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President Obama Calls for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons





Moonspider
Recently President Obama made a speech regarding nuclear weapons:

Quote:
Obama launches effort to reduce nuclear arms

By MARK S. SMITH

PRAGUE (AP) — President Barack Obama on Sunday launched an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons, calling them "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War" and saying the U.S. has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation to ever use one.

In a speech driven with fresh urgency by North Korea's rocket launch just hours earlier, Obama said the U.S. would "immediately and aggressively" seek ratification of a comprehensive ban on testing nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. would host a summit within the next year on reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, and he called for a global effort to secure nuclear material.

"Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction," Obama said to a bustling crowd of more than 20,000 in an old square outside the Prague Castle gates.

"This fatalism is a deadly adversary," he said. "For if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable."


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation. However completely eliminating nuclear weapons is not realistic and at worst downright dangerous. When the president of the United States publicly makes this a goal, he and therefore the U.S. appear both naïve and weak.

One cannot turn back the technological clock.

Such a policy is naïve and dangerous because it makes an unrealistic assumption: that all nations and their leaders can be expected to abide by such a restriction. Of course there would be oversight and inspections, but any nation can hide a few warheads from prying eyes and most likely would do so, if for no other reason than they don’t trust other nations to abide by it! At a future date, stating that your nation possesses no nuclear weapons exposes your nation to nuclear black mail and/or attack. You have no strategic deterrent and nothing but the word of your adversaries that they don’t either. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Yes the danger is tremendous if there’s a full exchange. But you can’t take the knowledge away, therefore even if you do supposedly eliminate nuclear weapons stockpiles, the risk of rogue or terrorist attacks of a limited nature will always exist and still increase with time.

Besides, who wants a world without nuclear weapons? Since 1945 no two major powers have engaged in war with one another. Want to imagine a world without nuclear weapons? Just look at history! What was the world like before 1945?

  1. World War II
  2. World War I
  3. Russo-Japanese War
  4. Spanish-American War
  5. Crimean War
  6. Napoleonic Wars


If not for nuclear weapons, I believe World War III would have followed World War II within a decade.

“Oh, but we’ve advanced since then,” some may cry. Nonsense! We’re a warring species and no amount of idealism is going to change the nature of who we are. And ironically, the threat of utter annihilation has managed to keep peace between world powers for more years than our ancestors experienced. Removing that threat (if you could) by eliminating all nuclear weapons would make another world war more likely not less, because nations would once again believe that they could achieve their goals through war with acceptable costs.

Respectfully,
M
Solon_Poledourus
Moonspider wrote:
Since 1945 no two major powers have engaged in war with one another.

Accept the US and Iraq, which had the largest military in the Middle East until the 2003 invasion. It would be nice to have no nukes, but you are right, it's a pipe dream.
Xanatos
Solon_Poledourus wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Since 1945 no two major powers have engaged in war with one another.

Accept the US and Iraq, which had the largest military in the Middle East until the 2003 invasion. It would be nice to have no nukes, but you are right, it's a pipe dream.


I wouldn't have put Iraq under the major world powers category.
deanhills
Moonspider wrote:
Recently President Obama made a speech regarding nuclear weapons:

Quote:
Obama launches effort to reduce nuclear arms

By MARK S. SMITH

PRAGUE (AP) — President Barack Obama on Sunday launched an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons, calling them "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War" and saying the U.S. has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation to ever use one.

In a speech driven with fresh urgency by North Korea's rocket launch just hours earlier, Obama said the U.S. would "immediately and aggressively" seek ratification of a comprehensive ban on testing nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. would host a summit within the next year on reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, and he called for a global effort to secure nuclear material.

"Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction," Obama said to a bustling crowd of more than 20,000 in an old square outside the Prague Castle gates.

"This fatalism is a deadly adversary," he said. "For if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable."


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation. However completely eliminating nuclear weapons is not realistic and at worst downright dangerous. When the president of the United States publicly makes this a goal, he and therefore the U.S. appear both naïve and weak.

One cannot turn back the technological clock.

Such a policy is naïve and dangerous because it makes an unrealistic assumption: that all nations and their leaders can be expected to abide by such a restriction. Of course there would be oversight and inspections, but any nation can hide a few warheads from prying eyes and most likely would do so, if for no other reason than they don’t trust other nations to abide by it! At a future date, stating that your nation possesses no nuclear weapons exposes your nation to nuclear black mail and/or attack. You have no strategic deterrent and nothing but the word of your adversaries that they don’t either. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Yes the danger is tremendous if there’s a full exchange. But you can’t take the knowledge away, therefore even if you do supposedly eliminate nuclear weapons stockpiles, the risk of rogue or terrorist attacks of a limited nature will always exist and still increase with time.

Besides, who wants a world without nuclear weapons? Since 1945 no two major powers have engaged in war with one another. Want to imagine a world without nuclear weapons? Just look at history! What was the world like before 1945?

  1. World War II
  2. World War I
  3. Russo-Japanese War
  4. Spanish-American War
  5. Crimean War
  6. Napoleonic Wars


If not for nuclear weapons, I believe World War III would have followed World War II within a decade.

