On Sept. 20, 1961 the US and USSR signed the McCloy-Zorin Accords. It was partly the work of both a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his Democrat successor, John. F. Kennedy and was an agreement not only for nuclear disarmament-- but total disarmament. At the time of signing, Kennedy was President and Nikita Kruschev was the leader of the USSR. Through this landmark Accord, US citizens were to continue to be guaranteed the right to bear arms according to the Constitution, while “all military forces, bases, stockpiles, weapons, and expenses were to be ended.”
Why so little is said today of the McCloy-Zorin Accord and its historic implications provides evidence why nuclear arms-- despite their senselessness-- are still with us. Some will say so little is said of the Accord because it didn’t achieve its objectives of world peace. They will say trying to achieve peace may be noble, but it is futile. Man will always want to wage war and thus we must be prepared to win war.
Thirteen months after the McCloy-Zorin Accord was signed, for thirteen days in October, the world was brought to the brink of total, permanent annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The US and USSR possessed 70,000 nuclear warheads and the USSR had tested the largest nuclear weapon ever-- a 1,500 Kiloton bomb-- 1,000 times the size of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima bomb. If there had been nuclear war, it is almost a certainty human life on earth would have ended.
During the crisis, Kennedy reached out to Kruschev personally to ask him for his help to push back “forces that were pushing us to nuclear war”. Just thirteen months earlier, Kennedy and Kruschev were given the opportunity to learn more about each other, to discover the beliefs and values they shared. The Accord was public acknowledgement by both great nations that they had to start somewhere to eliminate the mindset, material and pursestrings of war. Far from being a failure, the Accord may have produced precisely the hope of its design-- peace-- when all civilization was at stake.
Today we are pushed to believe that the military and its weaponry is essential for our peace and security. And yet this Accord proves that the two greatest political minds at the time believed something entirely different. What might have happened to the world if both men, over a few days in Sept. of 1961, had not the courage to proclaim their faith in man-- rather than their fear of man-- in writing for all the world to see?
*Download the remarkable 855-word McCloy-Zorin Accord, which may yet serve as a roadmap to peace, here.
by Chris Theodore