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A U.S. nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

Coming to Our Senses Regarding Nukes

Robert Dodge

As part of President-Elect Trumps daily tweets this past week he stated:

The United States must greatly strengthen its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes. 

In his 140 character tome he proposes maintaining a status quo of the mythology of nuclear deterrence and self-assured destruction (SAD) or a “coming to senses” of the nuclear states.  As President of the United States, he will have a significant role to play in determining which path is followed. He can lead us further down the road toward nuclear annihilation or lead us at long last to nuclear abolition and a world free of nuclear weapons.  

Nuclear deterrence is indeed a myth propagated for 71 years since the beginning of the nuclear age. Rather than deterring a nuclear arms buildup, it is instead the greatest driver of the arms race as each time one nation has a new weapon, technology or expenditure then all adversaries must match and exceed that number. We are on the verge of a new nuclear arms race robbing a proposed trillion dollar expenditure from our basic human needs to rebuild our nuclear arsenals over the next 30 years. I am certain this is not the jobs program that President-Elect Trump has in mind. 

This proposal ignores the latest scientific studies showing that nuclear weapons are far more dangerous than we previously appreciated.  In a scenario evaluating one of the greatest nuclear hotspots on the planet a regional nuclear war using 100 Hiroshima size weapons, amounting to less than ½% of the global nuclear arsenals, could result in the killing of up to 2 billion people on the planet from the climate change and global famine that would follow - a suicide bombing the likes of which the world has never seen. Civilization as we know it would end as these climatic changes would last over the next two decades.  

Any nuclear exchange by the nuclear superpowers would be far more devastating. The use of the nuclear weapons remaining after the New Start Treaty is fully implemented next year would most likely cause the extinction of the human race. 

These facts were totally ignored throughout this year’s presidential campaign allowing candidates and even President-elect Trump to give lip service that nuclear weapons are very dangerous. The candidates were never asked if they even knew of the consequences of using nuclear weapons and under what circumstances they would actually propose using them in this game ending scenario.  As though playing a game, the candidates were given a free pass card.  President-Elect Trump continuously posed questions throughout the election season from “why we couldn’t use the weapons since we had them” and “why shouldn’t more nations be allowed to have them” in addition to avoiding answering whether he would use them in the Middle East and Europe. 

This nuclear famine scenario is one that does not have to be. There is an alternative. Recognizing the non-survivability of nuclear war and refusing to be held hostage any longer by the nuclear powers, the non-nuclear nations of the world, the world medical associations and much of civil society including the International Red Cross have long “come to their senses”.  Led by 123 nations representing a majority of the world’s population a nuclear weapons ban treaty will be negotiated at the United Nations this next year.  This treaty will ban nuclear weapons just as every other weapon of mass destruction, from chemical to biological weapons and landmines have been banned.  Finally, the deadliest of these immoral weapons will be outlawed. From that point forth only pariah nations acting outside the realm of international law will continue to maintain nuclear arsenals.  We invite President- Elect Trump to join this effort in leading the charge. 

Mr. Trump has an affection for greatness when it comes to his vision. He can either be the president who saves us from the greatest humanitarian and public health threat of nuclear war or he can lead us to the greatest feat of any president – that of nuclear abolition. The world and ultimately the fate of mankind awaits with apprehension his decision. 


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Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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