“Oh, but we’ve advanced since then,” some may cry. Nonsense! We’re a warring species and no amount of idealism is going to change the nature of who we are. And ironically, the threat of utter annihilation has managed to keep peace between world powers for more years than our ancestors experienced. Removing that threat (if you could) by eliminating all nuclear weapons would make another world war more likely not less, because nations would once again believe that they could achieve their goals through war with acceptable costs.

Respectfully,
M

This is another excellent posting with plenty of insights. Thanks so much for this Moonspider as I have had all of those feelings while I was listening to Obama's speech. Some of it was good, but there was just too much of it that was completely unnecessary and completely out of kilter along the lines you explained in your posting. All I could think about is that this policy should have been one that should have been cleared domestically in the United States first. I was thinking of the years of interaction between senior politicians, foreign office officials, military and intelligence agencies dealings with their equivalents overseas, and totally cringing in their insides. Obama may have lost valuable support from some of his senior government officials, including the foreign office and military. I also thought he went overboard in his details about Iran. It could have been less emphasized as this is such a sensitive issue in the Middle East right now. In the end I had to conclude that this was an ego thing and that possibly Obama and his wife completely got carried away with the accolades, which are nice of course, but that are as transitory as they come.
handfleisch
Moonspider wrote:


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation.


Are you aware that Obama said that eliminating nuclear weapons most likely couldn't be accomplished even in his lifetime? So really, since you are for the reduction of nuclear weapons, you basically support Obama's program.

Otherwise, it would be like an morbidly obese person not wanting to cut down on his daily binges because he's afraid of starving someday.
Solon_Poledourus
Xanatos wrote:
I wouldn't have put Iraq under the major world powers category.

Except for the fact that pre-2003, they were the biggest military in the Middle East, and before 1991 they were a major contender on the world stage.

Back on topic:
I have no idea why Obama would even mention this as a goal. Other than to get cozy with the far left political groups. Nothing more than a lofty soundbite lacking in substance.
Xanatos
Solon_Poledourus wrote:
Xanatos wrote:
I wouldn't have put Iraq under the major world powers category.

Except for the fact that pre-2003, they were the biggest military in the Middle East, and before 1991 they were a major contender on the world stage.


We'll just have to agree to disagree here as we obviously have different ideas about the criteria for world power status.
ocalhoun
Xanatos wrote:
Solon_Poledourus wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Since 1945 no two major powers have engaged in war with one another.

Accept the US and Iraq, which had the largest military in the Middle East until the 2003 invasion. It would be nice to have no nukes, but you are right, it's a pipe dream.


I wouldn't have put Iraq under the major world powers category.

You think that the USA would have invaded Iraq if Iraq had nukes? All Saddam would have had to say would be "If your troops cross this line, I'm nuking them." That would have effectively stopped the invasion in its tracks.
handfleisch wrote:
Moonspider wrote:


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation.


Are you aware that Obama said that eliminating nuclear weapons most likely couldn't be accomplished even in his lifetime? So really, since you are for the reduction of nuclear weapons, you basically support Obama's program.

No, there is a major fundamental difference between wanting to reduce them and wanting to eliminate them. One maintains good deterrence, one does not. One is possible, the other is not. How long it takes to complete either one is irrelevant.
handfleisch wrote:

Otherwise, it would be like an morbidly obese person not wanting to cut down on his daily binges because he's afraid of starving someday.

No, it would be like the city police saying to the criminals of that town: "We'll stop carrying guns if you do, and in a gesture of good faith, we'll get rid of ours first."
If the criminals of the city ALL agreed and were all totally trustworthy, it would be an ideal solution, but they are not.

Moonspider is right: You can't turn back time technologically, no matter how much 'better' the world would be.
(And I also agree that nukes have definitely already prevented wars. Without the threat of nuclear exchange, Vietnam or Korea could have easily escalated to involve the whole region, and possibly triggered another world war.)
deanhills
Solon_Poledourus wrote:
Back on topic:
I have no idea why Obama would even mention this as a goal. Other than to get cozy with the far left political groups. Nothing more than a lofty soundbite lacking in substance.

Absolutely agreed. At the beginning of the speech I was impressed and he had me on his side, then as he laboured on in the gory details I realized that the speech was written for specific audiences, and possibly he neglected the most important one, which is the one back home. I'm sure many of the top people in Government are waiting for his return to discuss the merits of the details of his speech.
ocalhoun
deanhills wrote:
and possibly he neglected the most important one, which is the one back home.

Probably not. The average Joe doesn't understand how nukes can prevent wars and/or reduce the intensity of the ones that do happen. Most people will wholeheartedly agree with getting rid of all nukes, without considering the downsides, because they've had the message nukes=bad pounded into their heads.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
Probably not. The average Joe doesn't understand how nukes can prevent wars and/or reduce the intensity of the ones that do happen. Most people will wholeheartedly agree with getting rid of all nukes, without considering the downsides, because they've had the message nukes=bad pounded into their heads.
Agreed, I can see that. How I meant it, coming from my previous postings in this thread was that perhaps this kind of "news", such as holding a Nuclear Summit in the United States, should have been announced in the United States first. Also that he may have succeeded in getting a few noses out of joint in the top millitary, intelligence services and foreign service. He went overboard and is obviously inexperienced. Perhaps his sincere enthusiasm may carry him through for a few times, but eventually he is going to rub people up the wrong way by giving too many details at public forums, obviously for drumming up his own ratings in the first place.
Moonspider
handfleisch wrote:
Moonspider wrote:


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation.


