Behind the push is the sobering realization of how dangerous the world has become. During the last great public debate over nuclear weapons – in the 1980s – the world had good reason to be wary: Two adversaries with huge nuclear-tipped arsenals, the US and the Soviet Union, were confronting each other around the world in a fraught game of geopolitics.
Today, in the aftermath of the cold war, the old threat has greatly diminished. The two countries maintain smaller but still potent nuclear stockpiles. Yet other threats now loom: the expansion of the nuclear club to include rivals like India and Pakistan as well as mercurial North Korea; the quest to join by new states like Iran and Syria; the possibility of nukes finding their way to terror groups that could use them – in Moscow, the Middle East, Beijing, or Washington.
"Why is it so hard for us to solve a problem that is obvious?" Schultz asked with an edge of exasperation in an interview at his home in California.
Skeptics of a nuclear-free world might answer that such a goal is politically impossible and practically dangerous: They believe it could lead to an even greater possibility of a nuke being used.