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A Case For Unilateral US Nuclear Warhead Reductions

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the someone-has-to-start dept.

The Military 211

Lasrick writes "Interesting read of the geopolitics between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to reducing nuclear warheads. Pavel Podvig is a physicist trained at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology who works on the Russian nuclear arsenal, US-Russian relations, and nonproliferation. His take here is essential to understanding what is happening between Washington and Moscow on nuclear weapons cuts." Reader auric_dude also sent in a link to a few other views on the issue.

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211 comments

My Argument (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44160805)

You can't say you are considering unilateral cuts and expect the other guy to give you a deal, so you might as well make the cuts.

It's a about money. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44160851)

Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is really pricy. They're full of dangerous things. They require LOTS of upkeep. You have to guard them. (They have the power to destroy the world after all) The infrastructure to maintain your active arsenal is massive and costs piles of money, which seems silly for something you hope to never use.

Some say the nuclear arms race was as much as way to drain money out of the USSR until it collapsed as much as anything else. We're done with that, and I'm sure both sides are sick of throwing money in to a pit. You really only need to blow the world up once, if you're going to do it at all.

I also hear that most nuclear material for peacetime power reactors comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads.

Re:It's a about money. (2, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about 10 months ago | (#44161161)

Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is really pricy. They're full of dangerous things.

Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

They require LOTS of upkeep. You have to guard them. (They have the power to destroy the world after all) The infrastructure to maintain your active arsenal is massive and costs piles of money, which seems silly for something you hope to never use.

Most of the cost is military. Personally, I think guarding holes in the desert is a much finer jobs program than bombing people in the Middle East. Safer for the people who get the make-work jobs, too.

Some say the nuclear arms race was as much as way to drain money out of the USSR until it collapsed as much as anything else.

Yeah, those people obviously don't work for the Brookings Institute, or the Sante Fe Institute, and so they have no understanding of the games theory basis that led to the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), resulted in the "Cold War", and kept us out of a hot war.

We're done with that, and I'm sure both sides are sick of throwing money in to a pit. You really only need to blow the world up once, if you're going to do it at all.

If we were sick of throwing money into a pit, we wouldn't have approved TARP, TARP2, and we would have had some campaign promises kept, like closing Gitmo, and getting us out of our two major wars, instead of getting us into two new ones as well. That'd save a bunch of money right there.

I also hear that most nuclear material for peacetime power reactors comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads.

You heard incorrectly. RTG's, or Radioisotope Thermionic Generators, operate on Plutonium. These are used in spacecraft and space probes, Mars landers, and so on. The U.S. mostly buys the Plutonium for those from Russia and other former Soviet republics. Commercial power reactors, other than breeders, run off of Uranium, and the Uranium not only isn't weapons grade, it *can't* be, since if it were, the reactors wouldn't operate properly. Breeders can run on Plutonium, but most of them operate from reprocessed fuel, or as a means of reprocessing fuel.

The U.S. only operates two breeder sites, for the purpose of producing medically useful isotopes, and they are generally not run at capacity. They are under the control of the DOE, and there has been serious talk lately about shutting the one in Oak Ridge down. At which point we will be buying those isotopes from Japan and France - assuming Japan restarts their reactor network again, rather than it committing seppuku after Fukushima made them paranoid.

Re:It's a about money. (4, Informative)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 10 months ago | (#44161203)

Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

There's a little thing called "shelf life". Nukes have one, too.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161331)

Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

There's a little thing called "shelf life". Nukes have one, too.

There's a little thing called "sanity" too, which isn't apparent in any fucking plan of keeping any of it operational in any state other than dismantled, destroyed, or re-purposed. People used to have it, until greed got in the way.

Re:It's a about money. (4, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | about 10 months ago | (#44161411)

"Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey"

Not really. A one-time cost to decommission, defrayed by salvage, versus a large recurring expense.

"Most of the cost is military. Personally, I think guarding holes in the desert is a much finer jobs program than bombing people in the Middle East."

Cant say that I disagree on that. But nukes are extremely expensive toys and the maintanence cost is huge, and NOT mostly on personel. Just maintaining the nuclear arsenal accounts for around $18million a year currently and it's rising every year.

These are very delicate, precision machines, and each and every one of them is a minimum of 20 years old, many much older than that. As time goes on they require more maintanence, and it becomes more expensive.

I'm no naive hippy and I am ok with paying for deterrence. But it's clear we could cut our stock in half tomorrow with no reduction in deterrence. An arsenal that is capable of destroying the entire planet is in no way inferior to one that would be capable of destroying the planet a dozen times. It just costs less.

What the US administration has been trying to do, however, is get the Russians to make some concessions in return for us reducing our stock. This just wasnt a great approach to take. It probably actually spooked the Russians, who wonder why we are so concerned about their arsenal, hmmm? And they have other reasons to resist. They have indicated they are not interested in bilateral agreements that were reasonable back in the cold war days. It's a multipolar world, there are many nuclear nations, not just two and their respective pack members. The Russians want negotiations that include all the other nuclear powers as well. And the US administration would probably find that very reasonable if it werent for Israel...

At any rate we should cut stock for a number of reasons. It would soothe the Russian fears and might well lead to them reducing their own stock in response, but that's not the reason to do it, that's just some possible gravy.

"If we were sick of throwing money into a pit, we wouldn't have approved TARP, TARP2, and we would have had some campaign promises kept, like closing Gitmo, and getting us out of our two major wars, instead of getting us into two new ones as well. That'd save a bunch of money right there."

