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Nuclear Proliferation, Michael Douglas, and the Embassy of Italy– not to mention Bob Gallucci, Chuck Hagel, and Joe Cirincione

Former Secreatry of Defense William Cohen, actor Michael Douglas and Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione at the Italian Embassy, photo- Chajana denHarder

Former Secreatry of Defense William Cohen, actor Michael Douglas and Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione at the Italian Embassy, photo- Chajana denHarder

In case you missed the press accounts of this event last week, the Washingtonian reports:

The Ploughshares Fund and the Italian Embassy hosted a panel discussion last night [Wednesday, May 20] to talk about the current state of nuclear policy and the continuing efforts against global proliferation. The discussion was moderated by actor Michael Douglas, an 11-year United Nations ambassador and member of the Ploughshares board, and it featured Senator Chuck Hagel, Georgetown Dean Robert Gallucci (referred to as “Dean Bob” by Douglas for most of the night), and a guest appearance by former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta introduced the discussion, which revolved around the “transformative” agenda of the Obama administration. “This appears to be a very exciting period in the long history of nuclear disarmament,” said Douglas. “Is it truly a transformational moment in time?” Senator Hagel was optimistic: “The world is reorienting and redefining itself in a way that rarely occurs,” he said. “I don’t know an issue as threatening to mankind as proliferation, but we’re at a unique moment with our new leadership in Washington and indeed in Moscow as well.”

Dean Gallucci took a more pragmatic stance: “I just sat through a Georgetown graduation,” he said. “I’ve been there 13 years now, and it’s like Groundhog Day. Each year we say, ‘This is a unique moment in history.’ I’ve said that 13 times. It just keeps getting more unique. We are faced with challenges, potential catastrophes that are somewhat pregnant. Iran could go bad in multiple ways, and the danger with Pakistan is not only that it could go bad, but that it could have gone bad yesterday, and we would have no way of knowing.”

Other subjects included the overwhelming dangers of nuclear terrorism, the nuclear status of Israel, and the need to involve other superpowers in the debate. “We keep meeting in Europe to discuss this,” one audience member said. “And that’s because Europe is really nice. But when are we going to meet in Beijing or New Delhi?” “We’re just not there yet,” said Gallucci.

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This sounds like a very good event. And with the Obama Administration’s policy starting to take share, one has to hope that we are indeed about to enter a new era of arms negotiations. We have already seen movement with Russia. And we can hope that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will finally be ratified by the United States.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.