BSG – “Limits of Unilateralism” Discussion Well Received by Members of Congress

Report by Nadine Kjellberg
October 30, 2003

Chris Shays, Jane Goodall, Ed Markey and Michael DouglasWashington, DC-On October 2, the House of Representatives Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation, in cooperation with the Bipartisan Security Group (BSG), hosted a special session titled, “Limits of Unilateralism.”

Addressing an overflow crowd in the Committee on Government Reform room of the Rayburn House Office Building, keynote speakers Dr. Jane Goodall, Michael Douglas, and BSG Chairman Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., stressed the need for collaboration in dealing with global security threats. Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), co-chairs of the House Task Force, co-hosted the event, with Global Security Institute President Jonathan Granoff serving as moderator.

Representatives Markey and Shays were pleased with the outcome. “A uniting event in the non-proliferation community, “The Limits of Unilateralism discussion was a great success,” Mr. Shays said.Jonathan Granoff “The event brought concerned Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and the NGO community together to discuss the United States’ role and reach in global security matters. It is essential that the non-proliferation community continue its dialogue to build a common vision for international arms control.”

This discussion “created a buzz that is rarely seen on Capitol Hill.” said Mr. Markey. “In bringing Michael Douglas, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Ambassador Thomas Graham to talk about the need for multilateralism in our foreign policy strategy, we were able to generate an incredible amount of interest in a truly educational forum. Without the encouragement and assistance of the Global Security Institute, this event would not have been possible. I look forward to working with Jonathan and the Institute in the future to continue to educate and activate Congress on critical issues affecting world peace.”

“On issues of global concern, especially when they intersect with our national security, partisanship must defer to our highest wisdom,” said Mr. Granoff. “The Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation is exactly the kind of initiative that helps makes our government strong,” Mr. Granoff said.

Jane Goodall and Michael DouglasMichael Douglas summed up the focus of the discussion. “The entire planet now faces global challenges including ensuring bio-diversity and ending the destruction of thousands of species; reversing the depletion of fishing stocks; controlling ocean dumping; preventing ozone depletion; halting global warming; controlling and eliminating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; fighting pandemic diseases; ending the tragedy of crushing poverty and lack of clean drinking water; and addressing crises arising from failed states,” Mr. Douglas said. “No nation or even a small group of nations can succeed in addressing these issues alone.” Speakers focused on solutions to these threats with a particular emphasis on nuclear threats by highlighting the importance of multilateralism, the rule of law and the UN system.

“Technology has made the world a far smaller and more dangerous place,” said Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), who participated in the dialogue. “We act unilaterally at our own risk. We’ve learned a lesson in Iraq that acting on our own, without the support of the international community, is not only difficult but counterproductive to our goal of making the world a better and safer place for peace loving people,” said Mr. Rangel. “I applaud the efforts of the Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation.”

Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) emphasized the need to stop vertical proliferation at home as key to preventing nuclear proliferation abroad. “Now more than ever, I believe our fight against nuclear proliferation is among the most critical priorities facing this nation. I will continue to work against any misguided efforts to develop new nuclear weapons, and I’m pleased to partner with my friend and constituent Michael Douglas in these efforts.”

Mr. Douglas said that when nations are engaged in a process, they are far more likely to support its outcome. “If the application of solutions appears to be done only through the orders of decision makers in Washington, DC, in derogation of the UN, the results will be cynicism, lack of cooperation, and ultimately, failure. Failure is not something we can afford,” he said.

Ambassador Thomas Graham discussed the framework of treaties painstakingly constructed in the years following World War II. He emphasized the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prevented the spread of nuclear weapons all over the world. Giving credit to both Republican and Democratic presidents from Eisenhower to Bush Sr., “There is no question that these efforts changed the course of history,” he said. “In 1962, there were reports estimating that there would be 25-30 nuclear weapons states with nuclear weapons integrated into their national arsenals by the end of the 1970s. If this had happened, there would likely be more than 50 nuclear weapon states today,” said Graham. “This would have created a nightmarish world, one in which every conflict would run the risk of going nuclear, it would be impossible to keep these weapons out of the hands of terrorists because they would be so widespread and the continued existence of our civilization would hang in the balance every day.”

