuclear weapons and
—-(2) take all US ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and invite Russia to do the same.

Approved June 2016 by the membership of the Bertrand Russell Society

Raymond Perkins, a philosopher, vice chair of the Society, and professor emeritus of Plymouth State University, stated, “Whereas it is arguable that the policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) ever worked, a policy that ignored the possibilities of accidents and assumed there were only rational players in possession of nuclear weapons, it is a certainty today that such a policy is impracticable with the proliferation of nuclear weapons among many states, political and religious instability in the world, and the rise of nihilism and martyrdom as operating principles on the part of some.” Perkins went on to say, “In many ways, a nuclear catastrophe, whether by accident or design, is more probable today than it was in the Cold War era.” The Society believes this should be brought to the front burner in political discussions as a matter of existential importance, one that renders many other issues more academic if not dealt with now.

A letter has been sent to President Obama at the direction of the Society’s board, which convened at its annual membership meeting held at Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, June 24-26, 2016. Hosted by the Society’s president and a philosophy professor at Saint John Fisher, Tim Madigan, scholars from around the world presented papers on a wide range of topics, including Russell’s work in mathematical logic, his philosophy, and his social outlook. Representatives from North America, Europe, and South America were in attendance. Madigan stated, “Russell, a titan of analytic philosophy and logic, urged people in his 1955 joint statement with another intellectual titan, Albert Einstein, to ‘Remember your humanity, and forget the rest,’ in their plea for a more peaceful world with the very survival of humanity in mind, given the advent of nuclear weapons.” Madigan said, “We continue to believe that this message resonates and is vitally important, perhaps even more important, today.”

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