I agreed with a great deal of the Reagan Administration’s foreign and national security policy, but once I realized just how crucial nuclear weapons were to keep the peace, I cringed whenever President Reagan talked about ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
His dream was a lovely one, of course, but it was entirely unrealistic as well. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube when it comes to nuclear weapons, and even if you were able to, abolishing nuclear weapons would mean–among other things–the return of massive and bloody land wars in Europe, which experienced those wars at the drop of a hat until the post-World War II world, and the advent of the nuclear age. I suppose that it is possible that something other than the presence of nuclear weapons was and is responsible for the fact that Europe has not seen the breakout of any other major, continent-wide land wars since World War II, but I haven’t heard of any other alternative explanations for the lack of such wars. World War I was supposed to be “the war that ends all wars,” but failed completely in bringing warfare to an end–in Europe or anywhere else in the world. The failure of World War I to cause human beings to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks had nothing to do with the war being antiseptic or relatively non-violent in nature; far from it–World War I was one of the bloodiest wars in history. To be sure, World War II was ridiculously bloody as well–even more than World War I was–but I highly doubt that the human race suddenly decided to wise up after World War II and study war no more out of some newfound, pacifist leanings. Rather, it was the presence of nuclear weapons that taught the human race to abhor large-scale land wars, the likes of which plagued Europe until the end of World War II. People realized that in the nuclear age, the outbreak of war could be a civilization-ending event, and decided that they wanted no part of that nightmare.
The need to keep the peace with nuclear weapons, along with the need to ensure that the nuclear infrastructure is updated and modernized, the weapons themselves remain safe and reliable, and human knowledge in the United States remains up to snuff, means that the Obama Administration’s decision to renew the search for a world without nuclear weapons ought to be viewed with great concern. I appreciate the Administration’s idealism, but like that of President Reagan, President Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world is an entirely unrealistic, and dangerous dream. For that reason, I encourage people to read this article. Pray that James Schlesinger’s views win out over Barack Obama’s.