Since the Manhattan Project, nuclear weapons have been a dangerous threat to mankind, capable of extinguishing all human life in a very short time span. At the same time, nuclear weapons have served as a powerful deterrent against conflict among powerful countries. They have been vital for imposing stability by forcing global superpowers to head to the negotiating table rather than the war room. World leaders know that in the case of a nuclear war, everyone will lose.
In our current day and age, the question has arisen whether nuclear weapons are still a necessary evil to prevent another world war or if they are merely inching us ever closer to our doom. The number of countries capable of launching nukes has grown since the Cold War, with the most notable addition being North Korea, a country that has often made threats of global annihilation.
Though there is a fair argument to be made supporting Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s stance on upgrading the nuclear arsenal, one must at the same time step back and recognize the massive number of nukes already at hand. They could destroy the world a dozen times over.
One can see the continued support nukes have in our nation by the recent positions taken by both Obama and Trump. As reported by NPR, Obama has put the U.S “on course to spend around $1 trillion on upgrading its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades.” Meanwhile, POLITICO cites a tweet by Trump that the U.S “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The stances held by both Presidents can be seen as necessary in light of recent remarks made by President Vladimir Putin, cited by POLITICO: “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” as well as claims made by North Korea as reported in The New York Times that they can test an intercontinental missile “anytime and anywhere”.
Looking at these remarks alone, one may ask why we have not invested more money into nukes sooner. At the same time, one must also analyze the reality of our current situation. The nuclear weapons already in our possession are more than capable of striking both Russia and North Korea. The latter in particular has often exaggerated its nuclear capabilities, evident in a response issued by the state department in the same New York Times article claiming they doubted North Korea “had achieved its goal of tipping long-range missiles with nuclear warheads”.
With the ability to match any of our opponent’s nuclear weapons and subsequently destroy the world, the question should not be if we have done enough to modernize our nuclear arsenal, but rather have we done enough to reduce it and keep it under control, lest we plunge the world into a fiery abyss.
With the expansion of nukes into new countries it is not hard to fathom the increased likelihood of a nuclear holocaust, as some nations might resort to them to settle petty quarrels. Preventable mistakes could be made that set off nuclear war. Perhaps there is some room for modernization of our nuclear arsenal to confront potential future threats, but the idea of expanding and growing the number of nukes already in the world is absurd. In our day and age, where a plethora of countries already possess nukes, only a few would be needed to destroy all of humankind.