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Obama’s Nuke-Free World

Andrew Grotto debates in the Los Angeles Times President Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons.

See if you can place this scene:

At the height of a high-stakes bilateral summit, the American president turns to his Russian counterpart and suggests they get rid of nuclear weapons. The Russian president replies, "We can do that. We can eliminate them all." The U.S. secretary of State says, "Let’s do it."

Is it from the TV show "The West Wing," with its idealistic U.S. president, Jed Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen? No, but here’s a hint: This bit of reality was captured on location in Reykjavik, Iceland. Still stumped? Here’s another clue, though it’s a bit of a giveaway: One of the players in the scene was an actor.

The actor, of course, was Ronald Reagan, and the scene was the 1986 Reykjavik summit. President Reagan’s counterpart was Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and the U.S. secretary of State was George Shultz.

Fast forward more than two decades, and a new U.S. president has echoed Reagan’s call. In a speech on April 5 in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, President Obama endorsed the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Reagan’s ambitious proposal was still-born because he refused to give up the sci-fi fantasy of space-based missile defense — a non-starter for Gorbachev.

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