Recently two op-eds appeared in the Star about the issue of nuclear weapons. One urged that we upgrade and replace all current missiles, submarines, aircraft and land-based silos. The other argued that we maintain our current arsenal and use the trillions of dollars for urgent needs in our country.
A real solution has been proposed by 122 nations of the United Nations in the summer of 2017 targeting all nine of the nuclear weapons-holding nations. The U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now circulating to all nations for ratification. When ratified by 50 it will become international law. It is incumbent upon all citizens, political parties, municipal governments, states, and elected representatives to support this treaty. Our global survival is at stake.
If one nuclear weapon were launched by mistake, either from Russia to the U.S. or vice versa., it would set in motion a counter-launch sequence with computer programs choosing which cities and targets were to be destroyed. Tucson, with Raytheon and the Air Force facilities, would be prime targets. There have been many near launches, often a error caused by one person and catastrophe averted by the corrective actions of a second person. President Jimmy Carter has said that “it hasn’t happened yet, but it only has to happen once.”
A bill pending now in Congress is “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons” S.200 and HR 921. It does allow for retaliation. Our Arizona Senate and House representatives should support these measures.
A missile once launched can not be recalled. The destruction would be devastating to both sides, with no meaningful recovery possible.
Our current U.S. course bends toward planetary destruction. Unimaginably powerful weapons are ingeniously developed, and then control is placed in the hands of leaders of dubious stability and competence. The U.S. and Russia each have 1,500 nuclear weapons ready to launch.
Ira Helfand, an expert on nuclear weapons, has described in detail the effect of a nuclear attack on a city of 2.8 million:
“Within 1/1000 of a second, a fireball would form enveloping downtown and reaching out for two miles in every direction from ground zero. Temperatures would rise to 20 million degrees Fahrenheit, and everything, buildings, trees, cars and people would be vaporized. Out to a distance of two to four miles, the blast would produce pressures of 25 pounds per square inch and winds in excess of 650 miles per hour. These titanic forces would rip buildings apart and level everything, reinforced concrete and steel structures ...”
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at their meeting in 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland, came close to concluding an agreement to abolish all nuclear weapons. Reagan’s insistence of maintaining a strategic missile defense system sunk that opportunity. But to quote Reagan:
“A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” And Gorbachev: “It is my firm belief that the infinite uncontrollable fury of nuclear weapons should never be held in the hands of any mere mortal ever again, for any reason.”
And consider this, from President Trump after being briefed on the issue: “If we can’t use them then why do we have them?”
Unfortunately that sensible question has been lost by every administration in recent history. Albert Einstein said: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything save the mode of man’s thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”
Abolishing and verifying the end of nuclear weapons is the right policy.