Common Sense is All You Need …

When talking about nuclear weapons, it’s easy to get lost in arcane terminology like megatons, extended deterrence and more. But, as explained below, common sense is all you need to understand that change is urgently needed. This article was originally posted on my web site, Defusing the Nuclear Threat, on August 22, 2009.

The Man in the TNT Vest

Imagine a man wearing a TNT vest were to come into the room and, before you could escape, managed to tell you that he wasn’t a suicide bomber. He didn’t have the button to set off the explosives. Rather, there were two buttons in very safe hands. One was with President Obama and the other was with President Medvedev, so there was nothing to worry about. You’d still get out of that room as fast as you can!

Just because we can’t see the nuclear weapons controlled by those two buttons, why do we stay in this room? As we would do if confronted by the man in the TNT vest, we need to be plotting a rapid escape. Instead, we have sat here complacently for roughly 50 years, trusting that because Earth’s explosive vest hasn’t yet gone off, it never will.

Before society will look for an escape route, we have to overcome its mistaken belief that threatening to destroy the world is somehow risk free. Changing societal thinking is a huge task, but as with achieving the seemingly impossible goals of ending slavery and getting women the vote, the first step in correcting this misperception is for courageous individuals to speak the truth: The nuclear emperor has no clothes — except for that stupid vest!

You have an advantage that the abolitionists and the suffragettes did not. You can propagate the needed message to all your friends merely by emailing them a link to this page and encouraging them to subscribe to this blog. While communicating with friends may seem trivial compared to the immense task we face, as explained on my web site, at this early stage of the process it is the essential action. I hope you will consider doing that, so that Earth’s explosive vest can become but a distant nightmare to future generations.

Martin Hellman
Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering
Stanford University

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, since 1982, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book, co-written with my wife Dorothie, with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." It's on Amazon and a free PDF can be downloaded from its website:
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