Despite political rhetoric this year, the gravest, most immediate threat to the United States remains unchanged since sometime in the mid-1950s. It is the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against the American homeland. Such an event could happen tomorrow, not decades from now.
There is no way, yet, that humans have found to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Our only hope is to manage the inventory of such weapons to limit their availability to those already possessing them and to prevent new organizations from adding them to their warfighting inventory.
Laudably, humans have been doing just that for decades now, but it seems such an approach is about to change.
Nuclear arms control began as a political issue between the Soviet Union and the United States in the early 1970s. At that time each country had manufactured about 55,000 (or so) nuclear warheads. It was obvious at that time that those two countries had enough individual warheads to destroy the world and thus we began slow but relatively steady progress to limit the numbers of such warheads to only those two countries.
Today, according to unclassified sources, the United States and Russia have about 1,600 warheads each, deployed and ready for immediate release. The inventory of such warheads held by other countries — Great Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel — is a few hundred each, but not constrained by any treaties.
Yet in less than a year the United States and Russia have or will soon announce withdrawal from any and all treaties limiting the nuclear arsenals in just those two countries.
Oh sure, we can all blame Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, as if two men alone could disregard the efforts of humanity to manage the nuclear threat. Each man or nation could simply blame the other side for violating current treaties, like two bullies in a school yard blaming the other for throwing the first stick.
The world is not that simple folks.
The complexity of managing the threat of nuclear weapons exceeds the capacity of any one or even a few men or women. There are no simple, straightforward solutions, and any attempt at public debate will soon bog down in details that are not comprehensible to most people.
One thing is simple, however. The world already has enough nuclear warheads to deter war of such a nature. Use that simple fact as a basis to move forward, not backward, for the sake of humanity and the Earth.
My observation of late is that there has not been a word spoken on this topic by anyone running for president come the November 2020 election. They are all too busy calling each other racists, I suppose.
If you care to write your congressman, I suggest this be the topic to express your concern. I add, glibly, don’t write the president about such matters. He is still learning what a “Triad” might be.
Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.