The feature essay in MIT’s magazine Technology Review was by Graham Allison — Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Terrorism. (Dec. 2008 – VOL.111/NO.6 p. 68) He was Assistant Secretary of Defense for policy and plans from 1993-94, and is currently a professor of government at Harvard. His strategy for shaping a new international security order:
No loose nukes: all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material must be secured, on the fastest possible timetable, as tightly as the gold in Fort Knox.
No new nascent nukes: no nation must develop new capabilities to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium.
No new nuclear-weapons states: we must draw a line under the current eight and a half nuclear powers and say unambiguously, “Stop. No more.”
This is a good plan and General Groves tried very hard to implement most of it way back in the 1940s when he was in charge of the Manhattan Project, but with considerable resistance from the scientists because it interfered with their sacred transfer of knowledge and bragging rights. In that open environment it was possible for spies to work more easily, which they did. Now with essentially every bit of the information necessary to make A-bombs or even H-bombs readily available, almost anyone can make one who has the time and money. From the point of view of humanity’s long term survival it would seem that some knowledge would be better left unknown or if known hidden as much as possible. And if it leaked out somehow, tracked down and destroyed, and the people who leaked or possessed the knowledge, silenced, and the people who made it possible to come into existence taken out of existence. That’s a bit harsh on a few people’s personal rights. But the alternative is the extinguishing of the human species, and most if not all of the other larger species as well. Some humans will survive when all other animals are destroyed because we have intelligence enough to get out of the way of radioactive fallout etc.. if not the sense not to explode them.
In a feeble effort to make a very bleak picture look cheery Allison writes of the Russia’s (USSR’s) 21,700 tactical nuclear weapons and 3,200 strategic nuclear weapons being trimmed back by some 7,292. He didn’t mention by number the US’s stockpile, but one must assume it is approximately the same. He does mention that England and France are spending billions on upgrading their current nuclear weapons and their deployment systems, and that India, Pakistan, Israel are in the mass production phase of their arsenal upgrades. North Korea and Iran are doing their best to muscle their way into the nuclear club. That behavior forces much wealthier and more technically capable countries like Japan, Germany and South Korea to reconsider their peaceful as well as hostile nuclear options.
But the real problem is stateless terrorists getting hold of A-bombs because they have fewer restraints on using the bombs once they have them. North Korea who may have as many as ten bombs appears willing to sell anything to anybody. It is to be supposed that when a city goes up in smoke the country so mistreated will attempt to cremate the supplier of the bomb. Of course no one can be sure whether a terrorist bomb came from North Korea so there will be some nuclear forensics necessary. Then what? Allison concludes the article, “Success in the war on terrorism will require a combination of policy imagination and technological inventiveness. Visualizing the alternative—a world of nuclear anarchy—should stimulate us to rethink nuclear unthinkables.” Well … this isn’t saying anything which General Groves didn’t try and implement in 1944 when he met overwhelming resistance from the scientific community.
Of course there is no guarantee that the terrorists would have a North Korean bomb, and it is possible for them to be stolen even from very secure American warplanes. Back when I was assigned to B-47s H-bombers back in 1960 there was a story of a bomb loaded plane being left unguarded overnight in the parking area, and those bombs could easily have been taken by anyone. Apparently, everyone had, like automatons, automatically signed off on the paper work for the bombs having been properly transferred to a guarded storage area, when in fact they hadn’t. In such a situation if a bomb was stolen who is going to enforce accountability, especially on the US, when a terrorist detonates it?
In the article, William Perry estimated a “20 percent per year probability” of a nuclear explosion in an American or European city. Warren Buffet thinks it is inevitable and said, “I don’t see any way that it won’t happen.” And not mentioned in this article but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said that he didn’t see any way of stopping a nuclear war once one had started. All the while we are under the potential of an accidental event triggering a full scale war. And all the while the real problems that eventually must inevitably trigger a war, the lack of a critical resource, keeps crunching down upon us from somewhere. All of these problems are aggravated by the exploding population, the control of which is rarely mentioned. With all of these problems and trillions of dollars spent fiddling with the issues no one has admitted that the war which is inevitable, should have a survivable fallback position. But so far as I know I have been the only one thinking upon this issue for a long time; there isn’t anyone else.
Making New Zealand into a nuclear free zone and a more complete Earth Ark, is doable by a major nation or making Pitt Island into a comfortable Lifehaven is doable by a millionaire philanthropist, but a Gene Barrel is doable by almost anyone anywhere in the world. All of these solutions should have been planned for long ago along with the Manhattan Project—and started in earnest immediately after Alamogordo Trinity bomb proved successful—and funded equally with the H-bomb project when that was being developed—and supported equally with a major survival plan done in parallel with the war system when it became obvious that Doomsday was inevitable, and in fact had already begun.
People of Earth — The only time you can prepare for the future of humanity is now. Support the Earth Ark, and the Lifehaven Project and you personally go out into your local area and collect soil samples and seeds, put them in little separate containers, package the whole assembly in a sturdy container, tag them with your local address (and if possible the geographical coordinates which you can easily get from Google Earth) and send them to the Gene Barrel in Antarctica, General Delivery — South Pole Station News.