Dear President-Elect Trump:
Congratulations on your victory! Let me be honest: I supported Hillary Clinton, because The New York Times and other liberal media convinced me that you were too brash, disrespectful of convention, to be President.
But I’m beginning to see your defiance of received wisdom in a positive light. In fact, that is why I’m writing you. I have a proposition that should appeal to your iconoclasm--and, yes, your ambition.
Your doubters insinuate that the prospect of being President daunts you, but of course they underestimate you. If anything you are wondering: What loftier mountains are there to climb? Challenges to overcome? How can you top what you’ve already done?
You have big items on your to-do list: reforming immigration and health-care policies, boosting employment, rebuilding our creaky infrastructure, renegotiating international trade deals and alliances.
I propose that you make a much grander goal your primary mission: world peace. Yes, I’m talking about ending war and even the threat of war. If you succeed, armed conflict between any two nations will be inconceivable, just as it is today between France and Germany, who for centuries were mortal enemies.
You have criticized U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and you called the Vietnam War “a mistake.” You clearly recognize that war should be avoided whenever possible, because it often ends up creating more problems than it solves.
War also wastes resources that could be spent improving education and health care and pulling people out of poverty. As Dwight Eisenhower said in 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Almost everyone--including Barack Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize!--doubts whether permanent peace is possible. According to surveys I’ve carried out for more than a dozen years, nine out of ten people think war will never cease. This widespread pessimism, far from deterring you, should make my proposition more enticing.
Moreover, in many ways the time is ripe for ending war. Since the end of World War II, armed conflicts have declined dramatically. The entire western hemisphere is now war-free!
Attaining world peace will require boldness, imagination and tough negotiations with powerful individuals and institutions, notably the defense industry. But the global economy has far more to gain than to lose from war’s eradication. Lockheed-Martin, the biggest defense firm, ranks only 197 on the Fortune Global 500.
With your communication skills, you should be able to amass broad support for a peace plan, building a coalition consisting of liberals, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, people of faith and business folk.
You can’t vanquish war in four years, but if you promote peace aggressively, you might see results surprisingly soon. No one thought the Cold War would end until, suddenly, it did.
Here is how you might proceed: First, declare that world peace is your administration’s number-one priority. Order Defense Secretary James Mattis (great choice, by the way) and other advisors to brainstorm peace plans, including proposals for scaling back U.S. military operations without imperiling security. The U.S. could chop its defense budget in half and it would still exceed the spending of Russia and China combined.
Meanwhile, you and other global leaders swap ideas for resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere in ways that further the ultimate goal of ending war. Your respectful relations with Vladimir Putin give you an advantage. You and Putin could pledge sharp reductions in your nuclear arsenals and a moratorium on developing new weapons as a show of good faith to other nations. China and other major powers will surely reciprocate with military rollbacks, because they, too, would rather invest in hospitals, schools, roads and clean energy than arms. World peace is win-win-win.
If, as President, you help humanity take the first step toward overcoming the ancient scourge of war, you will go down in history as the greatest leader ever. Greater than Caesar, Napoleon, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill, Gandhi, Ronald Reagan. Jesus called for peace on earth. Trump delivers it.
For inspiration, listen to John F. Kennedy’s 1963 “Peace Speech,” in which he spelled out his hope for “the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children--not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women--not merely peace in our time but peace for all time."
If you have questions about my proposition, I’d be happy to talk it over with you at your convenience. I’ll also send you my book The End of War, which I wrote to persuade people that peace is not a pipe dream.
Director, Center for Science Writings
Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey
Postscript: After reading my modest proposal, historian George Dyson reminded me via email that Trump has long seen himself as a potentially great peace-maker. Dyson attached a 1985 article by Ron Rosenbaum, “Trump: The Ultimate Deal,” in which Trump revealed that he was worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and wanted to help the Reagan administration negotiate deals to stop their spread. In the article, republished in Slate last March, Rosenbaum (who later wrote a book on nuclear war) remarked: “I feel protective about Trump. It’s not that I think he’s got the solution, but I like the visionary urgency he brings to the problem. I like the fact that he’s using his Washington contacts, the access his money buys him, to bug the torpid Reaganauts to do something rational in the nuclear realm.”
Post-postscript: Physicist Freeman Dyson, father of George, also had a comment on the column above. He notes that Republican Presidents, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, carried out “the two biggest acts of disarmament.” Nixon “got rid of 100 percent of biological weapons, Bush 50 percent of nuclear weapons.” [Bush’s son also halved the number of warheads during his two terms as President, according to the Arms Control Association, but his cuts involved fewer nukes.]
Post-post-postscript: See also “No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design,” published in The Washington Post last Sunday, in which my colleague at Stevens Institute of Technology, historian Alex Wellerstein, lays out the workings of the nuclear chain of command. Trump should hire Alex as a nuclear-weapons consultant.