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JFK's New Hampshire Primary Hope Resonates Today

The day before the 1960 New Hampshire presidential primary, candidate John F. Kennedy talked about America's great hope for disarmament. Speaking at the University of New Hampshire, JFK said "No hope is more basic to our aspirations as a nation" than disarmament.

JFK exclaimed "there is no greater defense against total nuclear destruction than total nuclear disarmament." 

It's vital our presidential candidates today also share this goal of JFK.  Despite previous arms control treaties there are still 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world, most held by the U.S. and Russia. The danger of a new, expensive arms race looms large.  

JFK believed that the U.S., Russia and other nuclear powers have a common interest in disarmament. In his speech JFK noted "that funds devoted to weapons of destruction are not available for improving the living standards of their own people, or for helping the economies of the underdeveloped nations of the world." Nuclear spending fosters instability at home and abroad by stealing resources from the impoverished.  

We need this same type of thinking as we negotiate progress toward nuclear disarmament. But sadly, treaties are being rolled backed by the Trump administration, furthering the nuclear danger. 

We need to extend the New START treaty achieved by President Obama, which limits deployed strategic nuclear weapons for Russia and the U.S. We don't want to risk the possibility of having no arms control treaty with Russia in place. 

But Trump has been stalling in renewing the treaty, despite most everyone urging him to do so. 

Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz says "The most prudent course of action would be to extend New START before it expires in 2021 and thereby gain the time needed to carefully consider the options for a successor agreement or agreements and to negotiate a deal with the Russians.” 

Extending New START also takes on extra meaning right now because of Trump's withdrawal from the INF Treaty with Russia, which has escalated nuclear dangers. The treaty, achieved by President Ronald Reagan, had eliminated short and medium range nuclear missiles. 

Kennedy said in his speech that disarmament would take "hard work." We clearly have to work harder at  diplomacy today, which was our main tool in controlling the nuclear threat during the Cold War. 

The Trump administration can start by ratifying the long overdue Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions. 

President Dwight Eisenhower first pursued negotiations on a nuclear test ban with the Soviets during the Cold War. Kenned continued Ike's efforts and achieved the great breakthrough of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. This treaty banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and outer space. It came just one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the Soviets and the U.S. to the brink of nuclear war. But underground tests continued. 

So we need to finish the job Ike and JFK started and finally ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. All Trump has to do is pick up the phone and ask the Senate to finally ratify. We should encourage North Korea and China to ratify as a confidence building measure toward nuclear disarmament in Asia.  

We also need to convey the wastefulness of nuclear spending. 

The Congressional Budget office warns "The Administration’s current plans for U.S. nuclear forces would cost $494 billion over the 2019–2028 period—$94 billion more than CBO’s 2017 estimate for the 2017–2026 period, in part because modernization programs continue to ramp up." 

Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association says we need extend New START and then build more arms reduction treaties to start cutting nuke costs. 

Think of how tens of billions of dollars each year are going to be poured into nuclear weapons. Then think of all the different ways that money could be spent to better society. Those nuke dollars could feed the hungry, cure cancer and other diseases, improve education and infrastructure. 

The World Food Program estimates that 5 billion a year could feed all the world's school children, a major step toward ending global hunger. We should fund that noble peace initiative instead of nukes. 

The candidates for president must take up the cause of nuclear disarmament.