The road to hell

is, of course, paved with good intentions. And who has better intentions than the ban-the-bomb crowd?

Carla Anne Robbins has an editorial today in the NYT advocating such a course and lining up impressive supporters:

Two decades later [after Reagan and Gorbachev had floated the idea], a who’s who of the national security establishment – George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn – is calling on the United States to lead a global campaign to devalue and eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons. …

[George Schultz] says the goal is to give the next president the political space and the technical support to launch a major initiative to reduce and eventually eliminate the world’s arsenals. “We are increasingly able to answer the question, ‘If I do this how will other people react? Will they think I’m crazy?’ ” he says.

Senator Barack Obama has embraced their proposal.

So if we eliminate nukes, do we get peace, love and the Aquarian Age?  Possibly, but what’s more likely is that the march of conventional war will resume.  As strategists from Tom Barnett to Martin van Creveld to Bill Lind have pointed out, once states get nukes, large scale warfare between them ends.  There hasn’t been an Arab-Israel war, that is between Israel and Arab state armies, since 1973 or an India-Pakistan War since 1971, or a USSR-NATO war ever.

If some well-meaning do-gooder (and I am often included in that camp) ever did succeed in eliminating nuclear weapons, large-scale conventional conflict between major powers becomes thinkable again.  To get an idea what this means, look at the escalation of casualty figures from conventional wars over the ages, paying close attention to the 20th century, where deaths went from some 20 million in WW I to over 60 million in WW II.  Now take into account the tripling of the world’s population since WW II and you see the potential.

Everybody who has studied this problem comes up with the same answer — nukes prevent wars — so the big question is:  What is the meaning of all this “no nukes” talk?

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