Are you aware that Obama said that eliminating nuclear weapons most likely couldn't be accomplished even in his lifetime? So really, since you are for the reduction of nuclear weapons, you basically support Obama's program.

Otherwise, it would be like an morbidly obese person not wanting to cut down on his daily binges because he's afraid of starving someday.


Yes, I am aware that he said that. But I do not support President Obama’s plan because I do not support the elimination of nuclear weapons. I have no problem with reducing nuclear weapons to a point. Enough nuclear warheads must always remain n the respective inventories to completely annihilate an adversary’s country. If numbers are reduced below that, deterrence is lost and the world becomes strategically less stable. Or worse, if another nuclear power perceives that warhead numbers and capability have been reduced enough that they could launch a first strike with minimal risk to themselves and a high expectation of success, the world would be in much worse shape than it is now, when powers shudder at the thought of “pressing the button” for fear of a catastrophic counter-strike leaving their nation nothing more than a chapter in a history book.

Reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles provides advantages unrelated to war with another nuclear super power. Inventory and maintenance costs can be reduced. Inventory control is easier to maintain. (This is especially necessary in nations where the likelihood of a security compromise may be high.) And treaty verification may be accomplished with a higher degree of reliability.

The difference in your analogy and my position is that given a natural course of events, the effects of obesity will eventually kill a person. True, large nuclear weapon stockpiles could eventually be used to their full extent, bringing the human species to the verge of extinction, if not killing us off completely. However, unlike an obese person, remaining fat with nuclear weapons may actually save lives if the weapons are never actually used. There’s no guarantee that they’ll eventually be used. But history has shown that they give nations pause.

Just take the death toll from wars 1946 - 2006 and compare that to the death toll from wars 1885 – 1945. I haven’t looked at it myself, but I feel comfortable claiming that the past sixty years saw fewer war deaths than in the sixty years after 1885.

Now imagine World War III breaking out in 1948 or 1949 between the USSR and the United States and her allies as a direct result of the Berlin blockade. I fully believe this would have been the most likely outcome if not for the United States possessing nuclear weapons.

Suppose at some point, even after President Obama is dead, nuclear weapons are eliminated. What if a war breaks out between the world’s greatest powers? How long do you honestly believe it will take for one of those warring nations to deploy a nuclear weapon to tip the balance of the war?

Deterrence works. Is it the ideal solution? No. But it’s the realistic and proven one.

Ideal solutions only work in ideal societies. And ideal societies are only made up of ideal people.

Respectfully,
M
Moonspider
handfleisch wrote:
Moonspider wrote:


While I believe his goal to be a noble dream, it is nothing more and certainly nothing upon which a policy should be based. Such an ideal is suitable only as a plot element in a science-fiction or political novel.

I have no problem with nuclear arms reduction talks and efforts at non-proliferation.


Are you aware that Obama said that eliminating nuclear weapons most likely couldn't be accomplished even in his lifetime? So really, since you are for the reduction of nuclear weapons, you basically support Obama's program.

Otherwise, it would be like an morbidly obese person not wanting to cut down on his daily binges because he's afraid of starving someday.


Yes, I am aware that he said that. But I do not support President Obama’s plan because I do not support the elimination of nuclear weapons. I have no problem with reducing nuclear weapons to a point. Enough nuclear warheads must always remain n the respective inventories to completely annihilate an adversary’s country. If numbers are reduced below that, deterrence is lost and the world becomes strategically less stable. Or worse, if another nuclear power perceives that warhead numbers and capability have been reduced enough that they could launch a first strike with minimal risk to themselves and a high expectation of success, the world would be in much worse shape than it is now, when powers shudder at the thought of “pressing the button” for fear of a catastrophic counter-strike leaving their nation nothing more than a chapter in a history book.

Reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles provides advantages unrelated to war with another nuclear super power. Inventory and maintenance costs can be reduced. Inventory control is easier to maintain. (This is especially necessary in nations where the likelihood of a security compromise may be high.) And treaty verification may be accomplished with a higher degree of reliability.

The difference in your analogy and my position is that given a natural course of events, the effects of obesity will eventually kill a person. True, large nuclear weapon stockpiles could eventually be used to their full extent, bringing the human species to the verge of extinction, if not killing us off completely. However, unlike an obese person, remaining fat with nuclear weapons may actually save lives if the weapons are never actually used. There’s no guarantee that they’ll eventually be used. But history has shown that they give nations pause.

Just take the death toll from wars 1946 - 2006 and compare that to the death toll from wars 1885 – 1945. I haven’t looked at it myself, but I feel comfortable claiming that the past sixty years saw fewer war deaths than in the sixty years after 1885.

