But from the historic prospective, nothing will count nearly so heavy as last week’s first step toward a nuclear weapons-free world by rewriting the defense policy on use of atomic bombs against other nations and their civilian populations. Countries that sign the non-proliferation agreements and abide by their rules are off the nuclear hook, so far as we are concerned, and their cooperation in stopping the spread of nukes will be much appreciated, even if they are otherwise opposed to our nation’s policies.
Further, we pledge not to develop any next-generation weapons and eventually, if things go well, a reduction of one-third of the stockpiled atomics now in hand. Between Russia and the U.S. that would mean a little less than 2,000 warheads — more than enough for armageddon, but less than necessary to wipe out life on Earth, we are assured.
While there are numerous special circumstances and loopholes left open, the American declaration and the signing of the new non-proliferation treaty with Moscow on Thursday last mark the first revision of our policy on when to go nuclear, against whom and why since the end of the Second World War. It marks a turning away from wholesale slaughter as a strategy for war and a promise that conflicts will be resolved without mutual annihilation by all parties.
And just in time, if I may say so.
Last year the world braced for an atomic test by North Korea, the notably intransigent late comer to the nuclear club. The blast, on an eastern test site in the People’s Republic, was less powerful than the primitive bombs used against Japan to end the Pacific war, and generally reported as some sort of failure for the communist scientists. In reality, the test warned of a dangerous development in the weaponology and tactics of future wars. The widely propagated myth of total destruction by nuclear barrage was never true. Thermo-nuclear hydrogen bombs can wipe out entire cities and their suburbs, but barring vast intercontinental ballistic missle exchange, the rest of the globe might mourn but they won’t die in large numbers.
Low-yield small nukes, on the other hand, are entirely usable in battle, where denying the enemy territory necessary to advance is a priority. The terrorism application of easily portable bombs is terrifying as well. The suppression of a next-generation of mini nukes is an important goal of any new international agreement to be forged.
The historians of the next century may well credit President Barack Obama for saving the world from ourselves, provided, that is, there are any historians left by the next century.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.