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Nuclear Arms Cuts, Supported By 56% of Americans, Would Make the World Safer 615

Lasrick writes "Kingston Reif of the Nukes of Hazard blog writes about nuclear arms reductions are back in the news, thanks to President Obama's State of the Union address and now also a Gallup poll that shows 56% of Americans support U.S.-Russian reductions. From the Article: 'A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that senior Obama administration officials believe the United States can reduce its arsenal of deployed strategic warheads to between 1,000 and 1,100 without harming national security. Those numbers would put the total below levels called for by New START...' Congressional Republicans of course are against those cuts; Reif lays out why the cuts would make the U.S. and the world safer." Do we even need a thousand nuclear warheads?
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Nuclear Arms Cuts, Supported By 56% of Americans, Would Make the World Safer

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  • by vakuona ( 788200 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:37PM (#43144055)

    Need to mind the mineshaft gap!

    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:11PM (#43144359)
      I think we should send some of what we have now on a one-way trip to North Korea. That would make everyone happy. For the liberals we would have actually reduced the number left. For the conservatives we would have used them as intended and made the U.S. much safer by demonstrating that they can be used and are not just an empty threat.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )

        For the conservatives we would have used them as intended and made the U.S. much safer by demonstrating that they can be used...

        Exactly. And in the interests of the economy, we shouldn't build any more nuclear weapons until we've used the ones we've got.

      • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:01PM (#43145105)

        I'm all for that, as long as we have plenty of cameras rolling.

        Someone call up Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich and James Cameron - they're about to save a couple million in CGI effects. And get Shatner ready to narrate a sequel to Trinity and Beyond.

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          Make it a global pay per view, and use the proceeds to pay off the deficit... Finally North Korea gets a constructive use.

      • Re:Get rid of some (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RicktheBrick ( 588466 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:46PM (#43145383)
        Suppose someone in the North Korean army started a civil war. Then Kim Jung Un decided to nuke his own country. Would we retaliate and cause further damage by nuking his part of the country? Suppose he nuked China or Russia would we just leave it up to them to retaliate? Suppose the North Korean army was revolting and the last thing Kim Jung Un did was to nuke South Korea. Would we retaliate even though everyone who was responsible for the attack were already dead? Would we retaliate if the new leaders of North Korea want to unite with the south in a democracy? It would not make sense to nuke a side of any civil war. In a sense the whole Earth is just one country making any war just a civil war. The use of nuclear weapons will never make sense. If one side uses them than the other side would do nothing but spread the misery. Neither side would win as the only way to win is not to play. There is no way we can morally demand countries like North Korea and Iran not develop nuclear weapons unless we do all in our power to eliminate all nuclear weapons. I would think we already have plenty of non nuclear weapons to sufficiently retaliate against any other country in the world.
    • by arielCo ( 995647 )

      Leave your mom out of this.
      Yes, I was kidding. I'll be good.

  • I'm just wondering if we (and they) have so many because they'd want to be sure to punch through any kind of SDI/Star Wars missile defense system?

    • Re:SDI's? (Score:4, Informative)

      by cheetah ( 9485 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:44PM (#43144139)

      My understanding is that you are basically correct.

      In-fact, one of the big points about the current anti-missile systems is that they do not have enough capacity to prevent strategic nuclear strikes from Russia or China. The goal is to make sure that they could always nuke us if they needed too. Which is a rather screwed up design feature; but it's understandable that we don't want to undermine their nuclear deterrence.

      • Re:SDI's? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:06PM (#43144327) Journal
        With Russia embracing democracy, more or less, there is less concern about it trying to conquer the world, as seemed to be a prime Soviet ambition. Meanwhile, China's government (not so much its people) is still bellicose, and has been significantly increasing its offensive capabilities in recent years. We can't drop the MAD paradigm just yet, because of China.
        • With Russia embracing democracy, more or less

          I'm going with "less"

        • Re:SDI's? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by countach ( 534280 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:10PM (#43144787)

          China has no more ambition or motive to attack the US than Russia does. Sure they are a superpower, and therefore dangerous, but if that is enough to keep MAD, then there is no "just yet" about the situation, they will always (for the foreseeable future) be a superpower, so by your logical we must always have MAD.

        • Re:SDI's? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:20PM (#43144861)

          Right, at their current rate of expenditure their military should catch up with our current levels in only what, about 50-100 years. And I'm sure that has nothing to do with their being surrounded by a number of hostile and/or unstable countries within easy striking distance. Or as a deterrent against the one currently unopposed superpower that's apparently feeling it's oats and picking fights anywhere there's money to be made.

          Frankly, I suspect the day China presents a credible military threat to the US will be the day our government has already crumbled from within.

        • Actually, that was never a "prime Soviet ambition," except in the minds of the McCarthy-era US propaganda machine. Communist doctrine held by the Soviet leadership was focused on dealing with all the internal difficulties of managing their own economy. Yes, they hoped that workers in other countries would see their shining example and start their own revolutions (and they did provide friendly support for that). America, however, was the country exporting weapons and training dictators' death squads to bruta

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'm just wondering if we (and they) have so many because they'd want to be sure to punch through any kind of SDI/Star Wars missile defense system?

      You can always launch a lot of cheap(-ish) decoys mixed in between the real warheads.

      • I'm not sure of the numbers, but I suspect a nuclear warhead is a small fraction of the cost of an ICBM.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BitZtream ( 692029 )

          You'd be wrong.

          The nuclear material is HIGHLY refined. More effort was put into refining the material than the entire cost of the rest of the missile. That isn't even including mining and other processing it takes to get useful material.

          The hardest part of making a fission weapon is refining your source material into something that will actually go critical in a way that uses up at least a few percent of the material in the bomb.

          Keep in mind that when a bomb detonates, the 'radiation' damage you suffer is

      • Which are extremely easy to detect.

        Are they radiological or not? Can be detected from a distance and easy to distinguish from something without enough material to pose a large scale threat.

        In reality however ...

        ICBMs are not what you should be concerned about.

        Its the nuclear subs sitting 20 miles off the coast of ... well, everywhere, that are fully capable of launching a hundred nuclear tipped cruise missles at a moments notice ...

        We've been backing off ICBMs for over 30 years. Believe it or not, that is

  • Safer? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:38PM (#43144067) Journal

    Says who? And will countries like NK or Iran follow suit or not? And does that result play into the discussions at all?

    Opinions do not equate to facts, yet some people like reporting as if they do.

    • Re:Safer? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:47PM (#43144177)

      Nuclear warheads are pretty much only good to make other people not want to attack you because they fear getting nuked. You basically only need enough nukes to kill some of the big cities in a country and that should stop any non crazy person from launching against you.

      One of the better quotes in this regard is that a nuclear arms race is like 2 generals standing waist deep in gasoline, the first with 3 matches, the second with 5.

      • Nuclear warheads are pretty much only good to make other people not want to attack you because they fear getting nuked

        Sort of wrong. Think a little deeper next time. If you have a sufficiently advanced "Star Wars" system they become a practical offensive tactic.
        • That's a pretty big "if", and probably will be so for a long time.

        • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
          there will never be an advanced enough anti missile system to stop a nuke hidden inside the cargo hold of a ship in harbor
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by BitZtream ( 692029 )

            Yes, we also can detect that before it enters the port.

            A cruise missile launched from a nuclear sub 20 miles of the coast on the other hand is going to be considerably harder to stop, especially if the country isn't already on alert.

            ICBMs take too long to reach their destination. They havent' been the preferred delivery method for 30 years.

        • Sort of wrong.

          Really? Haven't deterrence and MAD figured into most of the foriegn policy calculations of all nuclear powers for the last 50 years?

      • Re:Safer? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:32PM (#43144515) Journal
        It's more complicated than that. It's much more than 2 generals, it's an entire world.

        Right now, for example, Japan sits underneath the American nuclear umbrella. They easily have the capability to build their own, but do not, because they trust that America will protect them. Other countries are in a similar situation. Once the American stockpile shrinks too much, the Japanese will start to get worried and want to build their own.

        If it were only between Russia and the US, then our stockpiles would have shrunk already, because neither side is afraid of the other, neither side wants to attack and both know it. It's not worth the expense of having a large arsenal. But it's not; there are many actors in the world, and imagining it's just between the US and Russia is dream thinking.
        • Eventually you may be right, however there are only a few countries that have any serious hope of defending against even a single ICBM, much less dozens or hundreds. So as long as we have even a few nukes they're not likely to provoke us on that level. You only need thousands of nukes if you're in a standoff against someone with a serious missile defense program. Now if we were actually *using* the nukes it would be different, you don't want to run out of ammo in the middle of a war, but thankfully the w

          • Can you name anyone besides Russia who might offer a credible threat?

            You mean China?

            You're failing to understand. Think of all the countries in China's region who are threatened by that giant. There are a lot.

          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            Can you name anyone besides Russia who might offer a credible threat?

            China, the EU, Japan, some combination of middle east countries, India, Brazil, etc. Basically anyone with a big enough economy. Note that I didn't consider current military capability or ideological outlook since that can change rather fast. Both the US and the USSR went from no nukes to thousands of nukes inside of two decades.

    • Re:Safer? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:47PM (#43144179)

      How does having 2000 versus 1000 nuclear weapons in any way improve our safety vis-a-vis NK or Iran? It's not like they're proposing getting rid of the nuclear deterrent entirely, or even cutting it down to a small arsenal. That's still 1000 operational warheads!

      The only reason to have so many in the first place was an arms race with the USSR envisioning a counterforce scenario, where they try to nuke our nukes, and vice versa, before the other side can launch theirs. In that case it's helpful to have more than the other side. But it's not like NK is in any position to take out 1000 launch sites, such that we would need 2000 to be safe.

      • you are thinking war with Russia is impossible now? 1,000 is not enough against them.

        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          The idea is that it's a mutual reduction, so we'll still be balanced with Russia's forces. Just at a lower number on each side.

        • Why?

          1000 warheads is enough to kill every living thing in Russia. In fact it's enough to indirectly kill every living thing on the planet (or close enough)

          Why does it matter if both sides have the same amount? Both sides can detect one anothers launches and launch before getting hit so I ask again... why?

          • Re:Safer? (Score:4, Informative)

            by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:03PM (#43144739)

            that is absolutely a false statement, the USA does not possess enough warheads to kill every human on the planet, let alone every living thing. a thousand weapons could not even kill 80% of the people in a large country like Russia or China or India; too many cities, not enough bombs.

            you watch too much Hollywood and have an exaggerated notion of what nuclear weapons can do

            • by Kjella ( 173770 )

              Not everyone, but the simulations of a full nuclear war with all nukes on both sides launched will lead to a nasty nuclear winter that'll last years with mass death of animal life, very poor crops and outright starvation. The effect is barely noticeable with a few warheads but with thousands and thousands of warheads whirling dust into the atmosphere out planet would temporarily become a very inhospitable place to live.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fewer nuclear weapons but still enough to obliterate civilization can't possibly make the world less safe. What it will do is reduce the cost of maintaining a nuclear arsenal, reduce the number of potential accidents, and reduce the number of weapons which could fall into the hands of a rogue state or terrorist group.

      Will NK or Iran "follow suit"? No. Iran has no nukes so can hardly reduce their arsenal. NK has a few dozen at best. Neither is in a position to reduce their arsenal to a mere 1,100 weapons.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Our reduction in nuclear weapons does not put us in more danger regardless of what NK and Iran do. We can still destroy human civilization if we needed to. Sure we'd be safer if Iran and NK reversed course on nuclear weapons, but we can't directly control that. All we can directly control is our own stockpiles.

      The less nuclear weapons out there, the easier it is to control them (e.g. less chance of accidents, theft, etc). The stockpiles in the USSR are a huge danger, because they are more likely to fall

    • If the Is can't cut back and still fight poor countries that have a tiny fraction of the armoury and military as the US then you're doomed. Then again the US is still in Afghanistan after all these years with no real improvement so maybe you're screwed either way.
  • by JDAustin ( 468180 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:43PM (#43144123)

    Why are talks between us and Russia while China is rapidly increasing their nuclear stockpile?

    • by Clsid ( 564627 )

      By the time you launch the first 100 nuclear bombs the world will go down the toilet, so why does it matter? really?

      • On the other hand, if you downgrade to only a 100 warheads, then it's quite possible a small group of conventional strikes could remove your entire arsenal, and there goes MAD...

    • by xstonedogx ( 814876 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:58PM (#43144261)

      Because the US and Russia possess two orders of magnitude more nuclear weapons than China possesses. Even after reduction each will individually hold more than four times what China currently holds.

    • Because even if you launch 50 nukes the world is probably fucked as it is so why have thousands?
    • If China is making nukes, then that means they want more (i.e. they are less likely to participate in something like this). Russia on the other hand seems to have a bunch of nukes it doesn't necessarily want (like us), so we can get rid of nukes together. We aren't getting rid of all our nukes so we still have a deterrent. We can still destroy China Iran and NK in a couple hours if we wanted. China wants a similar capability. At some point having more nuclear weapons gives you no added benefit, but it
    • Because China owns the US government and economy.

