I recently read an article by a well-known conservative writer regarding his experience with an unusual Christmas vacation outing. He has stated that while he was driving through southern Arizona with his family he, suddenly got the notion to visit a decommissioned Titan Missile Silo. The writer went on to say that we should all be thankful that these missile guardians protected us from the unthinkable. Inappropriately the writer Byron York titled his article “Peace on Earth at Missile Silo 571-7
Giving thanks for the American strength that won the Cold War”.
Yes, our own insecurity and the insecurity of the former Soviet Union led us to develop tens of thousands of nuclear warheads in a race to prevent Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Seldom has an acronym proven more true! Many scientists who developed nuclear weapons were so in awe of their potential to destroy life globally. Several such as Oppenheimer and Sakharov urged their respective countries to forego further development.
In the case of Andrei Sakharov, here was a man who was prepared to admit to the world the folly of continued reliance on nuclear deterrents. Sakharov calculated the effects of non-lethal exposure due to fallout. He began to see a pattern of decreased years of life secondary to ailments caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. His convictions caused him to write of the dangers of MAD and other issues that he had noted as a scientist.
“I wanted to alert my readers,” Sakharov recalled, “to the grave perils threatening the human race – thermonuclear extinction, ecological catastrophe, famine, an uncontrolled population explosion, alienation, and dogmatic distortion of our conception of reality. I argued for convergence, for a rapprochement of the socialist and capitalist systems that could eliminate or substantially reduce these dangers, which had been increased many times over by the division of the world into opposing camps. Economic, social, and ideological convergence should bring about a scientifically governed, democratic, pluralistic society free of intolerance and dogmatism, a humanitarian society which would care for the Earth and its future, and would embody the positive features of both systems.
“I went into some detail on the threat posed by thermonuclear missiles – their enormous destructive power, their relatively low cost, and the difficulty of defending against them. I wrote about the crimes of Stalinism and the need to expose them fully (unlike the Soviet press, I pulled no punches), and about the vital importance of freedom of opinion and democracy. I stressed the value of progress, but warned of the need for substantive changes in foreign policy.”
Today, we know that the madness of MAD has not made us safer, as there are great numbers of nuclear material that are unsecured. We stopped the threat of the Soviet Union this is true. However much of the material developed by the Soviet Union is no longer secure. “We know, at the same time, that enough HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) and separated plutonium to make nearly a quarter million nuclear weapons exists in the world today, in hundreds of buildings, in scores of countries, with security conditions that range from excellent to appalling. “The collapse of the former Soviet Union, an empire with some 30,000 nuclear weapons and enough nuclear material for many tens of thousands more, created a unique security crisis, for the Soviet nuclear security system was based on a closed society with closed borders, pampered nuclear workers, and everyone under close surveillance by the KGB – a world that no longer exists”. Efforts need to be stepped up to prevent this material from getting into the hands of rogue elements that will not be deterred by the concept of MAD.
Physicians for Social Responsibility have followed up on the work of Sakharov calculating the effects of a regional nuclear war that could ultimately kill one billion people. http://www.psr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Nuclear_Study Mr. Byron York is guilty of utilizing a myopic view to extol the virtues of having a nuclear arsenal. The law of unintended consequences has a unique way of presenting itself to those who would ascribe to this view. However, they need to open their eyes…
The photo above is Peter Sellers portraying “Dr.Strangelove”
Below you will find links for further references.