True that.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44161631)

I'm no naive hippy and I am ok with paying for deterrence. But it's clear we could cut our stock in half tomorrow with no reduction in deterrence. An arsenal that is capable of destroying the entire planet is in no way inferior to one that would be capable of destroying the planet a dozen times. It just costs less.

No such arsenal has ever existed that could do that once, much less a dozen times. Instead, I think that Russia's cited behavior (basically stonewalling to get Obama to unilaterally cut nukes) indicates that they think that they'll get a lot of mileage from further reductions in the US arsenal and similarly would lose a lot of capability from cutting their own arsenals.

Re:It's a about money. (2, Informative)

Arker (91948) | about 10 months ago | (#44161837)

"No such arsenal has ever existed that could do that once, much less a dozen times."

There are a little over 5,000 warheads in the US stockpile (as of 2010 wikipedia quoting reuters.) That's enough to hit every small city in the world, and most of them twice. Each is many, many times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The initial blast fatalities alone from a full scale launch would decimate any nation on earth, it would make things like hurricanes look like hangnails.

The rural population outside the cities would survive the initial blasts, but the lingering effects of radiation would decimate that remnant in short order - as well as the populations of any areas that were not initially struck directly. And only a small fraction of those weapons would need to be detonated to invoke a nuclear winter which would make survival problematic even if all the explosions are on the other side of the globe from you.

Life would continue, yes, the cockroaches would inherit the earth. But humanity would be lucky to survive even in stone age form.

Re:It's a about money. (1, Informative)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 10 months ago | (#44162209)

There are a little over 5,000 warheads in the US stockpile (as of 2010 wikipedia quoting reuters.) That's enough to hit every small city in the world, and most of them twice.

I call bullshit!
There are 50 states in the US. If each state has 100 cities, that would use all of your missiles. I'm guessing there are more than 100 cities per state on the average.
So, what about the rest of the world? Is there truly less than 5000 cities on Earth?
To hit all cities twice, there would have to be fewer than 2500 cities worldwide.
Your "facts" are nonsense! Even if you had 10X the nukes, it would still be nonsense.

Re:It's a about money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44162479)

The blast radius of a modern nuke is more than large enough to take out multiple small cities or a large metropolitan area of a major cities and the outlaying (small cities) area.

Re:It's a about money. (3, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | about 10 months ago | (#44162635)

There are according to a quick ask google a total of 2851 Cities with Population of 150,000 + on earth. That appears to be accurate to me if you have a better source feel free to present it. Assuming that is correct, 2149 could be allocated two, which is easily "most" of 2851. 161 of those would be in the US btw.

Of course the definition of city is somewhat arbitrary and this is a ballpark figure but I think it makes the point. There are huge urban areas that are counted as several cities but can still be taken out with one of the larger warheads. There are more spread out areas where you might have to use 2 or 3 smaller warheads. But in essence it's clearly more than enough weaponry to firebomb every densely populated area on earth simultaneously. Actually using a significant fraction of it would cause a disaster that affects not just the targets but comes back and kills us too.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161685)

"committing seppuku after Fukushima made them paranoid"

That is some calloused, thinly veiled racism you felt you had to add there at the end, huh? You do realize that moderates (non nuclear/anti-nuclear zealots) look at that and think, "fuck, I wasted my time reading a post from another fucking nut-job. . ." Really, I actually was considering the points of your post until a came across that little turd you left there. It was like finding a fucking maggot in my food. Go fuck yourself!

Re:It's a about money. (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about 10 months ago | (#44161813)

Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is really pricy. They're full of dangerous things.

Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

And dealing with the decay that you let build up because you were too lazy to maintain them is more costly still. No, 'let them sit' is a stupid fucking idea. Far more cost effective and safe to reprocess them into reactor fuel.

They require LOTS of upkeep. You have to guard them. (They have the power to destroy the world after all) The infrastructure to maintain your active arsenal is massive and costs piles of money, which seems silly for something you hope to never use.

Most of the cost is military. Personally, I think guarding holes in the desert is a much finer jobs program than bombing people in the Middle East. Safer for the people who get the make-work jobs, too.

You should probably try becoming part of this century before telling us about nuclear stockpiles. We don't have nukes sitting in holes in the desert anymore, which is why we don't need as many. We just launch them from subs that no one knows where they are so they can't be taken out.

Some say the nuclear arms race was as much as way to drain money out of the USSR until it collapsed as much as anything else.

Yeah, those people obviously don't work for the Brookings Institute, or the Sante Fe Institute, and so they have no understanding of the games theory basis that led to the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), resulted in the "Cold War", and kept us out of a hot war.

We're done with that, and I'm sure both sides are sick of throwing money in to a pit. You really only need to blow the world up once, if you're going to do it at all.

If we were sick of throwing money into a pit, we wouldn't have approved TARP, TARP2, and we would have had some campaign promises kept, like closing Gitmo, and getting us out of our two major wars, instead of getting us into two new ones as well. That'd save a bunch of money right there.

I would suggest you take a basic economics and a history course, then learn WHY TARP actually happened rather than what your friends told you. You first need to understand that the magical failed banks failed because laws were changed that suddenly ... on PAPER ... made them insolvable. They were never actually doing bad, they just suddenly became illegal to operate.

I also hear that most nuclear material for peacetime power reactors comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads.

You heard incorrectly. RTG's, or Radioisotope Thermionic Generators, operate on Plutonium. These are used in spacecraft and space probes, Mars landers, and so on. The U.S. mostly buys the Plutonium for those from Russia and other former Soviet republics. Commercial power reactors, other than breeders, run off of Uranium, and the Uranium not only isn't weapons grade, it *can't* be, since if it were, the reactors wouldn't operate properly. Breeders can run on Plutonium, but most of them operate from reprocessed fuel, or as a means of reprocessing fuel.

