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On May 19, President Obama and his top national security advisers huddled in the Oval Office with an unlikely collection of Cold Warriors. After meeting for more than an hour with the bipartisan group that some have dubbed “the four horsemen of the anti-apocalypse,” Obama emerged with critical backing for the administration’s plans for resuscitating a moribund nuclear nonproliferation regime.
“I don’t think anybody would accuse these four gentlemen of being dreamers. They’re hard-headed, tough defenders of American interests and American security,” Obama told the press, motioning to former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn. “But what they have come together to help galvanize is a recognition that we do not want a world of continued nuclear proliferation, and that in order for us to meet the security challenges of the future, America has to take leadership in this area.”
Ever since a signed article by the four former officials ran in a January 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal under the headline “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” they have galvanized the debate over nuclear proliferation. Absent urgent action by the United States, they argued, the world will soon enter a new nuclear age that “will be more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically even more costly than was Cold War deterrence.”