Minuteman III ICBM

Former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz called for an end to nuclear weapons a few years ago, but the movement failed to gain a foothold. So why do countries continue to spend billions of dollars to modernize and expand their nuclear arsenals? What would make nuclear disarmament possible? Ward Wilson joins us to talk about his book, “Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons.”

Ward Wilson, author and senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
David Straub, associate director of the Korean Studies Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University and former director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Korean Affairs

  • persinho

    Nuclear disarmament is a dangerous pipe dream.
    Nuclear weapons have played the decisive role in deterring wars between nuclear armed potential adversaries.
    Consequently, we should be augmenting our stockpile substantially, not reducing it.
    We don’t know what kind of lunatics might be ruling China in the future.

    They might imagine that because of their huge population that they could suffer enormous losses and still “prevail” against us in a nuclear war.

    Crazy, but…
    Potential assailants need to understand that no matter what they do that we have the ability to annihilate them completely.
    That alone will do more to preserve the peace than any treaty.
    Upgrade the arsenal.


    Before the knowledge and industrial bases are lost.

    • Bob Fry

      We don’t know what kind of right-wing lunatics might be ruling the USA in the future, all the more reason to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

  • Davey

    Can nonstate actors take influence pakistans nuclear weapons.

  • CyberSkull

    Ever tried the video game DEFCON? Its a war simulator that ends with a nuclear strike. The tagline for the game is “everyone looses”.

  • luke wilson

    armageddon theory is dangerous. we have way too many nukes to risk annialation and preventing future generations from having there life. we are responsible and we myst take action to further slash the nuclear weapons. the radiation circling the globe from detonation could be very dangerous, among many other threats from explosions. we have people running for president, michelle bachman that believe in armageddon. and too many weapons.

  • Kevin Collins

    With China having so fewer nukes and Germany none… is this the evolution of next gen of minimal deterrent

  • Hector

    Nuclear weapons are these days asymmetrical. In today’s system a major power like US, Russia, or China would suffer incredible international costs if they were to use a device. These weapons however give power to smaller nations and international criminal organizations disproportionate to their size. It is fundamentally in the national security interests of major military powers to ensure nuclear weapons are never used. For that to manifest itself in international disarmament however the major powers would have to trust eachother, which I believe is a long ways off. It would also require a commitment to go to war conventionally with anyone found in violation, ie the US with Israel, Russia with Iran, and China with Pakistan and India.

  • Chemist150

    By definition if the US updates nuclear weapons that have past their useful age, they will be actively proliferating nuclear bombs and be in violation of the NPT.

  • Shruti Khanna

    From the point of view of smaller less powerful countries who are not friends with the US and fear that the fate of Iraq will be their own, Nuclear armament seems to be a great way to go. This was partly the reason that Iran and N. Korea decided to go this route. The fact that the US rushed into Iraq and Afghanistan but has hesitated to take military action against these two countries proves that it was a smart decision on their part. While I am not saying that nuclear armament is the reason that the US is careful in dealing with these countries, that is the perception the world has. I know from general sentiment in India that for us, US was a slippery ally, if at all and we felt that nuclear armament was the only deterrent against Pakistan and the much more powerful China. I don’t believe that we went that route in order to USE them, in fact, the day we went nuclear, we announced that we would never strike first. In fact, I don’t believe that even a country like Iran would use them, but they do seem to be excellent deterrents against, forgive me, countries like the US.

    PS: I choose not to comment on the hypocrisy of the CTBT or the NPT which is a whole another story.

  • Cashy TheFourth

    Would the US have invaded Iraq if they had nuclear weapons?

    I don’t think so. Nuclear weapons do have a use. They kill a lot of people and create massive destruction. They only way they will be obsolete is if someone invents a weapon that is even more destructive.

  • BK

    The point everybody seems to be missing is: Nuclear weapons are cheap to maintain (in the range of thousands of $$ per device/year), and they are dollar-per-dollar the cheapest tool to kill people and destroy property (inflict monetary damage on the opponent).

    The “big wheel bicycle” example was correct. The nuclear weapons will be abandoned when we invent even cheaper way to kill people…

  • My image of nuclear war comes from a Doctor I heard speak back in the early ’90s. He said “Nuclear weapons always leave behind cancer clusters from radiation poisoning where they are designed and built.” In other words, they might cause damage if launched, but for sure they will cause damage when made.

    Since then I’ve referred to cooking stuff in the microwave oven as “nuking it”. I’m painfully aware that some percentage of the power involved comes from a nuclear power plant, and all I have to do to add to that karmic pile of nuclear waste is turning something electric on. I call it a “karmic pile of nuclear waste” because I’m not sure who it’s going to get or when, but it seems likely the stuff will hurt somebody someday.

  • Jackie Cabasso

    Whether or not nuclear weapons are militarily “useful” is a
    red herring. The US uses the threat of a nuclear attack the same way a bank
    robber uses a gun held to the temple of a bank teller. According to a 2008
    Department of Defense Report on the Air Force’s Nuclear Mission:

    “Though our consistent goal has been to avoid actual weapons
    use, the nuclear deterrent is ‘used’ every day by assuring friends and allies,
    dissuading opponents from seeking peer capabilities to the United States,
    deterring attacks on the United States and its allies from potential
    adversaries, and providing the potential to defeat adversaries if deterrence

    In a time of unprecedented global economic and environmental
    crisis and growing competition over scarce resources, some say the world is
    looking a lot like it did in the period before World War I. The possibility of
    a conventional war between or among great powers armed with nuclear weapons escalating
    to a nuclear weapons use is largely disregarded but must be considered as a
    real and serious threat to future of humanity.

    We need to move from the irrational
    fear-based ideology of deterrence to the rational fear of an eventual nuclear
    weapon use, whether by accident or design, by some nuclear weapon possessing state
    that places the threatened use of nuclear weapons at the core of its national
    security policy. We also need to
    stimulate a rational hope that security can be redefined in humanitarian and
    ecologically sustainable terms that will lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons
    and dramatic demilitarization, freeing up tremendous resources desperately
    needed to address universal human needs.

  • OldVet

    The fly on the window pane. How many times will we do the same absurd action and expect nothing to result. Nuclear weapons are a morally corrupt as drones or assassination. Who do you want to direct the ‘kill list’? Is this rational? Where, but hell, will it lead.

  • Richard Duda

    Ward Wilson had done us all a great service by thinking and writing and talking so clearly about the various myths surrounding nuclear weapons.

    The central myth is that nuclear weapons keep us safe – that they will deter a “rational” enemy from attacking us. There certainly is an argument that North Korea or Pakistan or Iran or Israel may actually believe that nuclear weapons provide genuine protection, but even they must have second thoughts at night when they contemplate what so-called “non-state actors” may someday do.

    Perhaps the greatest obstacle to progress in bringing these weapons under control is the additional myth that there is nothing that we can do about it. It is a debilitating myth that makes us all victims of fate. We can start by bringing Wilson’s analysis to the attention of our senators and representatives, and letting them know that this is the time to start cutting the spending on these weapons that are both dangerous and useless to us, and working seriously toward Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

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