The U.S. only operates two breeder sites, for the purpose of producing medically useful isotopes, and they are generally not run at capacity. They are under the control of the DOE, and there has been serious talk lately about shutting the one in Oak Ridge down. At which point we will be buying those isotopes from Japan and France - assuming Japan restarts their reactor network again, rather than it committing seppuku after Fukushima made them paranoid.

Or the operate on other things, which even wikipedia lists. blah blah blha I stopped reading here because you're just spewing untrue bullshit.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 10 months ago | (#44162137)

Obama has already made at least one unilateral deal with the Russians.

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-03-26/politics/35449106_1_missile-defense-president-obama-russian-president-dmitry-medvedev

why not more that we haven't overheard?

Re:It's a about money. (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 10 months ago | (#44162279)

instead of getting us into two new ones as well.

Three.
A certain three-letter club in Germany appears not amused at all, and their politicians who actually seem to represent them talk of US actions resembling those of a cold war.

I would love to see IDS log stats from the US.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#44162593)

Decommissioning is happening with the older ones whether you pretend it isn't or not, so bringing that up is misleading the readers. A cut in the number of warheads can be achieved by not making as many replacements.

Re:It's a about money. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#44162077)

It's a jobs program dumbass! We keep hundreds of scientists employed studying the decay and effectiveness of the warheads. A few of those scientists keep our Courts and Laywers in business along with all of the investigators and juries when they steal secrets for China. [cnn.com] Not to mention all of the investigative reporters that would be out of work if they didn't have something to write about. We put thousands of people to work in the military making sure that they're safe and handled properly. Not to mention all of the DOE bureaucrats that oversee the the kit and kaboodle.

No, we need more nukes now to grow American Jobs!

wrong (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#44160885)

I think like 16 or something would destroy the entire world's weather for decades so yeah, completely pointless.

Re:wrong (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#44160923)

How many have been tested in the last handful of decades? A lot more than sixteen. Give everyone nukes I say, make it so that interference in the affairs of other nations will always come at too high a price. Then people can sort things out for themselves, and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences as they deserve. The age of gunboat diplomacy is at an end.

Re:wrong (2)

tmosley (996283) | about 10 months ago | (#44161761)

This guy knows human nature.

Nuclear non-proliferation is implicit endorsement of war and all the horrors that accompany it. Nuclear weapons have saved more lives than any other technology invented by man since they have been created. World Wars would still be happening every 1-2 decades were it not for them.

Re:wrong (1)

1s44c (552956) | about 10 months ago | (#44162553)

Sounds like the 'guns make people safe' argument which totally misses the fact that US hospitals are full of people with gun shot wounds.

Re:wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161843)

How many have been tested in the last handful of decades? A lot more than sixteen. Give everyone nukes I say, make it so that interference in the affairs of other nations will always come at too high a price. Then people can sort things out for themselves, and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences as they deserve. The age of gunboat diplomacy is at an end.

This has to be one of the most ignorant things I've ever read about humans. Middle East religion in and by itself would "justify" launching nukes against the non-believers and sinners. Wake THE FUCK UP already, and realize that insanity does not limit itself to mere followers or citizens of a nation.

Re:wrong (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44160993)

I think like 16 or something would destroy the entire world's weather for decades so yeah, completely pointless.

No way. Just how big do you think these warheads are? In total megatons, America's nuclear arsenal peaked in the 1960s, and has been declining for half a century as accuracy as dramatically improved. You don't need a lot of yield if you can put it through a particular window in the Kremlin. Most ICBMs and SLBMs have warheads of only a few hundred kilotons. Cruise missile warheads are around 10-20KT. That is a Nagasaki, not a Castle Bravo.

Re:wrong (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44161057)

How do you figure? Energy-wise a single hurricane can easily dissipate hundreds of thousands of times as much energy as our largest nukes. If every nuke on the planet were detonated the combined dust clouds might cause a year or two without a summer, but a single large volcano eruption is going to be many times worse than a handful of nukes, and even then the consequences are typically very localized (from a global perspective). The real damage from nukes (aside from the radioactive craters) is fallout - and that doesn't really effect weather at all. Even that would have to be pretty extreme to do more than cause greatly increased rates of cancer and birth defects.

Re:wrong (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#44161133)

If every nuke on the planet were detonated the combined dust clouds might cause a year or two without a summer

Different simulations give different results. Want to try an experiment?

Re:wrong (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#44161479)

If every nuke on the planet were detonated the combined dust clouds might cause a year or two without a summer

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter#Recent_modeling [wikipedia.org]

A nuclear war between the United States and Russia today could produce nuclear winter, with temperatures plunging below freezing in the summer in major agricultural regions, threatening the food supply for most of the planet. The climatic effects of the smoke from burning cities and industrial areas would last for several years, much longer than previously thought. New climate model simulations, which are said to have the capability of including the entire atmosphere and oceans, show that the smoke would be lofted by solar heating to the upper stratosphere, where it would remain for years.

Sounds like we better get cracking on those mine shafts.

Re:wrong (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 10 months ago | (#44162191)

Yes, because we've established Wikipedia as authoritative and never biased.

These models show the opposite of what happens in nature. A single volcano can release more energy than all of the nukes on the planet combined ... yet there isn't any indication of 'years' of uninhabitable Earth due to said volcanos. Said volcanos actually blast dust into the air ... rather than a detonation of a nuke in air ... which directs most of its force down

You have no idea how much energy it takes to damage this planet. The physics tell us you're wrong.

