Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Nuclear Armed World is a Polite World

President Obama has been making a lot of noise about nuclear nonproliferation lately. One of his visions, which he has held since he first moved to Hyde Park and his education by the great progressive thinkers began, is a nuclear-weapon-free world. This is a very dangerous vision. The greatest deterrent to war that the world has ever known is nuclear power. Before the development nuclear weapons, industrialization had grown the size of war beyond everything that the world had known up to that point. In the two world wars of the 20th Century, a total of 98 million people were killed. Larger, more mobile, and more long-range weapons made it much easier to create massive destruction on a very large scale. But at the end of World War 2, a game-changing weapon made its debut. The atomic bomb.

The atomic bomb, and later development of the hydrogen bomb, has raised the threat of assured-destruction of anyone who starts a major war against a nuclear power. With all due respect to my hero, Barry Goldwater, it is not "just another weapon". To this day, no nuclear power has ever attacked another nuclear power directly, despite some of them being enemies: United States - Soviet Union and Pakistan - India, specifically. There is always a threat of nuclear arms falling into the hands of a suicidal madman, and we should work to prevent that. But for most countries and world leaders, even crazy ones like Kim Jong-Il, the threat of mutually-assured destruction is enough to keep them from using nuclear weapons. Even with world-dictator visions, the threat of France destroying Berlin and Munich at the push of a couple of buttons would have given Hitler second thoughts. And conventional weapons have advanced to the point that a non-nuclear world war could be even more destructive today.

Now I'm not necessarily saying that the steps President Barack Obama have taken so far are wrong. Just because the United States needs nuclear weapons to prevent world war doesn't necessarily mean that we need 10,000 of them, or 2500 on trigger-alert. A country having an enormous nuclear arsenal is like an individual having a 50-gun personal arsenal. The increased safety beyond having enough weapons to protect yourself is almost nil, and might be outweighed by the marginally increased chance of accident. It might be possible to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal significantly, and save some money in the process. He might even get to 5% of his desired $100,000,000 in savings by reducing the arsenal to some more reasonable size. It's just that his vision is dangerous, and would kill any eventual prospect of world peace.