FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Surviving in a Nuclear Armed World

by ROBERT F. DODGE, MD and IRA HELFAND

President Obama speaking in Berlin on Wednesday took the first step in his 2nd term to address the world’s nuclear arsenals. He proposed negotiating the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third of its current levels of 1722 as of September 2012 and reducing nuclear weapons in Europe. While any reductions in nuclear arsenals must be applauded and supported, they must be viewed as only the next step in the mandatory elimination of all nuclear weapons. The devastating potential of these reduced arsenals has the ability to inflict catastrophic damage to our world. There is no “acceptable” level of nuclear weapons that is consistent with the ultimate survival of civilization.

A study by Physicians for Social Responsibility showed that if only 300 warheads in the Russian arsenal got through to targets in American cities, 75 to 100 million people would be killed in the first 30 minutes by the explosions and firestorms that would destroy all of our major metropolitan areas, and vast areas would be blanketed with radioactive fallout.

In addition, the entire economic infrastructure on which we depend to sustain our population would be destroyed. The transportation system, the communications network, the public health and banking systems, the food distribution network — all would be gone. In the months after this war, it is probable that the vast majority of the American population who were not killed in the initial attack would die of starvation, exposure, epidemic disease and radiation poisoning.

The global impact of a nuclear war with the reduced number of weapons proposed by the President was defined in a 2007 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research demonstrating catastrophic climate change due to the release of an estimated 50-100 million tons of soot into the upper atmosphere blocking the sun. This would cause severe drops in global temperatures in a matter of days of up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, devastating agriculture production throughout the world. The ensuing global famine could result in the death of a majority of the human population.

Thus any reduction in nuclear weapons is an important step to securing our future and we must move to realize these reductions now, but zero is the only acceptable number. Each day that we fail to work toward this goal is one day closer to realizing Albert Einstein’s prophecy from a 1946 telegram: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

But we can’t stop there. This effort must lead to multilateral negotiations involving all nuclear weapons states, negotiations that will produce a nuclear weapons convention banning these weapons once and for all. These negotiations will not be easy, and the treaty they produce will have to be a hard-nosed agreement that establishes mechanisms to verify and enforce compliance. We don’t have an alternative.

Some say it is unrealistic to think we can eliminate nuclear weapons. But in truth, it is unrealistic to think we can maintain nuclear arsenals indefinitely and still avoid a nuclear conflict. These are critical unexamined assumptions that demand reëvaluation.

As long as nuclear weapons exist we face a real and imminent danger of catastrophe either by design or accident. It is a matter of sheer luck that we survive. Luck is not a long-term viable security policy. We owe it to our children and future generations to abolish all nuclear weapons. The time to act is now.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.

Ira Helfand is a past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

 

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail