Cutting drastically the number of U.S. nuclear weapons should not depend on Russian or Chinese assent and could and should be considered now.

By John Isaacs, The National Interest

The dawn of the nuclear age changed every aspect of military calculations except for, unfortunately, the Pentagon’s counting skills. The United States continues to bear the consequences of this failure every day.

low yield nuclear bomb test

With the advent of the nuclear age in 1945, the world discovered that a single bomb could destroy a city, and a large number of bombs could wipe out much of life on Earth.

Up to then, counts of weapons and personnel were key measures of power in war and peace. Such arithmetic lost its meaning with the advent of these new devastating weapons.

In the nuclear age, a country that deployed 1,000 nuclear weapons rather than an adversary’s 500 is not twice as powerful since a handful of weapons could devastate both countries. But the Pentagon and political leaders did not learn this critical lesson.

Instead, during the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in massive buildups of nuclear weapons—in the tens of thousands. The numbers games fed an arms race that, despite the post-Cold War reductions, continues to influence strategic thinking today without making either Russia, the Soviet Union’s successor, or the United States safer. In other words, the Pentagon and political leaders still have not learned that counts of military strength are not the same when nuclear weapons are involved.

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