Monthly Archives: March 2011

How Risky is a Nuclear Doomsday Machine?

In efforts to improve our national security, how risky is it to build a nuclear arsenal that, if used, has the ability to destroy civilization? That is the fundamental question raised in my paper “How risky is nuclear optimism?” in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. While nuclear deterrence is not usually referred to as a Doomsday Machine, its other name, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), brings out its similarity to the Doomsday Machine in Stanley Kubrik’s 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove. As seen in the following excerpt from the script, the Soviets are portrayed as having created such a device to make their nuclear deterrent totally credible: Continue reading

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Let’s Make a Deal!

Hey, remember when Bush Administration officials tried to convince Kim Jong Il that he could get the same denuclearization deal Bush gave Qadhafi? Yeah, the last couple of days might explain why Kim didn’t think it was such a great idea. Continue reading

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More on Libya

Yesterday’s post noted that our military actions against Libya are likely to have the unintended consequence of accelerating nuclear proliferation. Nations, such as Iran, will see that after North Korea developed nuclear weapons it became largely immune to threats of regime change, while Gaddafi – who voluntarily gave up his nuclear program in 2003 – is highly vulnerable. My post argued that a lack of forethought was the underlying problem. Today’s news reinforces those concerns: Continue reading

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Libyan Blowback?

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is far from my favorite person. But, before we started an undeclared war on his regime, it would have been wise to think things through more carefully. I am not saying that our actions were a mistake, just that there has been insufficient thought given to their impact on issues such as nuclear proliferation:
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Cold Warriors Question Nukes

George Shultz served as President Reagan’s Secretary of State, and Bill Perry as President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense. Henry Kissinger was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to both President Nixon and Ford. Sam Nunn was Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years. Their key roles in the Cold War has led many to call them “Cold Warriors.” That status makes their recent, repeated calls for fundamentally re-examining our nuclear posture all the more note-worthy. Their most recent such attempt to awaken the world to the danger posed by our current nuclear strategy is an OpEd in today’s Wall Street Journal “Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation.” (That link requires a subscription to the Journal. There is also a subscription-free link at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.) Here are some key excerpts: Continue reading

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The Wisdom of Foolishness

In a way, it’s foolish to devote most of my waking hours to defusing the nuclear threat. Don’t get me wrong, the risk is horrendous: My research indicates that a child born today has at least a 10% chance of being killed by a nuclear weapon. While only a fool would tackle a problem that so few people take seriously, sometimes foolishness pays off big time, as can be seen from recent honor bestowed on earlier work of mine that also was initially seen as crazy. Continue reading

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The Nuclear Gamble

The price we pay for maintaining nuclear weapons is the gamble that the highly improbable will not lead to the unthinkable. … is it worth it? Continue reading

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