August 6th 1945 was the first time an atomic bomb was dropped on a city, the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was a moment that would change the world, not necessarily for the better. It was a moment that could never be taken back.
The bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, and three days later, Nagasaki, have been the subject of debate for 60 years. We can debate whether fewer lives were lost due to the bombings than would have been lost had the war been allowed to continue, but nobody will ever know for sure. What is not debatable, however, are the changes wrought upon the world, upon global security, by the advent of nuclear weapons. Much like an epidemic, the nuclear threat has spread across the globe and today, nine countries combined possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons (source: ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons).
- United States – 6,970
- Russia – 7,300
- United Kingdom – 215
- France – 300
- China – 260
- India – 100-120
- Pakistan – 110
- Israel – 130
- North Korea – <10
Today, in Washington D.C., the U.S. is hosting the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, which will be attended by more than 50 world leaders, although Russian president Vladimir Putin declined to attend, in light of recent tensions between Russia and the U.S. The ultimate goal of the summit is to work toward preventing terrorists from obtaining and using a nuclear weapon.
The first of these summits was held in Washington D.C. in April 2010, the second in Seoul, South Korea in 2012, and the third in The Hague, the Netherlands in March 2014. The summits call on participating countries to improve their own nuclear security, and also to work toward securing all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide, working together as an international community. These Summits have achieved tangible improvements in the security of nuclear materials and stronger international institutions that support nuclear security. However, the progress has been limited and there is still much work to be done.
In 2009 President Obama gave a speech in the Prague in which he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. I fully concur with that goal, though I am certain it will not be achieved in my lifetime, and perhaps not ever. There are those in government around the globe who believe that the possession of nuclear weapons ensures their security, ensures that no other nation will attack them. But understand clearly, that in the event of a nuclear attack, there can be no winners. Even Ronald Reagan said “we seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” There is absolutely no scenario whereby the use of a nuclear weapon by any nation could end well for anybody.
A recent headline in the Chicago Tribune reads: Nuclear Weapons: Whose Finger Do You Want On The Button? My answer to that question is NOBODY’S! Which brings me to the current GOP front-runner in the 2016 presidential campaign in the U.S., none other than Donald Trump. In a recent interview with Chris Matthews, Donald J. Trump said he “would never take any of my cards off the table,” including using a nuclear weapon in the Middle East or in Europe. In November 2015, Trump stated that he would “bomb the shit out of [Daesh]”. I imagine there are a few who are still enamored of this pseudo “tough-guy” tactic, but thinkers across the globe are terrified at the thought of his finger on the button.
I repeat myself, but I believe this cannot be stated too emphatically or too many times: there can be no winners once the nuclear button is pushed. Period. Allow me to present an over-simplified potential scenario:
In response to a terrorist attack somewhere in the world, a President Trump, in a moment of irrational irascibility, decides to “drop a nuke” on a Daesh training camp on the outskirts of Baghdad. 20 terrorists are killed, 1.9 million civilians are immediately killed, another million dying in the 2-4 weeks afterward. Almost every other nation on this globe would condemn us, we would be in violation of every international law, we would not receive imports from any nation and no nation would accept our products as exports. We would have no allies under this scenario. And that is the “best case” scenario. More likely, one of those other nine nations in possession of nuclear weapons would point them in our direction and push their own button. Long before all 15,000+ nuclear weapons were depleted, the globe would be a vast wasteland, with a few obscure pockets of people on some islands in the Pacific.
Scary? I sure think so. Sci-Fi? Today it is … a year from now … who knows? I do not write this post as a continuation of my fairly common anti-Trump conversation. Rather, I write this post to state my case about nuclear weapons. It is arguably the most critical topic in the world today, and requires intellectual and calm people at the helm. The argument I mentioned earlier, about whether the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki cost fewer lives than the continuation of the war with Japan would have? Somehow I don’t think so, but even if it were so, consider this: almost every one of the nearly ¼ million people who died as a result of these bombs were civilians. Babies, children, teens, mothers, grandparents, people just like you, just like me. That is what nuclear weapons do, they kill innocents. What they don’t do is they don’t discriminate. A baby, in the eyes of a nuke, is no different than a terrorist. In the words of President Obama, “As the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, the United States has a moral obligation to continue to lead the way in eliminating them.” (read full article here) Think about it.