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The Nuclear Age Is Already Over

Either nuclear weapons kill us or we move beyond them, soon. Via mass death or the building a new security system, the nuclear age is finished. The nuclear deterrence system that the world presently relies upon for its security is rotten, evil, completely unworkable, and obsolete. It is nuclear war waiting to happen, a war no one can or would win. But we remain ostriches with heads deep in sand, waiting passively for an inevitable holocaust apparently too big to prevent.

Somebody somewhere on this small planet has got to begin the process of leading the way out of this morass 

  • of paradox: the assumption that mutual assured destruction can preserve life forever.


  • of hypocrisy: our nuclear weapons are good and necessary but yours are bad and we will not allow you to possess them. 


  • of illusion: the experts will somehow prevent nuclear war from ever happening. 


  • of collective insanity: our launch-on-warning policy allows our leaders only minutes to decide our collective fate. And to retaliate against a bolt-from-the-blue attack by North Korea, for example, the U.S. would have to fly its ICBMs over the land mass of Russia, presently our mortal adversary. But even without nuclear weapons, the armed forces of the United States could utterly obliterate North Korea, and Kim Jong Un knows it.

The United States, based in core principles like the value of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, should make a precious gift to the world and sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It would be the first of the nine nuclear powers to sign and the initiative would be welcomed with relief and jubilation by the vast majority of the world’s citizens. 

Then what? Rapid and destabilizing American unilateral disarmament? No. Begin instead with well-advertised gestures over time. Have the generals and political leaders admit freely in an international forum like the United Nations that military advantage via nuclear war is impossible, that the nuclear arms race toward ever faster delivery vehicles leads nowhere good, and that resources presently expended on nuclear weapons programs are desperately needed for meeting the global climate emergency.  

Pledge no-first-use, and no nuclear retaliation against aggression, on the basis of the potential of nuclear winter as planetary suicide. Bring home five nuclear-armed submarines. Shut down one of our programs of nuclear weapons modernization. Aggressively initiate arms control proposals, which, combined with an ongoing series of gestures, would add credibility to our overall stance. 

Then watch for mutual responses from the other nuclear powers. Worst case scenario, there would be none, in which case we can always reverse course, either gradually or rapidly as the situation may demand. What are we so afraid of?

It is an important fact that Putin, a leader as ruthless in his own way as Hitler, has more nuclear weapons at his disposal than any other nation, but so far, and may it continue, he has not used them. Why? Is it because he fears our nuclear weapons? Or is it because in spite of his gross deficit of compassion for Ukraine, he knows that turning swaths of that nation into radioactive desert does not fit any sane conception of military conquest?

Of course conventional” war itself is equally insane. The October 7th Hamas attack and what has followed is a tragic case in point. The immense loss of life in the Israeli military’s conventional” response can only concentrate our minds upon what the massive loss of life in a nuclear war would look like. But if we must carry on with deterrence, think of it as a stage in moving beyond war altogether, and base it instead upon our conventional weapons, which are more than adequate for the job. Especially emphasize defensive weapons like those which protected Israel from Iran’s recent missile and drone attack, making possible the de-escalation which followed.

A world beyond war itself is possible. Viable alternative security systems have been elaborated in great detail. But we can take a sensible step in that ultimate direction quite safely, which is to unilaterally start backing off the nutty, silly, irrational hair-trigger nuclear system presently holding the whole world hostage. 

Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide” and serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.

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