Now imagine World War III breaking out in 1948 or 1949 between the USSR and the United States and her allies as a direct result of the Berlin blockade. I fully believe this would have been the most likely outcome if not for the United States possessing nuclear weapons.

Suppose at some point, even after President Obama is dead, nuclear weapons are eliminated. What if a war breaks out between the world’s greatest powers? How long do you honestly believe it will take for one of those warring nations to deploy a nuclear weapon to tip the balance of the war?

Deterrence works. Is it the ideal solution? No. But it’s the realistic and proven one.

Ideal solutions only work in ideal societies. And ideal societies are only made up of ideal people.

Respectfully,
M
Bikerman
Hmm...a strong case, I grant.
Here's another position, however.
The deterrence effect of nukes is predicated upon rational response. Now, we are frequently informed that terrorists are not rational and, in fact, many terrorist groups (particularly, it must be said, Muslim groups) make a virtue of their willingness, if not longing, to die in the cause. Witness the statements by Ossma Bin Laden and other Al-Queda members, exemplified by the statement of Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri
Quote:
We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom.
Now, in the face of that ideology, nuclear deterrence is useless.
That leaves deterrence against other states. Who, exactly, is this mutually assured destruction supposed to impress? The Russians? Hardly. The Chinese? Doubtful - all China has to do is to continue to play the 'long game'. The Iranians? Don't be silly.
The fact is that the adversaries that the US faces in the 21st century are not likely to be impressed by the threat of nuclear destruction because they know fine well that the US is not going to use nukes in any conceivable conflict and that future 'dominance' will be via financial rather than military means.
handfleisch
What Bikerman said^. Besides the fact that Mutually Assured Destruction and the logic of nuclear weapons doesn't work with terrorists, keeping nuclear weapons and fissile materials out of the hands of terrorists in the first place is a main part of the plan.

Restarting of START, if you will, will require an organized effort to mutually monitor and reduce the means of production of such materials plus a drastic reduction in the number of warheads. I believe most reasonable people see the common sense value in those goals. I believe some people's fear of the elimination of nuclear weapons is a bit silly, because that goal is far, far away, and you would have to be against any reduction at all to have a problem with starting the process. Right now the US and Russia have about 5000 nukes each which could destroy human life on earth whatever hundreds or thousands of times over. Even the most optimistic don't think Obama could achieve, for example, a level of 1000 nukes per country with his time in office, and that would still be plenty to destroy the world many times over. So supporters of deterrence could still feel satisfied while the threat of accidents turning into world enders, or terrorists getting nukes, would greatly diminished.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
Hmm...a strong case, I grant.
Here's another position, however.
The deterrence effect of nukes is predicated upon rational response. Now, we are frequently informed that terrorists are not rational and, in fact, many terrorist groups (particularly, it must be said, Muslim groups) make a virtue of their willingness, if not longing, to die in the cause. Witness the statements by Ossma Bin Laden and other Al-Queda members, exemplified by the statement of Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri
Quote:
We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom.
Now, in the face of that ideology, nuclear deterrence is useless.
That leaves deterrence against other states. Who, exactly, is this mutually assured destruction supposed to impress? The Russians? Hardly. The Chinese? Doubtful - all China has to do is to continue to play the 'long game'. The Iranians? Don't be silly.
The fact is that the adversaries that the US faces in the 21st century are not likely to be impressed by the threat of nuclear destruction because they know fine well that the US is not going to use nukes in any conceivable conflict and that future 'dominance' will be via financial rather than military means.
Hmmm .... there is one threat that has been left out, asteroids from outer space? If all countries reduce their nuclear armaments, would that then reduce the world capability of dealing with threats that come from objects from space that are on a collision course with earth?
Bikerman
deanhills wrote:
Hmmm .... there is one threat that has been left out, asteroids from outer space? If all countries reduce their nuclear armaments, would that then reduce the world capability of dealing with threats that come from objects from space that are on a collision course with earth?
A bit of a straw-man argument that. Nuclear armaments for use on earth are not much use for blowing up asteroids - even if that was a good idea, which most scientists think it isn't. You need a completely different delivery mechanism than the traditional long range missile technology.
ocalhoun
Suppose that someone succeeded in getting every nation in the world to accept a treaty completely banning nuclear weapons. Then, suppose that actually getting rid of them was successful, and we had a nuke-free world. The knowledge of how to make them was not lost, though, and it slowly spread. Now, a third-world country is taken over by a militant revolutionary leader, and the old government is overthrown. This leader, once in power, immediately starts an intensive nuclear weapons program, and it looks like he'll soon succeed in making nukes, because his spies were able to acquire old Russian military designs for nukes, production equipment, and missiles.
What then?
There is no option of deterrence, even though it would probably work. (The new leader of the country wants to still have a country to rule, after all.)
Impose sanctions and pass meaningless resolutions? (We've already seen how poorly that works in deterring a nation from trying to build nukes.)
Invade before he finishes building any? "Regime change"? (In that case, the lack of nukes would have cost lives, not saved them.)

