by Andrew Lichterman

Publication note:

I have a piece titled “Nuclear Disarmament, Civil Society, and Democracy” in Disarmament Forum, 2010 No.4, full text available at

A short excerpt:

Twenty-five years ago there were vigorous and diverse disarmament movements in the United States and elsewhere. In the United States today, those movements are largely gone. What remains is the “arms control and disarmament community,” an insular subculture of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focuses most of its resources on policy debates and proposals in national capitals and international negotiating forums. These groups mainly deploy the standard repertory of interest group political pressure techniques, with expert policy analysis and top-down publicity and public opinion mobilization used to muster support for proposals initiated by segments of governing elites that can be portrayed as moving toward disarmament.

The disappearance of the movements and the gradual transformation of most of the institutions left behind into professionalized single-issue pressure groups, I believe, are less the result of choices by the particular people and organizations than manifestations of deeper trends affecting not only disarmament work but other efforts for a more fair, democratic and ecologically sustainable way of life. These broader transformations have left us with less voice in the decisions that affect all of our lives than we had two or three decades ago. If we want to have an effect on something as central to the order of things as the ultimate weapons in a system underwritten by overwhelming violence, we must at the same time address the fragile state of what little democracy we have.