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Let’s set reasonable limits on the launching of nuclear attacks | READER COMMENTARY

A U.S. military aide carries the "President's emergency satchel," also know as "the football," with the nuclear launch codes, walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, to join President Joe Biden for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Thank you for printing the important commentary by Nancy W. Gallagher and Steven Kull (”Gen. Milley’s concerns about Trump underscore need for nuclear guardrails on president,” Sept. 30) urging passage of a bill in Congress that would require the president to consult Congress before initiating a nuclear strike.

On Sept. 23, 2021, over 300 locally elected officials from 41 states, including 28 from Maryland, sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to embrace “no presidential first use,” plus four other policy changes called “Back From The Brink.” They included taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, renouncing the policy of initiating a nuclear war, ending our $1.7 trillion nuclear arms race build up and, most importantly, negotiating nuclear disarmament with the other nuclear nations. In addition, 62 local governments have passed BFTB resolutions, including Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Philadelphia and Montgomery County. Most endorse the “UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” now in force for the 56 ratifying nations.

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The letter and the resolutions demonstrate widespread support for a change in old, dangerous Cold War policies as the president and his team craft their nuclear weapons policy, called the Nuclear Posture Review. However, a dark cloud now looms over this process. In September, the Pentagon fired the lead official overseeing the NPR, an advocate for nuclear restraint, with roots in arms control rather than the defense industry. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachussetts, sent a letter to President Biden to “Please identify the individuals and organizations consulting on the Nuclear Posture Review, including paid contractors.” It appears there may be a “no tolerance” for new ideas policy within the U.S. Department of Defense.

There is reason for concern regarding the nuclear arms race and for hopes that the administration will follow what President Biden had promised. His pledge: “We will address the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. We will head off costly arms races and re-establish our credibility as a leader in arms control.” As Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin observed last November, ”American national security should not be defined by the bottom lines of Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon.” Can popular support for change outweigh the influence of defense lobbyists inside and outside the Pentagon?

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Gwen L. DuBois, Baltimore

The writer is president of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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