The NPT, he said, entered into force in 1970 and was given a permanent extension in 1995. Under the Treaty, some 183 non-nuclear nations agreed never to acquire nuclear weapons. In return for this, nuclear states (United States, Russia, France, the UK and China) committed to deep reductions in nuclear weapons leading to their elimination, a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and a pledge never to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

Michael Douglas repeated the need for the United States to fulfill its obligations under the treaty. “Fulfilling our promises in the NPT, now with 187 member States, must be a primary aim,” Douglas said. “We must demonstrate our unambiguous commitment to fulfill our promises. Otherwise the prospect of more nuclear states, and the construction of new nuclear weapons, will only increase human peril. The world needs a more effective nonproliferation and disarmament regime and is looking to us for leadership,” he said, urging support and cooperation from the U.S. Congress when the NPT is reviewed formally in 2005 at the UN.

Dr. Goodall, leading her discussion with a chimpanzee call that drew cheers from the audience, said the chimpanzees’ behavior can be used to help us explain our own behavior. They show compassion and altruism on the one hand and brutality and a form of primitive warfare on the other. “Unfortunately,” she said, “we have become better at killing. We now have power to destroy life on earth as we know it. That power, coupled with current political and social tensions, makes the world a very dangerous place.”

Dr. Goodall expressed deep concern over policy decisions by the Bush Administration that appear to run counter to US obligations under the NPT Treaty. The Administration “has declared its intention of relying on nuclear weapons as a component of US national security, is exploring the development of new nuclear weapons, and may resume nuclear testing,” she said. “We stand on the brink of a new nuclear disaster.”

“One of the most important steps we could take as we stand at the start of a new century is to rid the world of nuclear weapons,” Goodall said. “Survivors of radiation and their offspring have suffered unbelievably, in both Japan and the Marshall islands, and still suffer today.”

Dr. Goodall said that now the world finally understands how ecosystems are comprised of interconnected parts. “Damage or loss of some parts can lead to irreparable damage to the whole,” she said. “It is desperately important that we think about the impact on future generations of decisions we make today. We must think of our children, and children as yet unborn, and the increasingly damaged environment that we are creating.”

It is up to us, she said. “We have the power to destroy or to heal the world. Pray God we chose to heal.”

“The problems dealing with nuclear weapons are profound and systemic,” said Mr. Granoff in closing. “According to the Brookings Institution, the United States alone has spent $5.5 trillion developing the nuclear arsenal. Today, more than a decade after the Cold War, we spend close to $100 million a day to keep our nuclear arsenal at ready. Yet, the entire inspection budget worldwide of the International Atomic Energy Agency last year was less than $90 million. To stem the tide of proliferation, to strengthen the international legal regime that can lead us to a more secure future, the allocation of our resources should more clearly reflect our values,” he said.

The Bipartisan Security Group distributed a policy brief on the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Bush Administration’s most recent proposed approach to controlling weapons of mass destruction.

Some of the participants, joined by Mr. Markey’s wife U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal and Mr. Douglas’ wife Catherine Zeta Jones, formed a delegation to visit several Congressional offices. Representative Dave Obey, ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, greeted them in his Congressional office as, did Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi where they were also joined by other Members of Congress. The delegation was able to express their strong passions regarding their issues of concern.

Michael Douglas and Jane Goodall were appointed UN Messengers of Peace in 1998 and 2002, respectively. Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr. has been involved in every major international arms control and non-proliferation agreement in the past 30 years.


“A Place to Work Together” by Michael Douglas

“There is Still Hope” by Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

“The Limits of Unilateralism” by Amb. Thomas Graham, Jr.


1. Rep. Christopher Shays, Jane Goodall, Rep. Ed Markey, Michael Douglas
2. Jonathan Granoff
3. Jane Goodall, Michael Douglas
4. Rep. Lois Capps
5. Amb. Thomas Graham, Jr.
6. Dr. Jane Goodall
7. Rep. Dave Obey, Michael Douglas
8. Amb. Thomas Graham, Jr., Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jonathan Granoff, Admiral Susan Blumenthal (U.S. Assistant Surgeon General), Rep. Ed Markey
9. Amb. Thomas Graham, Jr., Dr. Jane Goodall, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Photos by Zachary Allen

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