Moonspider wrote:

Suppose at some point, even after President Obama is dead, nuclear weapons are eliminated. What if a war breaks out between the world’s greatest powers? How long do you honestly believe it will take for one of those warring nations to deploy a nuclear weapon to tip the balance of the war?

A very good point.
Both the USA and Germany (Russia too? I'm not sure) were developing nuclear weapons during a conventional war, with the intention of using them to win the war. (Which, may I remind you, was the only circumstance in history that resulted in the use of nuclear weapons...)

For a nation that already knew how to build them, how long would it take to make one from scratch in an emergency?
Bikerman wrote:

The fact is that the adversaries that the US faces in the 21st century are not likely to be impressed by the threat of nuclear destruction because they know fine well that the US is not going to use nukes in any conceivable conflict and that future 'dominance' will be via financial rather than military means.

That's a little short-sighted, isn't it? What about the enemies of the 22nd and 23rd centuries?

Our enemies today don't threaten us the way the USSR did because that example showed that a straightforward military conflict between nuclear powers isn't productive. That's why today's adversaries fight by willingness to die, hiding, or through peaceful economic means. It may be that without nukes, China or other countries would be a military threat, but since the ultimate weapon stands as a deterrence, they don't want to draw themselves into a pointless mutually-assured-destruction standoff.
sondosia
Nuclear weapons make the world safer.

I know that's an extremely controversial thing to say, but it's true. The person who said it earlier in this thread is correct: since WWII, no two major world powers have been at war with each other. Sure, we've had the Gulf War and the Iraq war and the Vietnam War, but do those really compare with the two World Wars and what came before? Those were horrible. War is becoming, well, less deadly. And it will continue to do so. Maybe in the future, war will be fought virtually and with no deaths at all, because the physical weapons each country has would cause devastation to the planet if actually used. Who knows.
Bikerman
sondosia wrote:
Nuclear weapons make the world safer.

I know that's an extremely controversial thing to say, but it's true. The person who said it earlier in this thread is correct: since WWII, no two major world powers have been at war with each other. Sure, we've had the Gulf War and the Iraq war and the Vietnam War, but do those really compare with the two World Wars and what came before? Those were horrible. War is becoming, well, less deadly. And it will continue to do so. Maybe in the future, war will be fought virtually and with no deaths at all, because the physical weapons each country has would cause devastation to the planet if actually used. Who knows.

The logic of that is that every country should have nuclear weapons so that no other country could think about starting a war. Is that something you seriously wish to propose?
In reality many millions of people have died in war since the invention of the atomic bomb. Yes, sure, the 2nd world war was the 'biggie' in terms of deaths, but there have been some pretty big death tolls since. WWII accounted for about 55 million people. Next to that you might think the 3 million killed in Vietnam is small potatoes, but the fact is that Vietnam occurred when both the major 'powers behind the scenes' - the US and the USSR - had nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons protect (to some extent), the states that have them. They don't protect those that don't - ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Rwandans, Ethiopians....and so on.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
They don't protect those that don't - ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Rwandans, Ethiopians....and so on.

Which is why everyone should have them.

The only problem is the few nations that would do one of two things:

1- Be a suicide bomber on a national scale, content to be destroyed as long as their enemies were also destroyed.
2- 'Accidentally' allow terrorists to get a few nukes, then deny responsibility for the results.

Quote:
but the fact is that Vietnam occurred when both the major 'powers behind the scenes' - the US and the USSR - had nuclear weapons.

And why didn't it escalate into an all-out war between those powers?
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:
but the fact is that Vietnam occurred when both the major 'powers behind the scenes' - the US and the USSR - had nuclear weapons.

And why didn't it escalate into an all-out war between those powers?
Well, as I said, nukes do convey some protection to the state that has them - I am not saying otherwise. The notion that they make the world a safer place is I think misguided. The nearest we have come to global extinction was in 1962. A conventional war between the US and USSR would certainly have been serious, but we were very close to an all-out nuclear war which would have been catastrophic. Once nukes are used by either side then the logic leads inevitably to full escalation. With conventional weaponry there is always the opportunity to pull-back.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
Well, as I said, nukes do convey some protection to the state that has them - I am not saying otherwise. The notion that they make the world a safer place is I think misguided. The nearest we have come to global extinction was in 1962.


True, I suppose it is somewhat of a gamble.

I'm betting on an all-out nuclear war never happening. If I'm right, the world is much safer than it would be otherwise. If I'm unlucky, it would be disastrous (though not extinction-causing, I think).

We can't know which side is better to bet on, because we don't have enough history to determine just how likely an all-out nuclear exchange is, though we do have enough history to give some idea of the gains to be had.

The choice has been taken away from us though. Because 'rouge states' (or even rouge organizations or individuals) can develop their own nuclear weapons, the option of having a nuke-free world is denied. We're left with taking the gamble as our only option.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Well, as I said, nukes do convey some protection to the state that has them - I am not saying otherwise. The notion that they make the world a safer place is I think misguided. The nearest we have come to global extinction was in 1962.


True, I suppose it is somewhat of a gamble.

