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A nuclear-free world? Not yet.

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On his first trip to Europe as president, Barack Obama affirmed the US commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. Shultz, along with other formidable foreign-policy luminaries such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn, have previously expressed the same hope.

Wisely, President Obama warned that such a goal "will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime."

That may be an understatement.

A recent Council on Foreign Relations blue ribbon task force on US weapons policy finds that "the geopolitical conditions that would permit the global elimination of nuclear weapons do not currently exist." And a recent Department of Defense task force, chaired by former Secretary James Schlesinger, found that nuclear weapons remain "fundamental to deterrence." As one participant in the task force's review of US nuclear readiness put it: "Global disarmament of nuclear weapons is fine as long as we are sure we have the last one to be destroyed."

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