Sometimes people, hopefully not those in decision-making positions, say things that just scare the living daylights out of me. A prime example is when someone, out of utter frustration, advocates using “limited-range” nuclear weapons on terrorists.
As much as some people would like to believe that it “might make em think twice,” it won’t. Terrorists, especially ideological terrorists, are on a mission to destroy all opposition to their dogmatic beliefs.
Killing such people will not make them “think twice.” First, they firmly believe they have nothing to lose. And, second, dying for the “cause” is an honor for which they’ll receive an eternal reward. They actually look forward to it.
Another name for “limited-range” nuclear weapons is tactical nuclear weapons. So, let’s differentiate the two types of nukes: tactical and strategic.
There are many forms of tactical nuclear weapons. And, while they do have limited capacity, all of them have a common goal: killing lots of people while preserving infrastructure.
Strategic nuclear weapons, on the other hand, are an entirely different story. Once the nightmare of nuclear attack became a reality, nuclear proliferation became inevitable. Deterrence through mutually assured annihilation is NOW the norm.
And, the basic difference between “conventional” nukes and “thermo-nukes” is hydrogen. Thanks to the efforts of the old Soviet Union and the United States, the A-bomb became the H-bomb.
The United States has already used nuclear weapons. We ended the Second World War by dropping atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I don’t raise the point as an attempt at moral justification or condemnation. It’s a matter of historical fact. It is also critical to understanding the perspective between using nukes THEN as opposed to attempts to use them NOW.
So, please bear with me. Nothing of which I’m about to write is theoretical. These are hard, cold facts, some of which are not pleasant.
First, let me take you through some weapons history for this nation as observed through the mind of one of our greatest scientists: the late Carl Sagan. He wrote a book back in 1997 titled, Billions & Billions.
There was a chapter devoted to the Battle of Gettysburg in which he discussed weapons progression in detail. I’ve lost my copy, so I’m going to recall as much of it as I can from memory, taking great liberty with the art of paraphrasing.
In 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg produced 51,000 casualties (ALL MILITARY). War historians dubbed that battle as the “beginning of modern warfare.” The Union used modern weapons (Spencer Repeating Rifles). They also introduced air reconnaissance (via the use of hot air balloons).
They used the “newest” artillery and transported troops to and from some battlefields using the nation’s rail system.
The canons they used were modern by the existing standards of the time. They had an effective range of between 1- and 1.5 miles. They used around 20-pounds of TNT—about one hundredth of a ton. They had a kill count, if properly grouped, of two or three people at each firing.
In 1942-43 (about 80-years later), we developed a bomb called the Block Buster. The defense department named it this because it could destroy an entire city block. Its explosive power was equivalent to about 10-tons of TNT (1,000 times more than the cannons of 1863). The things could kill between 25- and 40-people with each hit.
Towards the end of the war (around 1945), the Manhattan Project had given us the first nuclear weapon: the atomic bomb (“A-bomb”). It detonated with the power of about 10,000 tons of TNT, an increase of another 1,000 times greater than the Block Buster. In just a COUPLE of years!
Drop just one of them and POOF! A quarter of a million humans GONE—many simply vaporized while hundreds of thousands of others died in much slower, far more agonizing ways.
The combined efforts of the former Soviet Union and the United States ushered in the era of thermo-nuclear weapons. These babies deliver the killing power of 10,000,000 tons of TNT.
Killing a quarter million people is child’s play for this caliber of weapon. This level of nuclear nightmare kills multiple millions at a pop, not to mention the fact that they leave millions of square acres of land uninhabitable for hundreds of thousands of years.
The USSR is gone. But its heart and soul, Russia, still possesses the weapons. In 1990, there were around 60,000 nuclear weapons around the globe in the hands of various nations, including the United States.
The weapon count is lower now. But, with the exception of our own, neither we, Russia, Pakistan, India, China, Israel, North Korea (now emerging), Iran (now emerging), and a few we have yet to hear about, even know where many of them are located.
But fear NOT! The terrorists of the world—and not just the Middle easterners, either—have dedicated themselves to finding them. It’s only a matter of time.
No matter how badly we’d like to do it, we, the most powerful nation on this planet, cannot prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Russians can’t do it, either. NO NATION CAN DO IT.
Think about it. From 1863 to 2009, the world went from the explosive power one hundredth of a ton of TNT to 10-tons of TNT to 10,000-tons of TNT to 10-MILLION tons of TNT. We went from the killing power of a relative handful per pop to killing hundreds of millions per pop.
The arithmetic is simple. Multiply 1,000 times 1,000, times 1,000 and you get 1,000,000,000 (THAT”S ONE BILLION). Over a period of 146-years, we’ve increased our killing power by a factor of a billion.
And the question we have to consider is whether we’re a billion times wiser. While Dr. Sagan didn’t actually answer the question in his book, I’ll do so here. NO, we’re not! And, I don’t mean just NO, but HELL NO!
Like it or not, there is no longer such a thing as a contained nuclear strike. Nuclear proliferation is a fact of global life. The matter would escalate in a matter of days, possibly even hours. Every legitimate scientist in the world knows it, too.
A nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. The difference, however, is the fact that, unlike Gettysburg, the majority of causalities would be non-military: innocent men, women, and children.
The bulk of these would be people who had no stake whatsoever in the confrontation between the initiating powers. Most of them would simply be innocent victims of circumstance.
Harry Truman ended WWII with the use of nuclear weapons. I happen to think he made the right choice. But, it’s beside the point. The ONLY reason that the world did not end up in a state of nuclear Armageddon is that no other nation had nuclear capability.
So, things turned out well for us in 1945. But, circumstances are much different NOW. If ANY country goes nuclear today, the others will respond in kind, AUTOMATICALLY. The “If we’re going to die, so are you” mentality will take over. It won’t be pleasant.
People who think we could survive it probably don’t understand the difference between living and existing. The “Stone Age” was status-quo for those alive at the time. But, the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust will make that era seem like paradise.
At my age, and with a little luck, I’ll not have to face it. I’m grateful for it, too. THERE WILL BE NO WINNERS!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.