Monday, March 26, 2012

Nukes: Tip-Toeing toward Extinction

The US still leads the world in the number and types of deployed nuclear weapons. To touch on a single element in the triad of nuclear weapons, the US maintains ~10 ballistic missile submarines at sea, at all times (while Russia may have one or two subs at sea, and France and UK may each have one.) Each US submarine can launch ~20 ballistic missiles and each missile carries up to ~6 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each warhead can level a city of ~30 square miles, with the zone of complete destruction extending out farther, by dint of ensuing firestorms. Spread out cities could be attacked by multiple warheads leading to the annihilation of entire urban populations. Assuming that a single exploding warhead might take the lives of ~1 million city-folk, then the ~1200 warheads currently deployed at sea by the US could, in a pinch, reduce the world's population by ~1 billion people. That, to me, seems like over-kill. And then there are the other two legs of the nuclear weapons triad to consider.

Clearly, the US is well-prepared for total war with several nuclear weapons armed states, simultaneously. But, why? Is this an example of ruthless war-planning, screaming paranoia, or profound political inertia? Maybe it's all three at the same time.

But, not to worry, because relief from this global predicament is on the way; albeit slowly and very tentatively.
Hence, the following, reprinted from USA Today  (3-26-12), reported from Seoul, South Korea, by Aamer Madhani:

President Obama says he wants to further reduce America's nuclear stockpile and will press the issue when he meets with Russia's President-elect Vladimir Putin at Camp David in May.

"Going forward, we'll continue to seek discussions with Russia on a step we have never taken before, reducing not only our strategic nuclear warheads, but also tactical weapons and warheads in reserve," Obama said in a speech today at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

In 2010, Obama and Russia's outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that will eventually limit the U.S. and Russia to no more than 1,500 deployed warheads.

But on Monday, Obama argued that both the U.S. and Russia have more nuclear weapons than they need, and it's time to work toward further cuts.

"I believe the United States has a unique responsibility to act -- indeed, we have a moral obligation," Obama
said. "I say this as president of the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons. I say it as a commander in chief who knows that our nuclear codes are never far from my side. Most of all, I say it as a father, who wants my two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can't be instantly wiped out."

Obama and more than 50 other world leaders will kick off the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul later today. The summit is a follow up to the 2010 summit that Obama hosted in Washington, where he set the lofty goal of securing all loose nuclear material by 2014.

Neither the New York Times, the Washington Post, nor CNN reported this speech by US President Barack Obama, at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

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