1. Background
  2. Nuclear Weapons

End This New Arms Race

Question & Answer with DeAnne Butterfield

September 23, 2019


DeAnne Butterfield spent this summer as a Friend in Washington, a program where seasoned Friends share their experience. She is a member of FCNL’s General Committee and the Intermountain Yearly Meeting.

How did you spend your time as a Friend in Washington?

I came to better understand how the decision-makers in Washington view the nuclear weapons program. In my first week I was stunned to hear distinguished scholars and military officers talk with pride and urgency about the uses and expansion of the nuclear weapons program. I learned about the real possibilities and past examples of miscommunication, technical malfunction, and government arrogance regarding nuclear arms. I was also able to hear from the smart and organized advocates working with FCNL to end the arms race.

What is needed is a clear, compelling narrative about nuclear weapons with which the general public can align and advocate. Congress is not hearing about this issue from their constituents and it is urgent to begin this dialogue.

What is needed is a clear, compelling narrative about nuclear weapons with which the general public can align and advocate.

How long have you lobbied against nuclear arms?

I was in middle school during the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis. Just as children today are practicing active shooter drills, we were practicing “duck and cover” moves in the event of nuclear attack. As a Quaker, I was active in the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the 1980s that brought 1 million people to witness at the U.N. and led President Ronald Reagan to change his mind about the value of nuclear weapons.

In Colorado, I live 15 miles from the former Rocky Flats weapons plant that made plutonium triggers. I saw firsthand the dangers and environmental contamination from the production of nuclear weapons. War is not the answer, and a nuclear war can never be “won” and should never be fought.

How many nuclear bombs do we have?

At the height of the Cold War, countries possessed 70,000 nuclear warheads. Through treaties that reduced the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, each now has about 4,000 weapons. This is 90 percent of the world’s stockpile. The U.S. arsenal carries the explosive power equivalent to 80,000 15-kiloton Hiroshima bombs. The rationale of war planners to prevent nuclear war is through deterrence, and more threats mean greater deterrence.

How important is it to educate the public about nuclear weapons?

The military and its contractors keep designing new capabilities, delivery vehicles, and other nuclear weapons. The Trump administration has begun a new arms race by withdrawing from international treaties and supporting upgrades to the nuclear arsenal that will cost $1.7 trillion over 30 years.

Educating the public about nuclear weapons is the only way to stop the dangerous, expensive, ineffective, and immoral military plans for their expansion and use carried out in our name.

Educating the public about nuclear weapons is the only way to stop the dangerous, expensive, ineffective, and immoral military plans for their expansion and use carried out in our name.

As Quakers and people of faith, what should we do?

Quakers have been engaged in preventing nuclear war for decades. We cannot leave these decisions to the so-called experts: We all must speak out to our communities and elected officials to end this new arms race and call for the elimination of nuclear weapons as proposed in the 2017 Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

The goal of preventing war is better achieved not through threatening global catastrophe, but through diplomacy, threat reduction, robust verification, and a commitment to never start a nuclear war.