Re:wrong (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 10 months ago | (#44161833)

If every nuke on the planet were detonated the combined dust clouds might cause a year or two without a summer

Great! Now we have a way to fight Global Warming!!! Let's get busy!!!

I can't believe it would only take 16 of them... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 10 months ago | (#44161165)

I think like 16 or something would destroy the entire world's weather for decades so yeah, completely pointless.

I can't believe it would only take 16 of them... ...to trigger a nuclear winter and totally reverse global warming.

What are we waiting for?

(Also, other posters have pointed out: we've set off more than 16 of them already).

Re:wrong (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 10 months ago | (#44161283)

Not a problem. We'll just fire up some coal-fired electric plants and achieve a fine balance between Nuclear Winter and Global Warming.

Re:wrong (2)

Hartree (191324) | about 10 months ago | (#44161557)

No. Not maybe, but no.

Either Mt. Pinatubo or Mt. St. Helens were far larger than that in terms of energy and vastly more effective at coupling the debris into the upper atmosphere. Add to that the large amounts of sulfur compounds they emitted.

So, where was the massive weather disruption or global cooling (or warming for that matter)?

It didn't happen. It hasn't happened then or even with Krakatoa or other massive eruptions of less than Yellowstone or Mt. Toba scale.

16 nukes are an eyeblink compared to the sort of energy flows that Mom Nature has going on all the time. The big thing about nuclear weapons is they emit the energy very very fast and in ways that couple well to destroying buildings, and living things nearby.

As a comparison, (yes, I did the calculation):

The detonation of all the worlds nuclear weapons at the point in time when the arsenals were the greatest (and vastly overestimating by assuming they were on average 1 megaton rather than 100 kiloton range or less) in the ocean, assuming all the energy stays in the water, would raise the temperature of the worlds oceans less than one hundredth of a degree C.

That was in repsonse to someone who assured me that he had it on good authority that it would boil the oceans dry. Unfortunately for him, I paid attention in all those physics classes I took.

Re:wrong (1)

guanxi (216397) | about 10 months ago | (#44161635)

Now we debunk even nuclear war. 'It's all a conspiracy of misinformation to scare you -- like climate change.'

Obvious troll is obvious: (2)

Hartree (191324) | about 10 months ago | (#44161703)

What planet are you on?

Someone posted a wildly inaccurate claim just as wrong as saying hurricane Katrina would destroy the whole earth.

And where in hell did you get the idea that anyone is saying that nuclear war is anything but devastating?

Do you mean that saying that Katrina wouldn't destroy the whole earth means advocating for repeated hits by it since it's just "misinformation"?

In the words of Monty Python: "That's a very silly line. Sit down."

Re:wrong (2)

dryeo (100693) | about 10 months ago | (#44161949)

In 1816 summer never showed up, at least partially caused by the eruption of Mount Tamboura, perhaps amplified by a solar minimum and it being the tail end of the little ice age. Frost and snow at the beginning of June in New England and New York, ice on the rivers in Pennsylvania and swings in temperatures from the 90's to below freezing. Farming was devastated with prices rising extremely, oats went from 12 cents to 92 cents a bushel ($1.51 to $12.45 in to-days money). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_Summer [wikipedia.org]
A bunch of nukes along with the associated fire storms could well do similar, a couple of years with very low agriculture output would be very hard on many of the worlds peoples.

Re:wrong (1, Informative)

jelizondo (183861) | about 10 months ago | (#44162145)

Mt. St. Helens did not affect weather because the blast was horizontal, if you remember the news there was a hole in the side of the volcano and later the whole north side colapsed. Also there was less sulphur dioxide expelled (1.5 million tons [usgs.gov]) versus 25 million tons of Pinatubo. (see below)

Now, Pinatubo did have a global effect. PBS writes [pbs.org]: In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines produced ten times as much ash as Mount St. Helens and released more than 25 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The resulting cloud - which formed a wide band around the planet within about a month - resulted in an overall cooling of the global surface temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit.

As you point out, Toba did have a greater global effect, but because it coincided with other fenomena, such as a solar minimum and several previous volcanic eruptions not by sheer magnitude alone.

Now, let's try exploding several nuclear bombs in different parts of the world and see what the effects are... If taking some classes in physics was enough for us to accurately predict the effects, we would be Lords of the Universe and not meek, tree-climbing monkeys. So I vote we dismantle the damn things and to hell with experimenting...

Re:wrong (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#44162083)

Better make that 32 to be safe. Wait, because of decay and possible failure, let's make it an even 1000.

Re:wrong (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 10 months ago | (#44162253)

I think like 16 or something would destroy the entire world's weather for decades so yeah, completely pointless.

Since the Global Warming crowd claims that one SUV is capable of doing that, those nukes don't sound too effective to me.

"Deployed" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44160901)

TFA consistently refers to a reduction in "deployed" warheads. For those who don't understand the nuance, there are still many more warheads not currently deployed. We call those "stockpiled" arms. A reduction in deployed warheads is pointless unless we talk about a global (no pun intended) reduction in arms. Why, you ask? Because we have stealth bombers and fighters with global reach. Those stockpiled weapons could be locked and loaded on our jets in short order if we wanted. Suddenly, they are now "deployed" warheads.

