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March 3, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Bipartisan lessons from Sam Nunn, Dick Lugar

Senators' weapons reduction program still making difference.

There will never be a movie about the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Leonard Nimoy will not play Dick Lugar.

The reason is that over the course of the program that has been in place for two decades, arguably one of the greatest legislative achievements ever, no one died.

There were no mushroom clouds over American cities or London. Tens of thousands of people were not stricken with sarin gas at Wrigley Field. We didn’t watch images of scores of bodies being removed from the Metro. Weaponized smallpox did not sweep over a continent. We don’t have a radius of thousands of miles of American land unusable due to radiation as seen around Chernobyl.

To the masses and even Hoosier Republican primary voters, Nunn-Lugar is boring. That’s because the “action” was nuanced and played out in obscure places deep in Siberia and in invisible Soviet cities that only appeared to the masses with the advent of Google Earth.

Those attending the talk by Lugar and his Senate partner, Sam Nunn — “Diplomacy in a Dangerous World,” moderated by NPR’s Steve Inskeep — Tuesday evening at the University of Indianapolis were able to witness and sense the depth of this achievement.

“You could sense a higher purpose and a seriousness of purpose,” said Inskeep, the Carmel native who hosts NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Inskeep called it the “most successful disarmament program” that rid the world of tens of thousands of weapons of mass destruction.

“Nunn-Lugar is being applied worldwide,” Nunn said. “It was applied in Libya. It is being applied in Syria right now on the chemical weapons with the U.S. and Russia. The Nunn-Lugar program was for our security.” Literally, the technicians on the ground amid the vicious Syrian civil war, removing to date about 20 percent of the chemicals thus far, are Russians trained with Nunn-Lugar funding.

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