There is a lot going on right now with all the subjects I like to write about: Occupy LA is getting evicted (probably tonight) to make way for a movie shoot (starring Sean Penn, ironically). CitiBank’s deal with the SEC to protect them from fault in the MBS mess was overturned by a New York judge. SOPA and PIPA are threatening the free space of the internet for the sake of protecting intellectual property laws conceived in the 19th century.
But I wanted to point out some good news that I stumbled upon while reading an article on ESPN about the recent success of Tim Tebow’s high-school style offense for the Denver Broncos: The age of multi-megaton, city-destroying nuclear weapons has come to an end.
Many major news organizations did not even report that last month the final B53 city-buster nuclear bomb was disassembled. Here, the Federation of American Scientists has the details. A vestige of the darkest days of the Cold War, the B53 was a nine-megaton death device, the most powerful U.S. weapon ever built. Its blast yield was about 750 times greater than that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Horrible as the Hiroshima bomb was, many citizens of Hiroshima survived; the B53 was designed to incinerate an entire large city such as Moscow, leaving no one alive. Once the United States had more than 300 of these monstrosities; now all are gone. The equivalent Russian very large nuclear bombs have been disassembled, too.
Kudos to Gregg Easterbrook for noticing this tidbit and for pointing it out in a sports column. I am not one of those fans who wants strict segregation of my sports news from the other stuff. I love when the commentary crosses over (the way it does in my own brain and normal conversations) and when a story like this pops up it reminds me of how lucky we are to care about whether the QB Option is viable in an NFL offense. That we haven’t been annihilated by a Soviet nuke certainly deserves some excessive celebration.
Someday when historians look back on our era, they may not pay a huge amount of attention to Lady Gaga or Ryan Seacrest but will be amazed that we paid so little attention to the end of the doomsday threat to civilization. In the mid-1980s, the United States and old Soviet Union each possessed more than 30,000 nuclear warheads, including hundreds on both sides powerful enough to obliterate large cities. Had an all-out nuclear war occurred, most of humanity would have died, while the survivors might have envied the dead. Today each side has about 2,000 nuclear warheads, and the New Start Treaty, ratified by the Senate in 2010, requires both sides to drop to about 1,500 warheads by 2016.
Once that’s finished, America still will have plenty of deterrent power — 1,500 nuclear bombs is, itself, unimaginable force. And war with the remaining nuclear devices still would be horrific. But 95 percent of the old doomsday arsenal will no longer exist. Yet not only is this not hailed as wonderful news, many don’t even seem aware such progress has occurred.
Nuclear weapons and the policies surrounding them are by grim definition the most urgent and terrifying things the human race must deal with. In our rush to win the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War, the US and USSR (and others) developed a technology so destructive that it has taken nearly a century to walk back the march toward Armageddon. The development of weapons such as these, whose sole purpose is to eliminate entire cities full of people, even as simply a deterrent to the use of similar weapons, is the greatest mistake ever made by mankind. That we are now in a place in history where that threat is somewhat reduced is a great victory for governments and people everywhere.
Now, someone go tell Iran that their game plan is outdated and will only hurt them in the long run. Storming embassies and building nukes is so 1979, and unlike the Denver Broncos’ offense, there’s no way that option succeeds in today’s game. Hopefully the people of Iran stand up and demand an end to apocalypse before it’s too late.