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Nuclear weapons: Is full disarmament possible?

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As Obama prepares to host more than 40 world leaders April 12 in Washington to discuss the spread of nuclear materials, this will be the fundamental question underlying it all: Is a nuclear-free world actually attainable? Is it just a gauzy notion, or the grand imperative of our time?

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Whatever the different views, the issue is once again being discussed somewhere other than in the cubicles of a few think tanks. It is, at least rhetorically, a stated US goal.

In the Oval Office meeting with Obama, Schultz bantered a bit with the president about the politics of the issue. Obama told Schultz, who was present with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the historic first cut in nuclear arsenals in 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland, that it was nice to work on a bipartisan issue. Schultz told Obama the issue is "obviously bipartisan," but added, "none of us think of it that way.... It is nonpartisan. It is a subject of such importance that it ought to be taken out of any partisan arena." Schultz says that "Obama laughed and agreed."

Two weeks ago when Obama announced the new START treaty as part of a US "reset" with Russia – a small but crucial hurdle in moving forward on a larger nuclear agenda – he thanked and named each of the "gang of four" statesmen.

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