Earth Day and Nukes

Stop the Madness and Save the Planet

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Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Today is Earth Day: a good day to commit ourselves to saving the earth from the ravages of nuclear war. Global warming may get us in the long term, but nothing will kill the planet quicker than a nuclear war.

I’ve written a lot about the folly, the greed, the absurdity, of yet another round of “investment” in nuclear weapons.  There’s no need for an updated nuclear triad when the present triad is more than enough to destroy the earth and probably several other planets as well.

America’s nuclear triad currently consists of land-based ICBMs (Minuteman III), bombers like the B-1 and B-2, and submarines that carry nuclear-tipped missiles.  The Pentagon plans to “modernize” all these “legs” of the triad at a possible total cost of $2 trillion over the next 30 years.

First off, land-based ICBMs and nuclear bombers are no longer needed. The ICBMs are especially vulnerable to attack, putting pressure on DC decisionmakers to launch them quickly in case of a warning (perhaps false) of a nuclear attack against their silos.

All the U.S. truly needs for deterrence is the current Ohio-class sub force with its Trident II missiles. That force can be modernized without an entirely new class of sub being built, which is perhaps why we’re seeing ads about building new submarines as “job-creators.”

In the USA, more nukes are “justified” most often by threat inflation (or even threat creation) and military Keynesianism – morally dubious claims that jobs are created by building genocidal weapons and doomsday machines.

Speaking of America’s submarines and their missiles: Each Trident II D5 missile has up to 8 warheads, with up to 20 missiles per submarine.  One submarine could conceivably destroy 160 targets, with each of those warheads having a “yield” of somewhere between 5 and 25 Hiroshima bombs.  That arsenal, if launched, could very well tip the world into nuclear winter while killing tens of millions of people outright. A nuclear winter would kill billions. From one sub! And the Navy has 14 of them!

Senator George McGovern in 1963 complained about the absurd nuclear “overkill” the U.S. possesses.  Just over 60 years ago, some members of Congress vowed to do something to stop the madness.  And then came Vietnam … and so many other wars and rumors of war.

We Americans are so easily distracted by war and propagandized into believing that safety comes from swinging the biggest nuclear club.

Anyone who thinks about nuclear weapons and war games in the abstract should watch this scene from “Terminator II.”  It’s perhaps the best, most visceral, image of what one nuclear bomb would produce.

“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.” The more nuclear weapons we build, the darker our fate becomes, and the closer we come to terminating ourselves and our planet.

On this Earth Day, the U.S. should commit itself to a “no first use” policy with respect to using nuclear weapons and to total nuclear disarmament, to be achieved over the next 20-30 years.

Something like a JFK-like vow is needed here: Before the decade is out, America should commit itself to halving its nuclear forces, working with other countries on the goal of nuclear disarmament.

Only the future of humanity, as well as that of the earth and all living things, is at stake here.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.

3 thoughts on “Earth Day and Nukes”

  1. Kennedy and Israel’s Ben-Gurion exchanged terse letters over the prospect of Israel getting the bomb. Kennedy figured, correctly, that if Israel got the bomb, Israel would be more belligerent in the ME.

    1. Did Lee Harvey Oswald kill JFK for not being too close for comfort with Israel? I always thought it was because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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