The US Should Never Start a Nuclear War

Seventy-four years ago this week, the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was one of the most horrific acts of warfare in history.

This month, we remember the 200,000 or more civilian men, women, and children who died, and the many thousands more who suffered radiation poisoning, infections, severe burns, deadly cancers, and birth defects. We remember so we can prevent that atrocity from happening again.

Alongside climate change, nuclear weapons pose one of the gravest risks to human survival. That’s why I was delighted to see a historic moment at the recent Democratic debate: presidential candidates actually talking about establishing a No First Use policy on nuclear weapons.

Simply put, No First Use refers to an explicit policy of refusing to initiate a nuclear conflict. It means we won’t use nuclear weapons unless attacked first.

When asked, most Americans think the United States already has that policy. The vast majority of us, with the exception of people like National Security Adviser John Bolton, don’t want our country to start a nuclear war.

But we don’t have that policy – yet.

That opens the door to a possible preemptive nuclear strike – either by us, or against us. Right now, at any moment, any sitting US president can unilaterally decide to launch a nuclear attack. In about as long as it takes to send a tweet, we’d have a nuclear war.

Other nuclear-armed countries know that. And if they think we might strike first, or mistakenly believe we launched already, that could incentivize them to hit us first. That’s exactly what No First Use is designed to prevent.

We need it more than ever. Today, the Doomsday Clock is at just two minutes to midnight – the closest we’ve been to nuclear conflict since 1953, at the height of the Cold War. And unlike in 1953, we know ducking under a school desk isn’t going to save us.

My organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, was founded to raise the alarm about the health impacts of nuclear weapons and the risks of nuclear war. We’ve researched everything from nuclear winter to what a nuclear war could mean for human health.

So, let us be the first to tell you: The US is playing an elaborate, high-stakes, screwed-up game of chicken with other nuclear-armed countries.

Since the Cold War, the prevailing thinking is that we need nuclear weapons to discourage other countries from using their nuclear weapons. That’s supposedly why we keep amassing them, even though just one has the power to destroy whole civilizations – just so people know we’re really serious.

But that thinking is reckless and dangerous. Arming up encourages other countries to do the same, which increases the risk of someone launching a first strike.

The risk of nuclear conflict is at an all-time high thanks to the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, our failed attempts to broker a deal with North Korea, and our tensions with Russia because, as usual, we’re reheating the Cold War.

Worst of all, the United States has withdrawn from the vital 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which helped eliminate over 2,600 intermediate-range missiles. That tangible progress in stabilization and disarmament is now at risk.

The United States should never start a nuclear war, because no one can ever win one. We should’ve established a No First Use policy long ago, but it’s not too late to start one now.

Seventy-four years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s one of several much-needed steps to prevent nuclear conflict – and ultimately end the nuclear threat for good.

Olivia Alperstein is the Media Relations Manager for Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Originally published by OtherWords.

5 thoughts on “The US Should Never Start a Nuclear War”

  1. Agreed, but this would be more credible if you would skip the “climate change” reference. Were talking about real flesh and blood victims of any nuclear strike – and a possible end of civilization scenario. For real – not some flaky climate hypothesis.

    1. Agree with Leszek about “Climate Change,” the PC phrase now being Climate “Catastrophe.” PSR was founded and was one of the organizations that shared a Nobel Peace Prize for its opposition to nuclear weapons in 1985. In those days it also emphasized the need for dialogue between Russia and the US and it was headed by outstanding physicians like Dr. Bernard Lown.
      Now in the era of , PSR is largely silent on the new Russophobia that is peddled by the neocons, the Deep State and the Hillaryites dominating the Dem Party. Shame.
      PSR has joined the Establishment media in giving attention to Climate “Catastrophe” the precise nature of which is unclear. But drastic climate change depends on very complex and uncertain models which nuclear Armageddon does not. And those models have already failed enormously. Moreover, no scientist claims that climate change will lead to the wiping out of most all of humanity which is the likely result of nuclear holocaust. And nuclear holocaust will occur at once. There will be no going back and no century for human ingenuity to remediate the problems that occur.
      PSR’s disappointing performance in this regard is not unique.
      Back in the golden days of PSR prominent and highly intelligent physicians were the spokespeople for the national organization. That is no longer the case. Sad.

  2. I think a few hundred 5 to 50 megaton thermo nuclear warheads poses a considerably greater threat to humanity than the entirely made up global warming drivel which at worst would make growing food a hell of a lot easier in a lot of the world. The record cold and crop failures that actually appear to be happening might well be a vastly greater problem but even so I’d prefer that to radioactive wastelands every where.

  3. ‘The risk of nuclear conflict is at an all-time high…’ Historically, the pattern shows nations end up getting the very war they seek to avoid, often operating under the illusion that the fateful conflict can avoided, limited in scale or even won. If the fundamentals are with you victory can be guaranteed: the fundamentals are against everyone is a nuclear war. What is firstly needed is for the nuclear powers to realize this, to avoid getting into a dispute they cannot back down from. If not, we will soon face a third world war in a century – probably the last.

  4. Right, so if the USA declares a “No First Strike” nuclear policy the rest of the world will believe them?
    Like the Iranians?
    Like the Pakistanis?
    Like the Russians or Chinese?
    Get real, who cares what politicians say it is what they do that counts and you can count on politicians to lie and lie and lie.
    Trump has already given all control to the Generals and his tweets notwithstanding they will do what they think is best.

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