Ethical Dimensions of a World without Nuclear Weapons - William Perry


Location: Hesburgh Center Auditorium

Ethical Dimensions of a World without Nuclear Weapons

William Perry, Former Secretary of Defense

The dangers of global nuclear holocaust have diminished since the end of the Cold War, as nuclear weapons arsenals have declined nearly 80 percent and East-West political relations have improved. Despite this, the threat of nuclear proliferation has worsened and the risks of a nuclear weapon exploding somewhere in the world have increased, according to some experts.

New opportunities for disarmament have emerged. The U.S. and Russia have negotiated a new strategic reduction treaty, the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review places limits on the potential use of these weapons, and global efforts have intensified to secure nuclear materials and technologies and prevent proliferation. The prospect of nuclear disarmament, once considered merely a moral ideal, is becoming a policy objective. These and other developments call for new thinking on the ethical dimensions of nuclear weapons issues. In light of changed global conditions, the moral status of deterrence and its link to disarmament need to be reconsidered.

Free and open to the public.


David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University
Stephen Colecchi, Director, Office of International Justice and Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame

Sponsored by:

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons of the World Evangelical Alliance
Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, University of Notre Dame
Office of International Justice and Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

This event marks the beginning of a two-day symposium (by invitation only) at the Kroc Institute that will address complex strategic and moral issues that arise in the context of a commitment to abandon reliance on nuclear weapons:

  • If nuclear weapons are reduced to zero, what alternative means of deterrence exist, and what are their moral and political implications?
  • How do we address the dilemma that the value of any single nuclear weapon increases as the overall number of weapons declines, thereby giving potential advantages to cheaters?
  • Can the knowledge and capacity to build nuclear weapons, which can never be eliminated, serve as a kind of virtual or existential deterrent in a world without deployed weapons?
  • Would shared missile defenses provide protection against cheaters in a world without nuclear weapons? Would they be viable strategically and acceptable morally?
  • These are but a few of the challenging issues that arise when we consider a world that is moving seriously toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons.