The Obama bid to rid the world of nuclear weapons boosts US security -- minus the threat of Armageddon
The Obama plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons would mean more US focus on non nuclear weapons, which would give the US more military leverage, without causing a nuclear Armageddon.
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His detractors see it as, at best, another sign of ivory tower idealism, and, at worse, as a surrender of America’s most potent tools. The Nobel Peace Prize
Committee, meanwhile, praises him for a “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
Both sides misunderstand the consequences of a nuclear-free world. Politics and technology make it preferable for the United States to eliminate the Bomb, not out of generosity, but to strengthen its military might. There are multiple scenarios in which the use of nuclear weapons could go wrong. Consider these three:
The US might resort to atomic warfare:
1. If an enemy nation decided to engage in a massive act of aggression against vital US interests, generally defined as the US homeland or that of America’s closest allies.
The logic is that no one will ever think of attacking the US given the certainty of immediate and terminal punishment, with possession of the Bomb.
But today, there are nonnuclear options that can, in Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay’s immortal words, “Bomb them back into the Stone Age.” These include nonnuclear attacks on electric grids (a very soft version of these were used against Serbia during the Kosovo war), destroying telecommunication networks, and, if one wishes to kill millions of enemy citizens, high-precision weapons that can wreak havoc on dams, bridges, chemical factories, oil refineries, nuclear reactors, water treatment plants, toxic dumps, and so forth, thereby causing countless fatalities.
These options can be calibrated, thus lending credibility to US deterrence even in cases of only relatively minor attacks. With nuclear devices, however, even if only a single small-yield device is fired, it crosses an apocalyptic threshold making it extremely difficult for any US president – be he a George W. Bush or a Barack Obama – to credibly deter anything but a genocidal attack on the US by brandishing the threat of atomic revenge.
2. If there was a large army in the field that posed a huge threat.
Today, though, sensors and guided munitions make it possible to stop the enemy and minimize collateral damage, a vital goal if – as in Europe then and possibly in Korea or Taiwan in the future – invaders cross into friendly territory. An additional problem with the tactical nuclear option is the risk of uncontrollable escalation into Armageddon, which is not a far-fetched end once nuclear warfare is opened. What sane US president would want to face that?