I'm betting on an all-out nuclear war never happening. If I'm right, the world is much safer than it would be otherwise. If I'm unlucky, it would be disastrous (though not extinction-causing, I think).

We can't know which side is better to bet on, because we don't have enough history to determine just how likely an all-out nuclear exchange is, though we do have enough history to give some idea of the gains to be had.

The choice has been taken away from us though. Because 'rouge states' (or even rouge organizations or individuals) can develop their own nuclear weapons, the option of having a nuke-free world is denied. We're left with taking the gamble as our only option.
I think humans in general are so fickle and unpredictable that what would seem unlikely today, may catch us by surprise tomorrow. I think my worst worries are nuclear weapons in the hands of extremists, and not only terrorists in the Middle East, as there are many countries who are unstable who are outside the area of Middle East. I can imagine the US must be watching this very carefully though and that all the materials necessary for weapons like that are accounted for or so we hope.
Moonspider
Bikerman wrote:
Hmm...a strong case, I grant.
Here's another position, however.
The deterrence effect of nukes is predicated upon rational response. Now, we are frequently informed that terrorists are not rational and, in fact, many terrorist groups (particularly, it must be said, Muslim groups) make a virtue of their willingness, if not longing, to die in the cause. Witness the statements by Ossma Bin Laden and other Al-Queda members, exemplified by the statement of Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri
Quote:
We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom.
Now, in the face of that ideology, nuclear deterrence is useless.


I agree that a stockpile of nuclear weapons and a corresponding “triad” that insures a retaliatory strike capability after a first strike offers no deterrent to terrorist groups. Nothing can deter an individual or group willing to sacrifice themselves in order to accomplish an attack, or whom embrace a belief system like those embraced by Islamic extremists. Those attacks must be stopped prior to their execution. No weapon system or threat can deter such persons.

However, that is not the point of strategic deterrence (at least the most commonly known “mutually assured destruction” aspect). It deters other nation-states with nuclear capability from attacking with those weapons, or from military action that may conceivably lead to use of nuclear weapons.

It can also arguably deter even “rogue” states from using other WMDs against a nuclear power. Hussein did not use chemical weapons against the United States and her allies in 1991, even though he possessed them. (I fully expected a preemptive chemical missile strike against staging areas in Saudi Arabia.) Was this because the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons and has a publicly stated policy of reserving the right to execute a nuclear retaliation for any WMD attack? Did this come into play at all as part of Hussein’s military planning for the war?

Nuclear capability also played a role in the Carter Doctrine. His summary of the policy was:
President Carter wrote:
Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

Years later Ambassador Twinam (who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs from 1979 to 1982) told me that through diplomatic channels it was made very clear to the USSR that the United States would use tactical nuclear weapons to stop a conventional military move by the Soviets since the United States lacked a conventional capability to stop them.

The Carter Doctrine led to the creation of CENTCOM to provide that conventional capability. But even without the Carter Doctrine I doubt the USSR would have made any moves toward the Persian Gulf region beyond Afghanistan. Of course, that’s all hindsight now, but I believe the Carter Administration needed a nuclear arsenal to make his doctrine meaningful at the time.

As I mentioned before, the knowledge cannot be erased from our memories. Even if we could with certainty eradicate existing inventories, any nation-state with the technology and resources will build them if engaged in a major war. Furthermore, there is nothing we can do to stop other nations from developing them if they so choose. History demonstrates that no amount of diplomacy can dissuade nations from doing so if they so desire (or dissuade other nuclear nations from helping non-nuclear nations develop the capability).

Bikerman wrote:
That leaves deterrence against other states. Who, exactly, is this mutually assured destruction supposed to impress? The Russians? Hardly. The Chinese? Doubtful - all China has to do is to continue to play the 'long game'. The Iranians? Don't be silly.
The fact is that the adversaries that the US faces in the 21st century are not likely to be impressed by the threat of nuclear destruction because they know fine well that the US is not going to use nukes in any conceivable conflict and that future 'dominance' will be via financial rather than military means.


I agree with you that China need only continue its current policy and that future dominance will depend less upon traditional military capabilities. I also believe that nuclear weapons themselves may become obsolescent due to new military technologies for those nations like the United States and Europe with the capability and financial resources to develop them (primarily from evolving offensive capabilities and not strategic defense).

Your last statement speaks to “self-deterrence,” the idea that a nation will not use nuclear weapons even if it threatens to do so. And this is a serious question since deterrence only works if your opponents believe you will actually “push the button.” President Obama himself made a statement during the campaign as I recall stating that he would never use nuclear weapons. So, arguably, the United States lost all credible deterrence when he was elected since potential enemies may now see some ambiguity in the U.S. strategic stance.

I seem to be rambling. But my position is that nuclear deterrence exists solely to deter other states from using nuclear or other WMDs against a nuclear-armed nation. Arguing that it is useless because it does not deter irrational entities, while true, does not detract from or speak to the purpose of the deterrence. And while NATO’s nuclear capability may not deter Russia, China, or Iran from pushing their policies in the constant struggle of international politics, or even military actions in certain areas, I believe it does deter major powers from taking actions that might lead to an armed conflict with another major power, one that could escalate to a strategic exchange.

