Humans beings have created so many wonderful and awe-inspiring things. From the rocket ships that take us to the moon, to vaccines that save millions of lives, from towering sky scrapers to digital phones, there are no bounds to our genius. But surely the development of nuclear weapons is not one of the things of which humans should be proud. “With the invention and use of the atomic bomb, humanity developed the means to end civilization within hours.” So states the first sentence of the book, Unmaking the Bomb, (Feiverson, Glaser, Maine & Von Hippel), a book that describes the history, production, and current stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The book proposes a set of policies to drastically reduce and ultimately eliminate these world-ending weapons from the earth.
The money spent in the last 70 years developing, testing, and maintaining nuclear weapons is almost unimaginable. Presently, the United States spends approximately $50 billion a year on nuclear weapons. That’s:
$50,000,000,000 or $50,000 Million
To put this in perspective, if you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 500,000 years to save $50 billion dollars. If you could save $10,000 every single day, it would still take you 13,699 years to save $50 billion dollars.
In the next 30 years the government has budgeted 1 Trillion dollars, (1,000,000,000,000 - a thousand billion!!) to the maintenance of existing nuclear weapons and the addition of more advanced “state of the art” nuclear weapons. How can we justify spending such an exorbitant amount of money on something that if used will wipe out the human race?
The cornerstone of the USA’s defense strategy is deterrence. Currently, there are 15,000 nuclear weapons on our planet, all but 1,000 belong to Russia and the United States. The U.S. has 1,000 missiles pointed at Russia and they have 1,000 missiles pointed at us, therefore, in theory everybody behaves. If you are in one of the 300 major cities in the U.S., there is a good chance that Russia has a missile pointing at your city. If launched, the missiles would arrive within approximately 30 minutes.
All it takes is one fanatic leader to make the sole decision to launch a nuclear weapon. We also have to consider a mass tragedy based on simple human error. A defensive strike could be launched in response to a mere misreading from a radar screen.
Even if the US is not targeted, a nuclear weapon launched anywhere else in the world could result in over 1 billion people starving to death within a few years of detonation.
Scott Sagan a Stanford University Professor and an expert on Nuclear Deterrence has said, “I believe we should work in good faith towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, even though it’s very difficult, we will be a much better world with smaller nuclear arsenals and more recessed forms of deterrence.”
In July 2017, nations from around the world met at the United Nations-sponsored conference in New York City. After a decade of advocacy by ICAN (International Campaign for the Abolishment of Nuclear Weapons) and its partners – an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons!! It is known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The Treaty received little coverage in the media but its passage was a huge event. The treaty prohibited all ratifying countries from developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. So far 22 countries have ratified the treaty. For more details on which countries have signed, go to https://www.icanw.org.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the other nuclear-armed countries (Russia, UK, France, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Israel) did not sign the treaty and declared they could never become part of the international agreement.
Even more disappointing is that the United States takes the lead in the nuclear weapons build-up. Thanks to the Trump administration’s plan to upgrade existing nuclear weapons and build new cruise and ballistic missiles, the estimated cost of the U.S. nuclear buildup rose in February 2018 to $2 trillion.
The United States and Russia control this dangerous and depressing situation. If these two nations showed leadership pursuing a staged reduction in their nuclear stockpiles, other nuclear armed countries would likely follow suit. Until the leaders from these 2 countries meet and agree on a plan to reduce, and ultimately eliminate their nuclear arsenals, this insanity will endure and the world will continue to be at the brink of a planetary calamity.