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Bernard Baruch’s ‘Baruch Plan’ can lower escalating nuclear tensions

On July 16, 1945, the first U.S. atomic bomb was detonated. One month later, the United States would bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II.

Today, a similar tactical deployment of a nuclear warhead would seem unthinkable. However, nation-state executives have refused to scale back their nuclear weapons programs.

Bernard Baruch was born in 1870 in Camden, South Carolina to German-Jewish immigrants. His success increased rapidly soon after moving to New York resulting in the business man we know today.

After crafting a reputation for financial know-how, Baruch transitioned to become an economic and foreign policy adviser for both Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Baruch’s greatest foreign policy achievement is “The Baruch Plan.”

Eventually advising President Harry Truman, Baruch proposed the ultimate elimination of nuclear warheads from sovereign nation-states to the United Nations in 1946.

Under the umbrella of the newly created United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, the Atomic Development Authority would administer the development and use of atomic energy, manage any nuclear installation with the ability to produce nuclear weapons and be able to inspect any nuclear facility conducting research for peaceful purposes.

“The Baruch Plan” was a document with incredible foresight. Truman was the president who had, just a year earlier, used nuclear weapons to help end the most destructive war the world had ever seen, and simultaneously place the United States atop the list of world superpowers. Many might not have been so reticent to relinquish such incredible power. However, the document Baruch helped draft was sent to the U.N. headquarters to argue in favor of eliminating atomic weapons to prevent any more mass destruction and ensure peaceful negotiations.

“The Baruch Plan” would eventually fail. The United States would only relinquish its nuclear arsenal once all the guidelines and inspections were established. Russia would not agree to this, as the superpower did not trust the United States. to uphold its end of the bargain. Today, both countries possess enough nuclear warheads to destroy the world a thousand
times over.

Many scholars and theorists believe that nuclear weapons make the world more stable. Mutually Assured Destruction is the most common theory. MAD holds that countries with nuclear weapons, especially those with large arsenals, would not dare to attack one another since both would be destroyed if a nuclear war broke out. However, in light of recent Russian announcements for its nuclear technology, a more nuanced perspective is needed.

The Russian Federation has announced that it has perfected and installed new hypersonic ballistic missiles that fly over 10 times the speed of sound. Russia claims it can hit any target in the world and can evade missile defense systems.

The United States for the last couple of decades have been working and spending to upgrade its homeland missile defense system. Even though these systems have a woefully inaccurate success rate — 50 percent interception rate — Russia views modernized installations as a threat. MAD only works if both countries believe they can inflict damage on each other. Russia feels compelled to create more advanced nuclear weapons if the United States is going to continue increasing its nuclear missile shield.

Nuclear weapons are not a secure national deterrent, as long as other countries also possess them. This is why Baruch and his incredible foresight understood the utter destruction nuclear warfare could bring and advocated that nuclear weapons be eliminated.

The easy path forward is to continue to amass more sophisticated nuclear weapons because that is what we have always done. Baruch and more recently Barack Obama should be commended for their attempted action. Obama attempted — without success — to roll back the prominence of nuclear weapons throughout the world. He dedicated his first major foreign policy speech to a new U.S. nuclear doctrine based on a principled and reduced role for such weapons within the U.S. arsenal. He also helped institute the Iran nuclear deal, which halted further nuclear proliferation and should be used as a model for future proliferation in cases like North Korea.

A world without nuclear weapons may be difficult to achieve, but it does not mean world leaders should not try. “The Baruch Plan” should not be remembered for its failures but for its initiatives, spurring other young leaders to action.

March 19, 2018

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Salvatore Gagliardi


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