By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
In the 1970s thriller “The China Syndrome,” Michael Douglas plays a maverick cameraman who helps discover safety cover-ups at a nuclear plant. In doing so, he comes face to face with the worst-case scenario: a nuclear meltdown where components of a nuclear reactor melt through to the core of the earth "all the way to China."
Though it was a work of fiction, the story gave rise to a decades-long passion for disarmament. As a United Nations Messenger for Peace since 1988, Douglas has used his star power to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation of small arms.
For the past nine years Douglas has been on the board of the Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based think tank working on behalf of a world without nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, he stopped by the State Department to what he called "get the lay of the land" on nuclear issues and to voice concern about new drumbeats about military action against Iran over its nuclear program.
"There's lots of concern about Iran and its nuclear program, again spiking up the fact about going to war," he told reporters. "For me it gives certain echoes of late 2002 when we were hearing about Iraq.
For Douglas, "the real issue is Pakistan and its loose nukes." He urged the State Department to "embrace" nuclear states like Pakistan to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons to countries like Iran.
In tough economic times, when Congress is threatening to cut foreign aid, Douglas said he believes more money should be spent on diplomacy and less on the nuclear budget.
"I feel that the Congress is way out of line in terms of the amount of budget that they are talking about," he said, noting that entire foreign aid budget is only about 1 percent of the federal budget.
Then Douglas offered a cost-benefit analysis that could have come from his alter ego Gordon Gekko.
"People don't really take the time to understand how important diplomacy is," he said. "It takes a long time, it is quiet, but it's certainly a lot cheaper than a war."