The Los Angeles Times ran front-page articles on November 9 and 10, 2014, on modernizing the US nuclear arsenal. The first article was titled, “Costs rise as nuclear arsenal ages.” The second article was titled, “Arsenal ages as world rearms.” Both were long articles and the authors made the case that there is no choice but for the United States to modernize its nuclear arsenal, delivery systems and infrastructure at great expense to taxpayers, estimated at $1 trillion over the next three decades.
The authors, reporters for the newspaper, write, “The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.” This statement might be acceptable as a quote from a Defense Department official or in an opinion piece, but it hardly reflects the objectivity of professional reporters. It sounds more like an unattributed statement from a Defense Department official or from a “defense” corporation press release.
In fact, there is a viable option that was not touched upon in the articles. The United States could choose instead to fulfill its legal obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. This would not be easy, but it would be far preferable to continuing the nuclear arms race through the 21st century. For the United States to convene such negotiations would demonstrate leadership in moving the world away from nuclear Armageddon and toward compliance with international law.
In pursuing this option, “defense” corporations would likely suffer shortfalls in their profits, but the huge sums proposed to be spent on the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal could be shifted to providing for the basic needs of the poorest citizens and for restoring the country’s deteriorating infrastructure. The truth is that nuclear weapons are obsolete for providing 21st century security against terrorist organizations, failed states, environmental destruction or climate chaos.
Do we really want to pass along the threat of nuclear warfare, by accident or design, which could destroy civilization, to our grandchildren and their grandchildren? Enough is enough. It is time, as Einstein argued more than a half century ago, to change our modes of thinking or face “unparalleled catastrophe.”
No country has the right to threaten the future of civilization and complex life with weapons of massive destructive power. Modernization of the US nuclear arsenal is not the only choice we have. A far better and saner choice is to end the nuclear weapons era, and that can only be done by diplomacy and negotiations for a nuclear weapons-free world.
Rather than creating a financial feeding frenzy for “defense” contractors and essentially throwing away a trillion dollars over the next three decades in the illegal pursuit of nuclear modernization, the United States could choose now to lead the world in seeking planetary nuclear zero. This would be a worthy pursuit for a great nation.