Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has left much of the conversation about nuclear policy to a cadre of nuclear experts who speak largely to one another using their own complex, nuanced, and intellectually elitist language. The limited public dialogue has focused on the need to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons and to provide assurances of their diminished salience to U.S. national security, while rarely broaching the reasons why the United States continues to have a nuclear arsenal at all. For a quarter century—through changes in administrations and political leadership, Republican and Democratic alike—a clear, direct, and positively framed explanation of the role and purpose of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security has been strikingly absent.
A direct, but accessible and inclusive, public conversation about nuclear weapons—their importance, their impacts, and their costs—is desperately needed.
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