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The End of the World as We Know It

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the apocalyptic consequences of a potential nuclear war scenario, as detailed in the book "Nuclear War: A Scenario" by Annie Jacobsen. It explores the history of nuclear weapons, the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD), and the challenges of nuclear deterrence. The article also criticizes the continued modernization and stockpiling of nuclear weapons by the United States and other nuclear powers, and the lack of effective communication and diplomacy to address this issue.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Doomsday Clock and Nuclear War Scenario

1. What is the Doomsday Clock, and what was the author's role in it?

  • The author was the Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists from 2008-2018, which involved unveiling the Doomsday Clock every year.
  • The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe, with midnight representing the apocalypse.

2. What are the key details of the nuclear war scenario described in the book "Nuclear War: A Scenario" by Annie Jacobsen?

  • The scenario involves a rogue intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch by North Korea, which triggers a series of escalating nuclear attacks between the US, Russia, and NATO, resulting in the destruction of major cities and infrastructure, and the potential death of up to 5 billion people.
  • The scenario is described minute-by-minute, detailing the sequence of events from the initial ICBM launch to the widespread devastation.

[02] The History and Dangers of Nuclear Weapons

1. What is the history of nuclear weapons stockpiling between the US and Soviet Union?

  • In 1949, experts estimated that as few as 200 nuclear weapons could wipe out the Soviet Union, but both the US and USSR continued to amass weapons, reaching around 30,000 warheads each by 1967.
  • While the arsenals have since been reduced, the US and Russia still have over 1,700 warheads on hair-trigger, launch-on-warning alert, with thousands more stockpiled.

2. What are the key concerns about the current state of nuclear weapons and deterrence?

  • The concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) relies on deterrence never failing, as any nuclear exchange would have apocalyptic consequences.
  • The author criticizes the continued modernization and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, arguing that it does not enhance national security and will only lead to further destruction.

[03] Challenges in Nuclear Deterrence and Policy

1. Why have US presidents failed to address the issue of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert?

  • The author suggests that US presidents, especially Democrats, are often swayed by military advisors who are accustomed to the idea of launch-on-warning and cannot imagine a president allowing a nuclear weapon to explode on American soil without a response.

2. What are the challenges in communication and diplomacy between nuclear powers?

  • The author notes that there is a lack of front-door communications between the US, Russia, and China on strategic nuclear issues, which increases the perils of potential conflicts and miscalculations.

[04] The Futility of Missile Defense and Nuclear Modernization

1. What is the status of the US anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense system?

  • The author states that the US has only 44 ABM interceptors in place, and that the prototypes have failed more than 50% of the time in carefully controlled tests, indicating that the US has essentially no effective defenses against nuclear weapons.

2. What are the concerns about the continued modernization and stockpiling of nuclear weapons?

  • The author criticizes the Biden administration's $850 billion defense budget for 2025, which allocates $69 billion to nuclear weapons operations and modernization, including plans for 400 new ICBMs, new nuclear submarines and bombers, and upgrades to existing warheads.
  • The author argues that this spending on weapons whose sole purpose is to lead to nuclear annihilation will not make the US or the world safer, and will only further escalate the nuclear arms race.
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