The truth remains, until nuclear weapons stockpiles are reduced below MAD levels, reduction in arms is just for show. We'll always have enough in storage to kill each other a few times over, but that's not really what matters. What matters is that we are constantly trying to establish a dialog with people who don't like us rather than take a beligerant stance. That, more than anything else will result in reduced nuclear tensions.

Re:"Deployed" (1, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44161045)

A reduction in deployed warheads is pointless

It is not pointless. A deployed warhead is more likely to be stolen by Al Queda, more likely to be involved in an accident, more likely to be launched by a rouge commander, and more likely to be used in a first strike. The first strike capability is particularly destabilizing, because our "enemies" then need to keep their own nukes on hair trigger alert, or build enough of them to ride out a first strike and still retaliate.

Re:"Deployed" (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 10 months ago | (#44161113)

It is not pointless. A deployed warhead is more likely to be stolen by Al Queda,

al-Qaeda is more likely to steal a warhead attached to a plane sitting on a flight line or in a ready hangar or deployed in a nuclear sub 150 ft underwater than sitting in some warehouse? Really?

Re:"Deployed" (4, Funny)

murdocj (543661) | about 10 months ago | (#44161205)

I have a hunch that the stockpiled nukes are not sitting in crates next to the $100 hammers.

Re:"Deployed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161361)

A deployed warhead is more likely to be stolen by Al Queda

Haven't you heard? Al Quaeda are the good guys now. In fact, the US government would probably give them a nuke for free. To vetted members of course.

Re:"Deployed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44162181)

Nuclear - Civil - War. I'm guessing that's what this is all about. Not as an external threat, but one from within.

Re:"Deployed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161193)

Wrong. Stockpiled warheads can not necessarily be used the way you want them, and are much less flexible. You can't just take a W-80 and slap it on a B-2, or take a B61 and launch it from a Trident missile. The stockpile only counts if you can match it to your desired delivery platform. Sure, it might be faster to build new delivery systems than to build warheads, but it would also be wrong to say that it doesn't count.

The "MAD" assumption is that you are not going to have spare time to re-load/re-fuel or pull stock piles out of bunkers. You got what you got when the bubble goes up.

Re:"Deployed" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161471)

"constantly trying to establish a dialog with people who don't like us"

Who is it that you think does not like you? I work with the Russians every day and know for sure that they have no animosity towards Americans although they do get seriously annoyed with the fact that most Americans seem to believe that they won WWII which is contrary to history. Most of it is more like sympathy as they see that America now has a level of propaganda that they had 30 years ago and that American people actually believe what they are told but this is not the same as dislike. Governments and people are different and Russians understand this far more than most and they see the American government as dangerous and evil but that does not mean that they see the American people as any different to people of their parents generation.

Russia did not "collapse" 20 years ago. They had 4 times the military that the US had and the cost was stupid so they cut it by 75%. They still do not see the US as a threat. One reason I work with Russians is because they have more money and can pay me. Our economy collapsed more than theirs did but our propaganda told the story differently.

Re:"Deployed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161551)

In America the people vote for the government. So when if they hate the government then by logic they hate the people.

"They have more money and can pay me"
Perhaps you should take a look at those GDP numbers.

How has that talking panned out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161525)

What matters is that we are constantly trying to establish a dialog with people who don't like us rather than take a beligerant stance. That, more than anything else will result in reduced nuclear tensions.

And how has that worked out for us over the last five years with our "global reset?" China, Russia, and the totalitarian regimes of the remainder of our foes have responded to our perceived weakness with nothing but aggression. If advertising our unwillingness to use force even after promising to do so (Syria) has had this effect, how do you think our inability to use force will play out?

However you feel about Snowden, do you think that Putin and the Chinese would have thumbed their noses the way that they have at ANY former Administration since Truman? When the people of the world unite behind universal morals that respect the lives of those that they may not agree with, I'll happily sign the petition for unilateral disarmament. Until that day, I'd rather be hated (but safe) than take actions that WE perceive as kind but OTHERS perceive as weak.

Re:"Deployed" (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 10 months ago | (#44162267)

It's doubtful that Russia and the United States will discuss a reduction in deployed arms with such naivete that it can be bypassed by keeping the inactive warheads in fire-ready condition. A certain level of "stockpiled" warheads is necessary to support the level of "deployed" warheads due to testing, maintenance, and verification. A reduction in deployed warheads will eventually lead to a reduction in stockpiled arms once we built up the political will to dismantle the suckers.

You're also incorrect when you conclude that just because we have stealth bombers and fighters with global reach, any stockpiled weapon can be deployed right away. There's absolutely no reason to do that when you already have fire-ready warheads cocked and ready to go. Unless, of course, if we already fired all of the 2000 or so deployed warheads and we have to go picking at the bottom of the barrel. More important, we have most of our deterrents stuck in missiles and cruise missiles. We are not going to deliver 2000 nuclear warheads by plane anytime soon.

Why isn't it good for the gander? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44160905)

So, the gist of the article is the US needs to bring more incentives to bring the Russians to the table. The assumption is of course that the Russians are not interested in any reductions for their own sake, for a safer world, for the children or anything like that. The argument is that unilateral cuts would somehow get Russia interested in playing ball or being left behind. Not sure I really get that logic. So if we take a few hundred of our 1500 balls and go home, they still have their 1500 balls to play with.

I've got a better idea. Why not have Russia start with some unilateral reductions. The US could not possibly resist internal political pressure to follow suit. No US president would want to be seen as the warmonger while the peaceful Russians were happily reducing their warhead count.

