From Japan, to Cuba, to Iran—three snapshots of a world changed by nuclear weapons.
William J. Perry, who served as Secretary of Defense during President Bill Clinton’s administration, is regarded as one of the five “Cold Warriors”—along with Henry Kissinger, George P. Schultz, Sam Nunn, and Sid Drell—who, together, have formed an influential group whose activism has profoundly impacted nuclear security. From his role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, to his stint as Defense Secretary, to his more recent involvement in Track 2 talks facilitating the recent Iran deal, minimizing the nuclear threat—introduced to the world stage 70 years ago today—has been one of Perry’s chief preoccupations. The following post was adapted from his forthcoming memoir, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink.
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
—Albert Einstein; 23 May 1946
My journey at the nuclear brink began well before the Cuban Missile Crisis, on an infamous Sunday in 1941, four years before the first atomic bomb was dropped. These were the first stirrings that would lead me to a life encompassing military service, development of Cold War reconnaissance systems, government service, university teaching, and diplomacy—much of it focused on the goal of reducing the nuclear threat.