Letters

By , Allan Dean, and Le Roi L. Elliott

Stewardship of Nuclear Bombs

"Why US Lab is Designing Bomb No One Asked For" (July 24) addresses troubling concerns about an unauthorized nuclear bomb design being made at a US nuclear-weapons research laboratory.

This design, which may violate arms control treaties, is being done under the umbrella of our nation's nuclear stockpile stewardship program. The goal of stewardship is to ensure that the bombs in our existing nuclear stockpile will function properly under the post-cold-war philosophies of no new designs and no underground tests.

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The report anticipates conflict-of-interest questions that have yet to be answered: Can the nuclear-weapons laboratories really become the stewards of the very bombs they have designed? Will the bomb designers be able to quit tinkering with their bombs and only maintain them?

For 50 years, the principal job of our three huge nuclear-weapons research labs - Sandia, Los Alamos, Livermore - has been to design and develop better and better nuclear bombs. The technical challenge of nuclear bomb design is both seductive and satisfying. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the first director of the Los Alamos Lab, characterized the design of the hydrogen bomb as "technically sweet."

The mindset of the steward of nuclear bombs must, of course, be quite different from that of the designer. The challenge of stewardship may not be as seductive or as technically sweet as that of design. A bomb designer by another name may still be a bomb designer.

The report suggests that the bomb designers are still tinkering with their designs. The conflict-of-interest between design and stewardship needs to be addressed.

John E. Foley

Rio Rancho, N.M.

Wanted: politicians with courage

If only our elected leaders had the courage to tell it like it's going to be after the baby boomers start to retire (Editorial, "Procrasti-Nation, Again" July 25.). But hand wringing won't alter the realities of political survival and future public policy. Elected officials depend crucially on short-term public gratification and short-term feelings of security on the part of the electorate. Our complex systems of public finance for Medicare, Social Security, federal retirement, and general government expenditures make a fertile field for confusion, misconception, and demagoguery.

What is a poor voter to understand and believe? Officals who envision catastrophe only well after their terms of office will surely leave those problems to their successors and opt for denial today.

Our amazing economy, non-inflating and at full employment, might lead us to socio-economic dreams of the Great Society years - dreams that our economy now has perpetual growth which can justify social programs that are actuarially irrrational. Is our society now ready to play Ponzi games? This time it won't be only a few citizens who will get burned.

Allan Dean

Swannanoa, N.C.

Weld as Trojan horse?

Regarding the editorial "Bill vs. Jesse" (July 25): In view of the attention given to Clinton's surprising nomination of Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts as United States Ambassador to Mexico, I am puzzled that there has been little (if any) comment regarding a very logical reason behind this action of "support" by the Democratic leader for a Republican to serve in such an important post.

It appears evident to me that the president is acting not to smooth relations between the Congress and the administration, but more likely to get Governor Weld out of the picture before the next presidential campaign.

The Massachusetts Republican is, as things stand, the most likely candidate for the GOP to put forward to take over the White House in 2000. In Mexico he will be out of the way to offer any meaningful challenge to the Democratic candidate. This Mexico ploy is a typical Clinton/Democratic political Trojan horse.

Le Roi L. Elliott

Washington

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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