News & Politics

Nuclear Warfare Meets Hollywood: Michael Douglas Hosts Proliferation Panel

Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Michael Douglas and Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione. Photograph by Chajana denHarder.

The Ploughshares Fund and the Italian Embassy hosted a panel discussion last night to talk about the current state of nuclear policy and the continuing efforts against global proliferation. The discussion was moderated by actor Michael Douglas, an 11-year United Nations ambassador and member of the Ploughshares board, and it featured Senator Chuck Hagel, Georgetown Dean Robert Gallucci (referred to as “Dean Bob” by Douglas for most of the night), and a guest appearance by former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta introduced the discussion, which revolved around the “transformative” agenda of the Obama administration. “This appears to be a very exciting period in the long history of nuclear disarmament,” said Douglas. “Is it truly a transformational moment in time?” Senator Hagel was optimistic: “The world is reorienting and redefining itself in a way that rarely occurs,” he said. “I don’t know an issue as threatening to mankind as proliferation, but we’re at a unique moment with our new leadership in Washington and indeed in Moscow as well.”

Dean Gallucci took a more pragmatic stance: “I just sat through a Georgetown graduation,” he said. “I’ve been there 13 years now, and it’s like Groundhog Day. Each year we say, ‘This is a unique moment in history.’ I’ve said that 13 times. It just keeps getting more unique. We are faced with challenges, potential catastrophes that are somewhat pregnant. Iran could go bad in multiple ways, and the danger with Pakistan is not only that it could go bad, but that it could have gone bad yesterday, and we would have no way of knowing.”

Other subjects included the overwhelming dangers of nuclear terrorism, the nuclear status of Israel, and the need to involve other superpowers in the debate. “We keep meeting in Europe to discuss this,” one audience member said. “And that’s because Europe is really nice. But when are we going to meet in Beijing or New Delhi?” “We’re just not there yet,” said Gallucci. Despite the seriousness of the program, the panel members were in good spirits. “Thanks for including me as one of the few non-Italians,” Senator Hagel said. “This is a panel of really nice guys,” Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione said in a closing statement. “By next year, hopefully we’ll have some really nice women as well.”

After the discussion, guests and panel members adjourned to the main reception room, where Prosecco, Peroni, and Pellegrino were served along with mozzarella-and-tomato skewers, salami, cheese, focaccia sandwiches, and cannoli. “I think it went very well,” Douglas told us. “We’re in a transitional period, and there’s a lot of positive energy right now. It’s a grim subject, but at least we managed to have some laughs.”

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos