Letting Go of Our Nukes – NYTimes.com

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TEMPE, Ariz. — PRESIDENT OBAMA recently called on Russia to join with the United States in negotiating a mutual reduction in strategic nuclear warheads that would leave each country with slightly more than 1,000. The number would be up to one-third less than what both countries agreed to deploy in the New Start treaty, reached in the president’s first term.


His speech was met with skepticism in both Congress and the Kremlin, but not for the right reasons. Critics and doubters in both countries argued that there were substantial political roadblocks to achieving this goal. In the Kremlin, America’s Europe-based missile defense system, which Russia has fiercely opposed, seems to be a stumbling block. In Congress there is broad resistance to the idea of Mr. Obama’s negotiating arms reductions without approval from the Senate.



But politics aside, several fundamental questions about the president’s speech remain: Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there? And, perhaps most important, why doesn’t the United States simply make the reduction on its own? Why do we need to negotiate with Russia?



It is hard to seriously suggest that from a national-security standpoint, 1,000 warheads are not enough to protect the United States. Such an arsenal is literally overkill, sufficient to destroy every major population center on the planet outside of our borders.



We would lose no real strategic security by such a reduction. The New Start treaty called for cuts in the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550. But even these levels are an anachronism, left over from the cold war. The president’s proposed level of 1,000 warheads would still provide an equivalent level of mutually assured destruction even against Russia, were it still a cold war aggressor. In the current climate, when more likely possible aggressors have fewer than 10 percent of this level, 1,000 weapons is more than adequate.



If we wish to convince countries like Iran that the development of nuclear weapons is not in their best interest, we need to demonstrate that maintaining or enhancing our own arsenal is not in our interest.



This is particularly important now, not just to dissuade nations like Iran from building nuclear arsenals, and others, like North Korea, from adding to theirs, but also to stem what may be a much more worrisome and unstable situation in Pakistan and India. With each country holding estimated stockpiles of around 100 weapons, and as historic tensions continue to flare between the two, the possibility of a nuclear conflagration there remains very real.



The effects of even a limited nuclear war between Pakistan and India would not be confined to that region. Scientific studies by the physicists Alan Robock of Rutgers University and Owen B. Toon of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and their colleagues found that a nuclear war in South Asia involving the detonation of even 100 Hiroshima-size weapons, far smaller than those in their arsenals, could kill as many as 20 million people from the blasts and resulting fires and radiation, and generate so much smoke that it would block 7 to 10 percent of the sunlight reaching the earth for at least a decade.




Written By: By
LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS
continue to source article at nytimes.com

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  1. ” Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there? And, perhaps most important, why doesn’t the United States simply make the reduction on its own? Why do we need to negotiate with Russia? “

    Because it is politics, not science.

  2. There are two errors:

    1. (too many bombs) accidentally triggering a war that wipes out everyone. Every extra bomb just ensures thorough mutual annihilation and ecocide. Extra bombs increase the odds of accident.
    2. (not enough bombs) not having sufficient bombs to wipe out the other side in a nuclear exchange. A small pocket of humanity is able to carry on the species.

    Logically I would think most people would prefer (2). Personally, I am not so sure. I primarily want the planet to survive, not homo sapiens. Homo sapiens will likely have to go to effect that.

    • I find your lack of faith disturbing. Faith in humanity that is of course. We can dispose of nuclear weapons if we’re smart, and I think we are smart.In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      There are two errors:

      (too many bombs) accidentally triggering a war that wipes out everyone. Every extra bomb just ensures thorough mutual annihilation and ecocide. Extra bombs increase the odds of accident.
      (not enough bombs) not having sufficient bombs to wipe out the other side in a nuclear e…

  3. 1 Neodarwin ” Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there?”

    Neodarwin, we have not waited for the proposal. People have advocated this for years. Far back in history, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko suggested unofficially that both sides could pubicly disarm, and privately keep a few bombs just in case. Lord Mountbatten, who was in his day military head of NATO, and in his own right a highly distinguished officer, also opposed nuclear weapons, and considered them militarily irrelevant. Thousands, maybe millions of people, huge numbers in the thick of politics, shared this belief. Read “The Corridors of Power,” C P Snow, to understand how the world drifted into useless military nuclearisation.

    What has prevented the change that everyone was proposing, is a combination of factors, extreme patriotism, a desire to play in the premier league of world politics, fear of neighbours, money, inertia, lack of courage, you do it first…..

    3 Aroundtown. “Religion is a first cause wedge issue between countries…”

    States act on their interests, then co-opt, or cook up belief systems to suit the situation. At the moment religion is the number one problem, but it hasn’t been always the case. Napoleon co-opted the ideology of the French Revolution to justify the invasion of the rest of Europe, and Hitler used racial superiority and a garbled version of socialism, to justify the invasion of the rest of Europe. religion played a minimal part in either case.

    Religion is a subset of BELIEF, and belief is the problem. We are easily enslaved by our propensity to believe nonsense.

    • In reply to #4 by Kevin Murrell:

      1 Neodarwin ” Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there?”

      Neodarwin, we have not waited for the proposal. People have advocated this for years. Far back in history, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko suggested unofficially that both sides could pubicly disa…

      ” 1 Neodarwin ” Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there?”

      Not my quote.

      ” Neodarwin, we have not waited for the proposal.”

      Again, not my quote so you are barking up the wrong tree here. Take it up with Krauss.

      PS: Neodarwinian.

      • In reply to #8 by Neodarwinian:

        In reply to #4 by Kevin Murrell:

        1 Neodarwin ” Why have we waited this long for such a proposal? Why are we stopping there?”

        Neodarwin, we have not waited for the proposal. People have advocated this for years. Far back in history, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko suggested unofficially…

        Sorry mate! I didn’t mean to sound like I was trying to knock you off, I just wanted to take up the thread from you, and use my immense historical and literary mind, to enlighten others. I did know that the two quotes were in inverted commas and came from the source article. Apologies for getting your name wrong,

  4. They could decommission them and use the uranium to power VASIMR nuclear-electric rocket engines on interplanetary craft or probes!

    (Nah! Too scientifically rational for power-juggling political brinkmanship!)

  5. If we wish to convince countries like Iran that the development of nuclear weapons is not in their best interest, we need to demonstrate that maintaining or enhancing our own arsenal is not in our interest.

    The reason Iran is developing nuclear weapons is not for the purpose of countering a purported nuclear threat from the US. Iran is doing this to acquire the capability to threaten and annihilate Israel. The reduction of the US nuclear arsenal would have exactly ZERO effect on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that the reduction of the US and Russia’s arsenal would not be a good thing overall. It certainly WOULD be a good thing. But when it comes to positively influencing the road map of “nuclear club wanna-be” countries lead by delusional crackpots like Khamenei or Fat Kim, such a move doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of accomplish anything.

    • In reply to #9 by NearlyNakedApe:

      The reason Iran is developing nuclear weapons is not for the purpose of countering a purported nuclear threat from the US. Iran is doing this to acquire the capability to threaten and annihilate Israel.

      I’ve never heard any compelling evidence that Iran even is developing nuclear weapons. They always claim that they aren’t and the technology to enrich uranium is pretty much the same whether you are enriching it to make weapons or energy. Its not that I take what Iran says at fave value, I don’t’, I’m more than ready to believe evidence that they are developing weapons but I want to see it first. All the US ever presents are vague claims that can’t be verified due to “national security” and often even the US intelligence community hedges their assessments, and the record of the US intelligence agencies is not very good when it comes to claims that their enemies are developing WMD. The only group that can come close to claiming impartiality and any degree of trust is the UN and they also have never claimed that Iran has a weapons program that I can recall.

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