In a Post-Deterrence World

In honor of our 30th anniversary year, Ploughshares Fund is conducting interviews with some of our first donors - recording their stories of why they initially took a risk on Sally Lilienthal’s big idea. Board member and former Ploughshares Fund executive director Dr. Gloria Duffy interviews Paul Sack below. The interview has been edited and condensed for space.

Gloria: You were one of the earliest donors and supporters of Ploughshares Fund. Why did you get involved?

Paul: I thought at the time, and still think, that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a horrible problem. It obviously hasn't been solved. I think someone’s going to get one. Can you imagine Ahmadinejad or Gaddafi or someone like that having a bomb. If you even think about what would we do if one of these guys said, “I have a bomb and it's in New York or Chicago and I'm going to blow it up unless you release somebody from prison,” what would we do about that?

G: How did you come to believe that a group here in San Francisco could actually have an impact on this problem of the arms race and nuclear proliferation?

P: I probably didn't ask that question at the beginning, but I certainly asked it later and I remember discussing it with Sally. She talked about getting the word out, and having people be conscious of the problem. A lot of what I read that Ploughshares sent out was news to me. That all these bombs were out there and how poorly they were controlled, especially in the former Soviet Union.

G: How do you feel things have evolved over the years? Do you think the problem has gotten worse or better?

P: I don't know. Deterrence held off the Soviet Union, and apparently there isn't any deterrence anymore. No one has the amount of nuclear arms that the Soviet Union had, but it doesn't take that many. So we probably are less safe now, because individual actors, or rogue states as they call them, could get a bomb.

G: What aspects of this problem continue to concern you?

P: I think that military spending is taking money for no purpose. On the radio recently, I heard about some jet aircraft that they’re spending billions of dollars developing. From what I know, it appears to be a plane being built to have dogfights over the Soviet Union against some Soviet fighter that no longer exists. So we’re still spending billions and billions of dollars on this crazy plane...for no reason.

G: What do you think Ploughshares Fund should be doing now?

P: The same thing as before, publicizing the threat of nuclear warfare, getting people really worried about the fact that individuals could get hold of bombs. There are irresponsible states in the world and there are a lot of irresponsible people who would buy and sell the bombs. The problem is just as acute as it was before. In fact, maybe more acute because at the time of the cold war we had deterrence. Now we have people we don't know how to deter.