Re:Why isn't it good for the gander? (1)

murdocj (543661) | about 10 months ago | (#44161219)

Yeah, I have trouble following the argument of "Russia doesn't want to reduce their arsenal, so the USA should reduce its arsenal, at which point Russia will suddenly feel an overpowering need for arms reductions". Seems like it would be more likely to go the other way... Putin would be able to say "see comrades (whups, slip of the tongue), the West really is weak, we can just sit tight and modernize".

Not that I'm opposed to reducing nukes, I think it would be great if we could get it down to a few subs carrying a second strike force, but I don't think unilateral reductions are going to compel Russia to change course.

Re:Why isn't it good for the gander? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 10 months ago | (#44162205)

He could say that ... he wouldn't be the first russian leader to think that way. Its worked out great so far, hasn't it.

No problem here. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44160945)

As long as we have enough to kill everyone on the planet I'm ok with the reductions.

Re:No problem here. (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 10 months ago | (#44161111)

Then we best start producing a whole lot more quick, because we don't have nearly enough as is unless we can gather everyone together into great big living bulls-eyes. We could probably wipe out all the major military, industrial, and urban areas on the planet (assuming all missiles flew true, and all defense systems were complete failures), and maybe have enough left over to do some damage to farmland as well, but everything else would be basically fine. The survivors of the initial holocaust might suffer a year or two of "nuclear winter" (which would likely mean a lot more deaths) and a century or so of high rates of cancer and birth defects, but nothing terribly debilitating.

Re:No problem here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161183)

Close enough.

Re:No problem here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161235)

This. A regular 2000lb bomb leaves about a 30' crater. A nuke is going to leave one 1.5-2 orders of magnitude bigger. So, let's say 3000'. If you are more than a couple miles away in a well built building, and not standing next to the window, you are probably going to live through the initial blast. Fires will probably kill more, but that is dependent on the city you live in. If you live in Nagasaki or Hiroshima with a lot of wood and rice paper buildings, you are probably out of luck.

Even cancer deaths and birth defects are over-feared. Check the stats on Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Sure, you can find some spectacular cases, but statistically the increases were a lot less than was feared and not even close to enough to lead to extinction.

Re:No problem here. (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#44161325)

This. A regular 2000lb bomb leaves about a 30' crater. A nuke is going to leave one 1.5-2 orders of magnitude bigger. So, let's say 3000'. If you are more than a couple miles away in a well built building, and not standing next to the window, you are probably going to live through the initial blast. Fires will probably kill more, but that is dependent on the city you live in. If you live in Nagasaki or Hiroshima with a lot of wood and rice paper buildings, you are probably out of luck.

Even cancer deaths and birth defects are over-feared. Check the stats on Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Sure, you can find some spectacular cases, but statistically the increases were a lot less than was feared and not even close to enough to lead to extinction.

Ok, let's go for it Dr. Teller.

Re:No problem here. (3, Interesting)

murdocj (543661) | about 10 months ago | (#44161243)

Well, lets see... this talked about 1500 "strategic" nukes. Say Russia dropped 1,000 on the USA, or on average 20 per state. I'm guessing that's most major cities, most industrial complexes, most centralized food processing, rail and air transportation, highway hubs, etc. Yeah, a lot of people would survive the initial attack, but unless you can live off of what's right around you, you won't survive the aftermath, even if you don't have radiation sickness.

The other way to think of it is that recovering from catastrophes like hurricanes, earthquakes, etc is really tough, even when the rest of the country pitches in to help. What happens when there is no "rest of the country"?

Re:No problem here. (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 10 months ago | (#44161467)

What's sad is, there are Dominionists in this country who think it's their job to bring about precisely that, because of "Biblical prophecy." Their own twisted fantasies of Biblical prophecy, that is. They eagerly label Obama the Antichrist, in hopes of moving the timetable right along, among other bizarre notions. The continuous meddling in Israel is easily attributable to their policies too.

Re:No problem here. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#44161835)

Are you sure? Wikipedia makes it look like [wikipedia.org] "Dominionism" is an idea built by fearmongers, who make money from peddling fear, more than any real movement. Are you sure it's a real thing?

Re:No problem here. (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 10 months ago | (#44162153)

It's real enough, and yes, the idea is definitely built by fearmongers. You got that part precisely correct. As with many religious movements, the salesmen seldom believe any of what they're selling. That doesn't mean the buyers don't believe it. They do. They're fearful little worms who start out with peculiar notions to begin with. Dominionism is carefully designed to appeal to them, much like Scientology is carefully designed to appeal to a different set of people. All religions are built on false pretenses, but religious movements are quite real, and can be quite dangerous. The jury is still out on exactly how dangerous this particular scam will eventually be.

Re:No problem here. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#44162475)

How exactly are you sure it's real? To me it sounds like you're sounding a lot like a paranoid nut, with a fear but deta ched from reality.

Re:No problem here. (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#44162097)

I think your username is well chosen. Once again I'm struck by the sort of parallelism that arises between a username that person's post.

There is no meaningful support for that in the US, and it isn't compatible with the Constitution. It isn't going to happen. You're worrying about the wrong thing.

Re:No problem here. (3, Interesting)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 10 months ago | (#44161979)

And to make things worse the planet would be about one order of magnitude above its carrying capacity if it were not for a steady supply of artificial fertilizer, made from natural gas or other fossil fuels. Even if you can live off the land around you now you may be unable to do so after a major nuclear exchange when fertilizer becomes unavailable and agricultural yields drop.

What about hunting then? Well, we are about two orders of magnitude above the Earth's carrying capacity for us as hunter-gatherers. The what little edible wildlife is left today would run out quickly if there were no conservation laws.