And taking China as an example, I like long games. I personally think nuclear weapons force major powers to play long games. It’s when nations and their leaders try to accomplish their strategic, global objectives quickly that situations get rapidly out of hand. (Or when nations don’t play the long game well and find themselves in a pickle decades or a century later and try to win the game at the last minute.)

Respectfully,
M
ted1986
well, if the world war 3 started, we will all killed because the crazy people will use the unclear weapon to destroy their enemy. Do you remeber the cold war?

That is why we fear unclear weapon.
deanhills
ted1986 wrote:
well, if the world war 3 started, we will all killed because the crazy people will use the unclear weapon to destroy their enemy. Do you remeber the cold war?

That is why we fear unclear weapon.
Looks as though you have hit on the short version of it. I'm just not that convinced that the crazy people would aim as straight as the sane ones though. Hopefully we won't find out, but if it does, probably it will change the whole nuclear game again as I doubt the first one will destroy the whole of the world but it will definitely get the world to deal with it as a very high priority.
ocalhoun
ted1986 wrote:
well, if the world war 3 started, we will all killed because the crazy people will use the unclear weapon to destroy their enemy. Do you remeber the cold war?

That is why we fear unclear weapon.

IF world war 3 started. Nukes make world war 3 far less likely though.
handfleisch
Bikerman wrote:
deanhills wrote:
Hmmm .... there is one threat that has been left out, asteroids from outer space? If all countries reduce their nuclear armaments, would that then reduce the world capability of dealing with threats that come from objects from space that are on a collision course with earth?
A bit of a straw-man argument that. Nuclear armaments for use on earth are not much use for blowing up asteroids - even if that was a good idea, which most scientists think it isn't. You need a completely different delivery mechanism than the traditional long range missile technology.


Bruce Willis could definitely make this work, but only if Liv Tyler was there to give him moral support. But if the asteroids where being guided by UFOs or something, it would require more effort -- Liv would have to put on a bikini and they might have to call in Jet Li for some meteorite-fu.
deanhills
handfleisch wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
deanhills wrote:
Hmmm .... there is one threat that has been left out, asteroids from outer space? If all countries reduce their nuclear armaments, would that then reduce the world capability of dealing with threats that come from objects from space that are on a collision course with earth?
A bit of a straw-man argument that. Nuclear armaments for use on earth are not much use for blowing up asteroids - even if that was a good idea, which most scientists think it isn't. You need a completely different delivery mechanism than the traditional long range missile technology.


Bruce Willis could definitely make this work, but only if Liv Tyler was there to give him moral support. But if the asteroids where being guided by UFOs or something, it would require more effort -- Liv would have to put on a bikini and they might have to call in Jet Li for some meteorite-fu.
One of your better postings Handfleisch and top marks for creativity, except Liv Tyler is not really a good match for Bruce Willis, think he usually goes for brunettes Smile
OK Chris, point taken. Alternatively, what if there is some invasion from another planet? Smile Think that was not explicitly included in my previous posting as "threats from space", but is now. Wink
Bikerman
Any civilisation advanced enough to cross galactic distances in order to invade Earth must have, by definition, technology way superior to ours (we can't even imagine how to start such a project). That would include either extremely efficient propulsion systems - way beyond anything we have or can even think of - or some method of overcoming the light barrier - which implies physics way beyond simple atomic theory.
I think the notion that a few atom bombs would either deter, or seriously inconvenience, such an invading force is fanciful.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:

I think the notion that a few atom bombs would either deter, or seriously inconvenience, such an invading force is fanciful.


Any country that could build huge ships capable of crossing the vast, stormy Atlantic must have much more advanced technology than the native Americans, and indeed they did, with their firearms, metal tools, cannons, and horses. Yet, the natives deterred and seriously inconvenienced the invaders for a very long time when they wanted to.

Just thought I'd throw that out there...

Also, you never know about their technology... They may be more advanced in some ways (like uber-high speed travel), but who knows what gaps there might be in their knowledge. (Like Wells' invading Martians who had never invented the wheel.) What if they used technology even less advanced than ours, but simply on a far larger scale, supporting self-sustaining environments and simply waiting out the extremely long trip with patience that we can't understand and a very long-term mindset?
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
Any civilisation advanced enough to cross galactic distances in order to invade Earth must have, by definition, technology way superior to ours (we can't even imagine how to start such a project). That would include either extremely efficient propulsion systems - way beyond anything we have or can even think of - or some method of overcoming the light barrier - which implies physics way beyond simple atomic theory.
I think the notion that a few atom bombs would either deter, or seriously inconvenience, such an invading force is fanciful.
Good point. Guess on a much smaller scale of ownership of guns, guns don't kill, people kill. So possibly our greatest threats are mismanagement of nuclear armaments, destruction and changes in the world eco system and unknown threats from outer space.
ThePolemistis
Moonspider wrote:
What was the world like before 1945?

