While elected officials of our increasingly dysfunctional democracy debated "memogate," the world became more dangerous as Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review was officially released on Friday, February 2. Ignoring scientific studies of the past decade and growing global sentiment by the world’s non-nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons, with this announcement the new arms race begins and the Cold War resumes.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the potential catastrophic global environmental effects following a limited regional nuclear war, using just 100 12-kiloton Hiroshima-size weapons (of the 16,300 in the arsenals of the nine nuclear nations, which is approximately one-half of just one percent) that would potentially kill two billion people.
This new Doctrine proposes the development of two new generations of nuclear weapons including "low-yield nukes," Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and the long-term development of Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM). These "low-yield nukes" are 20 kt – same as the larger Nagasaki size bombs that killed more than 70,000 people. Seemingly ignoring the fact that nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons regardless of size with the same horrific initial devastation and radioactive fallout, these weapons are proposed to demonstrate America’s resolve in deterring nuclear attack.
In fact this circular argument of smaller nuclear weapons being a greater deterrence actually increases the likelihood of their use. This further promotes the mythology of deterrence which actually drives all nine nuclear states to follow suit. Coupled with the Trump Doctrine’s new non-nuclear circumstances under which nuclear attack would be launched, such as certain cyberattacks, the risk of nuclear war is dramatically increased, bringing the imminent threat of nuclear war to the center of US military policy and foreign policy. This fact was also acknowledged in the recent Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ movement of their nuclear Doomsday clock to two minutes till midnight, the closest since World War II.
Unless we reject this reckless Trump Doctrine and the false notion that nuclear weapons make us safe we all become complicit with Trump and therefore support his vision of a desolate irradiated future. Trump’s ideas erase rationality and move blind luck to the center of US security policy.
This is a reality that does not have to be. This irresponsible doctrine, which breaches the United States obligation to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, requires congressional funding. Estimates place additional funds up to $50 billion per year over the next 20 years for the new arms race. We must demand that these funds that would be taken from the pressing needs of our nation such as healthcare, education and infrastructure not be spent on these suicidal weapons.
We must demand this change now. Each of us has a role to play. We can encourage our communities, legislatures and cities to endorse the multi organization "Back From the Brink: A Call to Prevent Nuclear War Resolution" that is spreading across our nation. We can also make sure that our money is not going to support institutions and companies that build, develop and fund nuclear weapons by divesting using the Don’t Bank On The Bomb website.
We must celebrate those nations that have been working to ratify and bring forth the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and celebrate the day when their efforts will have eliminated nuclear weapons entirely. The choice is ours. Silence implies consent.
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician and writes for PeaceVoice. He is co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibility National Security Committee and the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.