That said, even if the population would drop by 99% there would still be 70 million humans on the planet and humans would still be the most numerous mammal species except for the ones that live off of our economy such as rats and other rodents. Even if the population would drop by 99.99% we would still not qualify as a threatened species, not even nearly. In short: there are a lot of humans and killing us all won't be easy by any means.

Re:No problem here. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 10 months ago | (#44162233)

According to studies done at Chernobyl. After a couple of years, new births rapidly stop being part of the cancer riddle group. It doesn't even take decades, just a few years.

Look at factual information from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not nearly as horrible as its made out to be. Yes, people got cancer ... but it wasn't enough that they moved away. The cities were rebuilt where they once stood. Hell, Hiroshima doubled in size within just a few years! As long as you didn't stand on the glowing spot in the center of town, its not nearly as dangerous as people think.

Summary? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161005)

Isn't the point of a summary to actually summarize the content of the article? I certainly wish it was so.

(Too lazy to RTFA, too lazy to bother logging in and re-typing the message after noticing I'm still AC (something /. sucks at handling))

S.T.A.R.T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161041)

As long as it does not end up like S.T.A.R.T where we reduce arms in exchange for Russia thinking about it.

The best way tou reduce our stockpile - USE THEM (0)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 10 months ago | (#44161071)

on Iraq, or the French. makes no difference to me. We have to, lest the government decides to use them against Arizona.

Re:The best way tou reduce our stockpile - USE THE (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about 10 months ago | (#44161103)

Hey, I resent that. My state is a shining example of decency, respect for all regardless of skin color and/or sexual orientation, and clean politics that both expresses the will of the people and leads us towards improving who we are as human beings.

Nuke Nevada instead. They're at least used to it. /frank
Phoenix, Az (and only 44 C at the moment; a relatviely cool day)

newflash: nukular don't exist (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161073)

This is the era of the internets. Use it to grow some new neurons, learn something today, now.

Mr President, we cannot afford a Mine Shaft Gap! (1, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#44161089)

After all, just because the USSR no longer exists doesn't mean they still don't present a deadly threat to the existence of the Free World. Our troops in the Free Republic of Germany need to be properly armed and prepared to bravely defend us from the Red Armies of International Communism. Without constant vigilance, the Khmer Rouge could even gain the upper hand and threaten the Republic of Vietnam and the rest of SEATO.

Needless to say, anyone who opposes these plans is an agent working under the direction of Che Guevera.

Re:Mr President, we cannot afford a Mine Shaft Gap (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 10 months ago | (#44161109)

Last time I encountered a Mine Shaft Gap I fell down it. No creepers needed, simple self-destruction will suffice. It was a hassle getting down there to pick up all my stuff, too.

And it's not an east-west thing, as Minecraft does not come from either Russia or the U.S.

Re:Mr President, we cannot afford a Mine Shaft Gap (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 10 months ago | (#44161185)

Russia was an empire long before the tzar and his family got shot. The national character is not going to change much just because of a minor bit of regime change. If Putin weren't effectively president for life, optimism about the new Russia might be a little more warranted.

Comment from a well known pacifist (3, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#44161119)

"If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce."

-- Winston S. Churchill

"Speak softly and carry a big stick" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161409)

If we're quoting deceased leaders of the free world that existed in a very different geo-political climate, why not bring Teddy Roosevelt into the discussion?

Re:"Speak softly and carry a big stick" (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#44161539)

If we're quoting deceased leaders of the free world that existed in a very different geo-political climate, why not bring Teddy Roosevelt into the discussion?

Because Teddy didn't know about nukes, Winnie did. As for "a very different geo-political climate", it's not clear how that makes nukes any less destructive.

Re:"Speak softly and carry a big stick" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161587)

newsflash: nukular is a fraud. it never existed.

newsflash: churchill, roosevelt, Obama....all psychopaths and it's the #1 requirement for ascending to position of power.

He has one meat brain and whatever he said can be uttered today be the plothera of commedians we have and they're quotable too.

Bad bad men...power hungry freaks. Today he would be locked up and try hard to not drop the soap bar because psychopaths power hungry "leaders" would tend to make threats.

This is the internets...live, learn, speak the truth....pursue the truth....stupidty is unacceptable in the era of the internets.

Re:"Speak softly and carry a big stick" (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#44161627)

Teddy would have loved aircraft carrier task forces. Move them around the globe, like chess pieces, threatening without saying a word.

Build Project Orion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161127)

Use the warhead to explore the Solar System or go to Mars.

Hasn't the world flipped over?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161201)

We've become the Soviet Union, we're spying on our citizens they way they spied on theres.
We have fake money too, exactly the same way Breshnev printing the Soviet Ruble to collapse.
Border controls internally.
Belarussia was Russia's poodle. UK is America poodle.
Even the journalists are like Pravda under the Soviet Union, they talk the government talking points and leak the government authorized leaks and attack the truth like its a crime.
Patriotism is marketed not as "be proud in your country", but "don't dare contradict your leaders lies".
We have elections but we can only elect what the military approves and hasn't leaked and smeared yet.
We have rights on paper but they're waived away for us in secret courts with secret verdicts that can never be challenged.
Stasi worked against their own country, East Germany for the benefit of their masters Russia, GCHQ and NSA.
Words are to be feared, they can land you in ...

Re:Hasn't the world flipped over?? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 10 months ago | (#44161655)

The same things have been happening throughout history. People tend to forget quickly. Things you mention for other countries have happened in the US multiple times in the last century. The actors change, but the stories remain the same. Or ....