  1. World War II
  2. World War I
  3. Russo-Japanese War
  4. Spanish-American War
  5. Crimean War
  6. Napoleonic Wars


If not for nuclear weapons, I believe World War III would have followed World War II within a decade.


OKay let us see the world post 1945

  1. America bombs Vietnam
  2. America bombs Iraq
  3. America bombs Afghanistan
  4. America bombs Latin America
  5. America becomes the world police state


The only reason why there hasent been another world war since WW2 is because Europe was lying in rubble and America emerged out of the war as the *only* superpower.
America owned half the worlds wealth. War requires funding. Thats why America has gone round the world bombing it to pieces quite simply cus it was able to afford to do so.
deanhills
ThePolemistis wrote:

OKay let us see the world post 1945

  1. America bombs Vietnam
  2. America bombs Iraq
  3. America bombs Afghanistan
  4. America bombs Latin America
  5. America becomes the world police state


The only reason why there hasent been another world war since WW2 is because Europe was lying in rubble and America emerged out of the war as the *only* superpower.
America owned half the worlds wealth. War requires funding. Thats why America has gone round the world bombing it to pieces quite simply cus it was able to afford to do so.

Well all I can say is thank heavens you're not the one to write history. Some of it is true perhaps, quite a bit of it false, and usually it is the half-truths that make for the biggest lies.

At first glance it would seem that you have some axe to grind with the United States. Perhaps you are also giving it much more power than it really has. And I'm not only talking internationally, but domestically as well. As far as I know it has not been bombing alone either, and it is not the only world manufacturer of military equipment. Perhaps you have omitted quite a bit out of this mono vision of world war after 1945.
Moonspider
ThePolemistis wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
What was the world like before 1945?

  1. World War II
  2. World War I
  3. Russo-Japanese War
  4. Spanish-American War
  5. Crimean War
  6. Napoleonic Wars


If not for nuclear weapons, I believe World War III would have followed World War II within a decade.


OKay let us see the world post 1945

  1. America bombs Vietnam
  2. America bombs Iraq
  3. America bombs Afghanistan
  4. America bombs Latin America
  5. America becomes the world police state


The only reason why there hasent been another world war since WW2 is because Europe was lying in rubble and America emerged out of the war as the *only* superpower.
America owned half the worlds wealth. War requires funding. Thats why America has gone round the world bombing it to pieces quite simply cus it was able to afford to do so.


Or one could produce this list:


  1. USSR blockades West Berlin in an effort to seize control. (Rebuffed by the British/American Berlin Airlift)
  2. North Korea invades South Korea (South Korea spared by UN forces)
  3. USSR stations medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba (Countered by President Kennedy and U.S. forces)
  4. USSR brutally suppresses Hungarian uprising
  5. USSR erects the Berlin Wall as “Iron Curtain” cuts off Soviet controlled Eastern Europe from Western Europe.
  6. USSR invades Czechoslovakia and occupies it for 22 years.
  7. USSR invades Afghanistan (prompts the creation of the “Carter Doctrine” in 1980)
  8. United States invades Panama to remove dictator Manuel Noriega (drug charges, threatened Panama Canal neutrality in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties
  9. Iraq conquers Kuwait (liberated by UN forces led by the United States)
  10. United States invades Afghanistan (in response to that government harboring and supporting a terrorist organization responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in a New York City attack, as well as attacks on the Pentagon, a third foiled attack, the bombing of the USS Cole, the bombing of U.S. embassies, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and the bombing of a building housing U.S. troops)

History is multi-faceted, not one or even two-dimensional. However I will agree with you that the United States’ power and global hegemony are significantly responsible for the relative peace since World War II. Of that I have no doubt. (Pax Americana)

So do you believe the relative peace I referred to earlier (no wars between major powers since 1945) is due more to the United States' power than to the threat of nuclear war?

Respectfully,
M
ocalhoun
ThePolemistis wrote:
America emerged out of the war as the *only* superpower.

Completely and blatantly wrong!
About the stupidest interpretation of history I've heard in quite a while, and shows monstrous gaps in your knowledge of the time.

Aren't we perhaps forgetting about the USSR?

Yes, the USA is the only superpower now, but for several decades, the USA and USSR were relatively evenly matched superpowers. (From the mid 40's to the early 90's)
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
ThePolemistis wrote:
America emerged out of the war as the *only* superpower.

Completely and blatantly wrong!
About the stupidest interpretation of history I've heard in quite a while, and shows monstrous gaps in your knowledge of the time.

Aren't we perhaps forgetting about the USSR?
And China! Especially in modern day economics, they are a super power with tentacles spread all over the world and creating quite a number of trade deficit headaches with the United States.
sondosia
The nations that would actually obey restrictions on nuclear arms are not the ones who pose the greatest threat if they have them.
deanhills
sondosia wrote:
The nations that would actually obey restrictions on nuclear arms are not the ones who pose the greatest threat if they have them.
Well said. Also that the more nuclear arms they have along nuclear proliferation lines, the greater the threat as the technology would be easier to get hold off. I.e. the more people who are involved in the technology, the easier it would be for those who wish to use the arms negatively to obtain their services and access to the technology.
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