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How I learned to love The Bomb and why you should too.

September 27, 2009

Here are some reasons humanists might want to rethink the position “Nuclear weapons are bad and have no redeeming features.”

  • The alternative to dropping the A-bomb on Japan may have been sending in thousands of soldiers leading to the death of more people, as well as a greater use (waste) of resources and greater total damage (i.e. lower net human and environmental impact).
  • Low cost weapons of mass destruction would level the international playing field to the benefit of the common man: “The distinction between great states and small states would have been wiped out [if the A-bomb was easier to make], and the power of the State over the individual would have been greatly weakened.” From one of my favorite thinkers.
  • Can you think of any other reasons to support nuclear weapons (or other WMDs)?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2009 11:29 pm

    I can’t tell whether you’re being serious or not. The context of the Orwell quote suggests you’re not, but just in case you are:

    Your first point is incorrect: Japan had sued for peace before the first bomb was dropped. They were defeated and ready to surrender. Estimates of casualties for an invasion of Japan were based largely on the island invasions in which the U.S. had faced incredibly well-equipped, well-trained, and well-entrenched Japanese soldiers. There weren’t very many well-anything Japanese soldiers left. So even if the Japanese hadn’t been ready to surrender, it’s unlikely the invasion would have produced casualties on some U.S. estimates (other military estimates were much lower than those you often see being used to justify the use of the two atomic bombs).

    Your second point suggests that a sort of nuclear chaos, where, as Orwell puts it, “some lonely lunatic in a laboratory might blow civilisation to smithereens, as easily as touching off a firework,” is somehow a good thing. Like I said, I assume you’re joking. Or at least you can’t actually be addressing humanists or anyone who doesn’t believe humans should be wiped off the face of the Earth.

    • rickweber permalink
      October 4, 2009 12:21 am

      I do not guarantee the specifics of my hypothetic concepts. Obviously in that specific case I am flat wrong. But I don’t think it would be too hard to envision a case where a few well placed nukes might do the convincing of a much more costly invasion.

      And I could be wrong on that count too. The real point is to wonder: “What is the complete cost of using WMDs? What is an equally effective (in military terms) alternative, and what is the complete cost of that?” If I am wrong in all hypothetical points, then the ratio of the cost of capital (WMDs) to effectiveness of capital exceeds the ratio of cost of labor (troops equipped with other forms of capital, like tanks and guns) to effectiveness of labor. (I’m saying capital vs. labor, but really it’s different mixes of capital and labor).

      If we sent a fighter jet back in time to a battle a few hundred years ago, it would seem like a weapon of mass destruction. But I suspect that humanity is better for fighting with jets than with their bare hands. Hunt, perhaps you are familiar with changes in the death rate (as a percentage of total population) due to warfare as military has employed more capital.

      The point of the Orwell quote is that a low cost and highly effective weapon (as it was apparently thought nuclear weapons might have turned out to be), would give smaller countries an advantage. A country’s military effectiveness is influenced by their size. A country that is small and has a small military is, ultimately, easily pushed around by larger countries. There are political economies of scale; the larger a nation is, the more power it has over its people. People are less able to vote with their feet, if only because doing so would require that they move a great distance from their family and home. Less competition between governments, just like between large companies, leads to corruption and exploitation. The only difference is that a monopolistic firm does not have the same degree of power as a government; a firm can only affect a small portion of its customers’ lives.

      Granted, if everyone had his own personal nuke, I would be afraid. But if each state succeeded and each had its own nuke, I would feel safer.

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