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The international nuclear war machine rolls on, costing $billions

still the warheads are engineered. Billions of dollars are found, are always found, for weapons. Is this a higher duty to a citizenry than the health, education and wellbeing of that citizenry?

There are far more people in the world now than in 1945 – 7 billion from this week – and you can’t do anything with a warhead but die from it.

World takes a step back under the clouds of nuclear gloom, SMH, Warwick McFadyen November 5, 2011 THERE comes a time when memory fails, when remembrance of things past fades into the ether. A decade into the 21st century we have arrived at that denuded place. How else to explain the recent disclosures that the world is embarking on a new era of spending on nuclear weapons?

A report by the British American Security Information Council’s Trident Commission has examined the global trends of nuclear-armed states. There is little cause for optimism in its pages.

Only two atomic bombs have been used against a nation – in 1945 when the US dropped the Fat Man and Little Boy bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. However, weapons technology is being developed constantly; its ”progress” – its refinement, if you like – has overwhelmed what should be to the fore, that is, the cataclysmic effects of that technology. More than 128,000 nuclear warheads have been built since the Japanese bombings, all but 2 per cent of them by the US and the Soviet Union/Russia, the report says.

Centuries from now, what will historians make of this? Will they say we truly had a macabre sense of humour: Mutually Assured Destruction? Yes but it worked. We mutually stopped nuclear oblivion, by heaping warhead upon warhead, by running a race that does not slow down. Yet it seems now that despite the efforts in reducing nuclear arsenals, the warheads in their thousands still need to be there on land, sea and air. Just in case.

The global stockpile is about 21,000 warheads, deployed and in reserve. This is a fraction of what it was during the Cold War. The US has strategically deployed (meaning ready to be fired or close to it) almost 2000 warheads, (although The New York Times has put this figure at 2500) with 2850 in reserve. Russia has 2600 deployed and 3700 in reserve, but it has a further 5300 in non-strategic capacity. China, France and Britain follow with 240, 300 and 225 respectively.

The figures then become more unreliable, with Israel (which denies it has any), India and Pakistan having respectively 100 to 200, 60 to 80 and 100 to 110. North Korea has about half a dozen.

Turn that figure over in your mind for a moment. Twenty-one thousand. How many targets are there in the world? I’d lay odds there aren’t that many.

But such was the paranoia that once there were many more than that. According to the Brookings Institution, in 1976 there were 25,000 US weapons aimed at designated targets. Over the next two decades, as a result of various treaties with the Soviets, it had been reduced to 16,000 in 1986 and then 2500 in 1995. In 1966, the US had 32,000 warheads in its stockpile. (It also had 75 secret places for the president in case of nuclear war and $2 trillion stored away for use after said war. The film Dr Strangelove had nothing on reality.)

And here’s a reality that’s also fading from memory: the effects of a nuclear bomb, just one, hitting the target. A nuclear detonation doesn’t just blow up a building or create a huge crater: it destroys life and the environment in immediate cataclysmic ways and in longer-term silent insidious ways such as the blast, heat radiation, fallout, the electromagnetic waves, or pulse, and the ripping into the stratosphere through ionisation. It wouldn’t take that many strikes to disable a country, or indeed the world. You really now only need to bring down the computers; all else will follow.

The Trident report says the US is expected to spend $US700 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons, modernising, designing and building new missiles and delivery systems; 12 new nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines are proposed. Russia is also embarking on weaponry spending, including doubling its yearly production of ballistic missiles. This doesn’t seem to me to be leading by example. Do as I say, not as I do, perhaps.

As with any club, there are those trying to get in. In the nuclear environment that means states such as Iran. Sabres are rattling, particularly in Israel and the US, over plans to strike first at Iran’s nuclear facilities and thus destroy any possibility of it developing a nuclear weapon.

The Trident report notes: ”There is little sign in any of these nuclear-armed states that a future without nuclear weapons is seriously being contemplated.”

Nuclear weapons exist, so the defenders of them, say, as defence or deterrence. But for those two things to work you have to control the political and military game, which was all fine and good until the rise of non-state terrorism. Now the rules of the game have changed. To terrorists, there are no rules. Retaliation is no deterrence.

But still the warheads are engineered. Billions of dollars are found, are always found, for weapons. Is this a higher duty to a citizenry than the health, education and wellbeing of that citizenry?

There are far more people in the world now than in 1945 – 7 billion from this week – and you can’t do anything with a warhead but die from it.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/world-takes-a-step-back-under-the-clouds-of-nuclear-gloom-20111104-1mzzb.html#ixzz1crwHu0Tf

 

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November 5, 2011 - Posted by | general

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