  • If 1000 to 1100 warheads is sufficient for the most paranoid people on the planet who are fully informed about the situation, then doesn't that mean the proposed cuts are still leaving way too many?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant ( 592200 )

      If 1000 to 1100 warheads is sufficient for the most paranoid people on the planet who are fully informed about the situation,

      I assume you are referring to the Obama administration officials who came up with the 1000-1100 number here. What makes you think they are the most paranoid people on the planet? I'd say they were probably leaning mostly towards the world being all unicorns and glitter except for small pockets of Nickelodeon slime that haven't gotten the message yet.

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:17PM (#43144393)

      The difficult part about getting defense people to commit to decreasing the stockpile is that we have no idea when, if ever, we will be able to start producing new warheads. That turns it from being a discussion about how many we strategically need, towards a discussion about how certain were are that the stockpile we have will still be functional when we need it, and "can't we keep them all just in case". It would suck to destroy an entire line of warheads because they seem least valuable today, only to find out later that the ones we kept had an aging problem we couldn't detect before which didn't effect the destroyed line.

      • by pavon ( 30274 )

        I missed the distinction that these are deployed weapons were are talking about. My comment doesn't apply to those, but to the other ~4000 stockpiled ones.

  • We're already slowly but surely working on anti-matter weaponry and high-energy weaponized lasers. We'll be able to obliterate and/or lase the surface of the planet likely before anyone else.

  • We'll just kill it three times. Safer!
  • by Nexion ( 1064 )

    However this should be US/Russia/China reduction of nukes, possibly expanding to ask other nations with smaller arsenals to start limiting wasteful spending, on what is essentially a pointless standoff weapon with very ugly costs to the human race on the whole for any accidental discharge.

  • Why of course?

    Why at all?

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:07PM (#43144335)

    Do we even need a thousand nuclear warheads?

    If we ever want to travel to Alpha Centauri we do. How about putting those nukes toward the construction of an interstellar pulsed nuclear space drive? []

    • Love the dream, but honestly we'd probably want purpose-made nukes for something like that, and we're not even close to ready with the supporting technology for what would still be a centuries-long flight (heck, we don't yet even have any hard data on what sorts of radiation and other problems we might encounter beyond the heliopause). The Orion project itself was conceived at least in part as a disarmament tool.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:21PM (#43144433)

    That's not really an overwhelming majority, is it? So what, take action anyway and to hell with the concerns of the other 38-44 percent who don't agree that it's a great idea? That could arguably be cited as an example of a tyrannical majority.

    (I personally think 1,000 warheads is plenty enough to deter rogue states or factions that happen to get a few nukes and an urge to blackmail with 'em, but there's principle here.)

  • There are lots of reasons to have a shelter besides a nuclear attack. If you make yourself less vulnerable while reducing your offense you make yourself a less likely target.

  • What would make the world safer is a little less fear and paranoia. Holding people without trials, ordering assassinations of citizens...this does nothing for the citizen's ideal of safety within the homeland, to speak nothing of without.

    A weapon is a weapon is a's the mind behind it that you need to be wary of, not the weapon itself. Even if we eliminated every WMD in existence, a new one could be cooked up over a long weekend by a skilled chemist or physicist. Feel me? Understand me? No, you m

  • I fear the man who wants 1.

  • Relevance? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xous ( 1009057 ) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:45PM (#43144993) Homepage

    Who gives a shit what 56% of the general populace think? They aren't qualified to have a meaningful opinion.

    Did I miss the high school class on thermonuclear tactics? Pretty sure I would have gone to that.

  • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:29AM (#43146341)

    We've surrounded [] Iran with dozens of military bases, crashed [] their economy and currency with sanctions, illegally threatened [] them with military force, and committed multiple acts of war [] on a country over the....nuclear weapons program both the CIA [] and Israelis [] admit they don't have.

    So when does Iran get to threaten the United States for being in "material breach" of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires disarmament [] for countries already in possession of nuclear weapons?

  • safer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @03:33AM (#43146557)

    The world would also have been safer if the USSR had won the cold war and we'd all be living under a communist dictatorship. Safety isn't all that matters.

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