Is Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Akin to Disarming the Sherriff?

The United States and Russia want to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Currently, they each deploy 2,200 warheads on bombers, submarines and missiles. A variety of proposed numbers have been discussed as to what new level we should move, the most common being 500, 1000 or 1,500. Many Americans probably believe that since a few nuclear weapons can ruin your whole day, any of these numbers are more than adequate to maintain our security. So the $64,000 question is: “Do these numbers matter?”


First, to put this debate in context is important. Around 1980, the U.S. and the then Soviet Union each had between 10-12,000 deployed warheads. We had others in reserve. Today that number has dropped over 80%, a remarkable achievement. But critics argue we need to drop even lower. They assert that we should do so to lead the world toward a world free of nuclear weapons. And, they add, the sooner we get there the better.

Second, by making a “dramatic move” toward nuclear disarmament, it is assumed we will markedly change the political debate over North Korea and Iran. Nations previously unwilling to help us will change their minds. The moral authority of our righteous policy will translate into political power. “World opinion” will successfully pressure Tehran and Pyongyang to give up… >>>

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