Our Friend, the Bomb

by Bob Wilson

Well Jonathan, at your invitation I read your article, and I was right...You support the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, but have no idea what it specifies. You do so because the concept appeals to you. In true liberal style, your support for the treaty is based on emotion. You cite a report that there is Plutonium in a river on Long Island...(source not known) somehow implying that if we had this treaty ratified, it would not be there... You have (I'll bet) consumed every old Japanese horror movie with nuclear monsters emerging from the sea to ravage the population with the wide eyed naivete of a 12-year-old.

In your mind, anything that restricts the United States from maintaining its nuclear (or any) arsenal is good. You cite Chernobyl, as if that accident (a result of the general and inevitable decay of a corrupt socialistic state) would have been averted by this treaty. You imply that the refusal of the United States to capitulate and sign this particular treaty will cause another Chernobyl. Perhaps you believe that the espionage cover-up involving theft of our nuclear secrets by Clinton's campaign contributor, Communist China, has resulted in some kind of equity that would be upset if the United States continued to research and modernize/maintain our nuclear arsenal. I am sure you do not support the development of a functioning space based anti-ballistic missile defense system. Even many liberal Democrats however, now admit that we should employ such a system...due to the threat from rogue states like North Korea and Iraq. When Ronald Reagan wanted to do it fifteen years ago, it was lunacy. This treaty, (I understand) would prevent our development of such a system.

Your naive statement that it would be better to have a flawed treaty than none at all..."some countries will respect it" says it all. Who cares if Honduras respects it, but North Korea doesn't?

NO! It may NOT be better to have a "flawed treaty" than none at all. Just as with your belief that a criminal won't use a gun in violation of a state's gun laws, if we only have enough of them...the people we worry about (in nuclear development terms) don't give a tinker's dam (I like that old phrase) about a "flawed" nuclear treaty if they believe their survival (or state goal) depends upon possessing such weapons, and they can find a way to build them. Likewise, the United States has the technology and resources to build and maintain enough nuclear (and other) weapons to make it suicidal to attack us. Diminishing that capability for the sake of world equity in mass destruction capabilities is not a sane policy. The old liberal mindset that possessing a nuclear weapon will inevitably lead to its use, is simply wrong. They exist. Our sworn enemies are working to perfect nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Not possessing the capability to obliterate anyone who would use one against us is an open invitation to that event. Agreeing to hold off further development while our enemies "catch up" is a concept only a liberal like you would embrace.

Bob Wilson is a businessman and pilot living in Arizona who writes regularly for the Spectacle.

Jonathan Wallace replies:

Bob's style involves maximum sarcasm, which is one of the reasons I enjoy his stuff so much. But often the sarcasm masks the sense--so what is he really saying here? If Bob would answer two questions I think the picture would be much clearer:

1. Bob, do you agree that nuclear testing tends to put radiation into the environment in greater levels than it would normally be found there?

2. Do you agree that radiation in the environment in levels equivalent to those caused by nuclear testing is potentially bad for human health?

I refer Bob to the multigenerational cancer studies that have been done of military men who were in proximity to above-ground nuclear tests in the American West in the 1950's. It is impossible to tell from Bob's essay whether he thinks there is any danger in test radiation at all--his comment about Godzilla implies that he thinks I am foolish to worry about it.

I believe that Bob's views, if he unfolded them fully, would be something like this. There are potential enemies out there who are biding their time waiting for the moment when they can destroy us. The only way to protect ourselves against such enemies is to remain vigilant, and armed to the teeth, at all times. Remaining "armed to the teeth" means that we must continue developing new and more powerful weapons, because if we don't our adversaries will.

Bob's view requires us to believe a few smaller things. For example, that there are significant holes in our ability to detect nuclear blasts, a statement with which many nuclear scientists don't agree. That "rogue states" like North Korea could, despite our monitoring capabilities, secretly develop weapons strong enough to overwhelm our deterrence, and deploy them before we had a chance to take any countering action.

Assuming that Bob agrees that radiation is bad for human beings (I honestly don't know if he does) then his worldview demands an additional conclusion, that nuclear accidents and harm to human beings from fall-out are simply a necessary cost of remaining vigilant and safe.

Of course, it is also possible that Bob assumes that we could arm ourselves endlessly with ever more powerful weapons without grievous accidents occuring and in fact, without ever using them for the purposes for which they were designed. In that case, Bob is ignoring both Murphy's law and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which contradict his naive faith in American infallibility.

Bob's conclusions may follow from his premises, but the premises themselves don't map to the world I recognize. In Bob's world, no peace initiative, no effort toward disarmament, would ever be desirable.

I'm sure glad Bob doesn't run things.