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
    - George Santayana

Re:Hasn't the world flipped over?? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 10 months ago | (#44161849)

You have no idea what it was like in the Soviet Union. It's easy to look up but you are too lazy.

Re:Hasn't the world flipped over?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44162563)

And you clearly have no idea what it was like in Germany in the early 30's. It's easy to look up but you are too lazy.

Scientists know nothing of politics or military (0)

hessian (467078) | about 10 months ago | (#44161231)

We got through the Cold War by reminding them that if they stepped out of line, we'd kill every last one of them.

That works.

Being a peace-oriented wuss encourages them to attack.

Don't send mixed signals.

Do bad, you die. (clear signal)

We want peace, bad is what? (mixed signal)

Re:Scientists know nothing of politics or military (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161601)

Don't waste your time trying to use logic. They can't escape their utopian fantasies. There's only two ways to peace. One side destroys the other to the point where the other side doesn't want to be exterminated, or both sides have the ability to exterminate each other and the cost of war is too great.

they wanna kill you ... just because (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44161339)

it's ironic how many among us always assume just because they see no rational in harming (enslaving or destroying) other people, so think the rest of the world.

i've got news for you... all things being equal, half the world would go for your throat for no particular reason... the other half has good reasons.

Uncharacteristically Stupid (2)

Terry95 (2690775) | about 10 months ago | (#44161459)

It never ceases to amaze and depress me that otherwise seemingly intelligent people are mortified by the big bag nuclear boogie man. There is nothing magical about these weapons. Just like every weapon since the wooden club they have strengths and weaknesses. For some objectives they are ideal, for others completely ineffective.

Every one ever built detonated all at once is not remotely capable of destroying the planet or wiping out all human life. Just NO OK? You're 10 orders of magnitude short of that threshold -- in reality it is probably completely unobtainable with these weapons PERIOD. You can certainly destroy a city. You can disrupt a country and international commerce for years to come. But destroy all life? Crack the planet open? Please, you make yourself sound like a uneducated savage worshiping the man with the fire stick.

What they ARE capable of and why the media and politicians are universally TERRIFIED of them is because they are uniquely capable of upsetting the historic definition of war. That is: "War is old men talking and young men dying".

War is a lot less fun when it is something other than sending politically impotent people's children to die in some God forsaken hell hole on the other side of the world. This is the only explanation I can find for the the Nuclear Hysteria. An ICBM can bring the war to Harry Reid, John Boehner and Rupert Murdoch's back yards. But the war it brings isn't really any different than the war bomb laden B-52s have been bringing to targets for decades. Note that I'm not judging those conflicts, just observing to the dead people it doesn't matter very damn much what killed them.

I'm just pointing out that our allegedly "humane" wars about which we lie to ourselves that only the bad guys are killed are all a politically correct illusion. Nuclear weapons make that illusion fairly impossible to maintain. A society has to do some actual soul searching (assuming they can even find its soul under the recordings of reality TV) and decide emphatically YES This Cause is worth risking our lives for, and it is worth killing so many women and children that we can no longer pretend it didn't happen.

In the end nuclear weapons are probably the most humane military instrument ever devised. Depending on exactly how evolved your sense of "humanity" is of course.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Taste_of_Armageddon [wikipedia.org]

Re:Uncharacteristically Stupid (1)

PPH (736903) | about 10 months ago | (#44161597)

And yet, we wet ourselves over the idea that Iran might build one. Oh noes! A Muslim bomb! In case anyone has been paying attention, they already have one. Over in Pakistan.

What possession of "the bomb" does is give its owners a place at the big people's negotiating table. And that's a club we want to control the membership of very carefully. Even if it means killing tens of thousands of people with conventional weapons. Perhaps more than would be killed with a nuke.

Re:Uncharacteristically Stupid (3, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 10 months ago | (#44161855)

Ayatollah Khomeini: "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let Iran burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world"

There is a difference between rational countries having the bomb and countries run by Islamic fanatics having the bomb.

Re:Uncharacteristically Stupid (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 10 months ago | (#44162285)

I love the notion that every single country is exactly the same, and the racist notion that you seem to have that all Muslims are the same. Pakistan and Iran are not the same country despite both being Muslim. Iran was run by a psycho who kept on talking about the elimination of countries. Now, that's not to say that Pakistan didn't proliferate nuclear technology or talk shit, but Iran was much more provocative than Pakistan, and you shouldn't just bundle them together because they're Muslim.

Re:Uncharacteristically Stupid (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#44161677)

Being the loser in war has often resulted in old men dying. More often then not, of starvation.

Nukes changed the cost/benefit ratio of war. Strategic bombing changed it, nukes made it clear there was no way to (make a profit/advance your cause) via total war. Even the pointy hairs in charge can see that.

So I put down my sword... (3, Funny)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 10 months ago | (#44161533)

and you put down your rock and we try to kill each other like civilized people?
It's not my fault being the biggest and strongest. I don't even exercise.

Article is not very good (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#44161847)

It's cliche to say the article is not very good, but in this case it truly is missing a serious point:

No plan to get rid of nuclear weapons can be complete without taking China (and others) into consideration. We are at the point that it's not just a standoff between Russia and the US, who both have been reducing their nuclear weapons. Other countries have been actively increasing them, and unless they join in the movement, Russia and the US leave themselves completely vulnerable if they don't maintain at least some nuclear weapons.

I'm in favor of getting rid of nukes, but you can't assume it's just a game between Russia and the US, as this article does.

We really want to get rid of a bunch of our nukes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44162183)

Give them to China. THE HARD WAY!

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