How to prevent it.
Copyright (C) 2007
by Lew Paxton Price
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When I was a cadet between the summer of 1956 and that of 1960, I was taught by instructors who were prophets, people who could project the path of past and current events into a very logical and almost irreversible future. At that time, our only adversary of immediate consequence was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a group of nations who had been conquered, intimidated, and controlled by certain key men in Russia. We kept the USSR from overrunning the world (including ourselves) by threatening its rulers with our nuclear arsenal. This threat of force worked at that time because those in charge in the USSR were intelligent and sane enough to realize that a nuclear conflict would not be in their best interests. But, said our prophets, nuclear weapons are relatively easily constructed in one form or another, and there will come a time when enough nations will have such weapons that one or more of these nations will be headed by a man who will not be sane enough to prevent their use. This will result in a nuclear conflict that could ultimately destroy the world as we know it. The coming time of madmen with nuclear weapons would be statistically unavoidable. So the only sane course of action for us would be to know and understand the events that would lead up this situation and prevent each madman from following through with his evil intentions.
There is an article by Sid Perkins, Sudden Chill, in issue number 5, Volume 171, of Science News, dated the February 3, 2007. It presents a summary of how things stand in the world today. The entire article is two and one-half pages long and is well worth reading. Some excerpts from the article follow as well as some summaries of paragraphs.
At least 19 nations are known to have programs to develop nuclear weapons or have previously pursued that goal. Many more nations have the raw materials for constructing nuclear devices. At least 40 nations have enough uranium and plutonium on hand to construct substantial nuclear arsenals. Some of the nations with abundant bomb material have or have recently had strained relations with their neighbors.
At the end of 2003, Brazil probably had enough plutonium on hand to make more than 200 Hiroshima-size bombs, while its former rival Argentina could have produced more than 1,100 such bombs. Although North Korea probably has enough nuclear material to fabricate only a handful of devices, South Korea has enough plutonium to construct at least 4,400. Pakistan could make 100 or more nuclear bombs, and its neighbor India could could put together well over ten times as many.
Today, at least 13 nations operate facilities that enrich uranium, plutonium, or both. Altogether, 45 nations are known to have previous nuclear weapons programs, current weapons stockpiles, or the potential to become nuclear states.
The brief but intense thermal pulse of a nuclear explosion immediately ignites any combustible material nearby which can release more 1,000 times the energy of the bomb itself. Firestorms triggered by nuclear volleys would produce millions of tons of smoke and soot. Rain would not sufficiently cleanse the air, and the soot would remain aloft longer than from a natural fire. Smoke and soot from forest fires reach heights of more than 10 kilometers and create layers that are hundreds of meters thick. Smoke and soot from even a limited nuclear war - one in which no more that 100 Hiroshima-size weapons were used or their equivalent - would stay aloft for more than 6 years, blocking sunlight, and causing the average temperature on earth to drop sufficiently to create a nuclear winter. Furthermore, large quantities of nitrous oxides would destroy high altitude ozone at rates much higher than normal. This would catastrophically affect all animal life on earth.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that a madman who happens to be leading a nuclear state must be stopped before he is able to fully assemble sufficient nuclear firepower to be a threat. Although it takes time to create enough nuclear material to make even one bomb, there is enough such material available on the world black market for a wealthy madman to purchase all that he needs for many such bombs. Consequently, as our prophets at the Academy forecast many years ago, often our only option is pre-emptive attack on the offending nation.
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