October 12, 2016

MALPASS | Nukes and Your Future President

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I think we often forget just how terrifying nuclear weapons actually are. They may be fun to see used in films, but never in reality. The two bombs dropped Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain the only ever nuclear devices used in warfare and, as anyone who has taken high school history knows, the results were beyond catastrophic. Tens of thousands of people died from the blasts alone, with many tens of thousands more dying from radiation years later. Exact numbers are uncertain, but estimates state that about 80,000 and 40,000 people were killed by the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. That’s close to 120,000 people whose lives were destroyed by only two bombs. That number does not even take into account the fatalities caused by lingering injuries or radiation poisoning, which about doubled the death toll in Nagasaki. Regardless of whether you think the dropping of the bombs was justified, there is no arguing their use was beyond catastrophic to the cities and people involved.

Now consider that the two bombs dropped on Japan are nothing compared to the ones we now possess. The strength of nuclear devices is typically measured in their blast yield, i.e. how much TNT you would need to replicate the explosion. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, dubbed “Little Boy,” had a blast yield of about 15 kilotons of TNT, which is utterly absurd if you think about it. That’s 30,000 pounds of worth explosive power.

Scary, right? Well, that is absolutely nothing compared to the thermonuclear devices developed afterwards. While I doubt anyone besides high ranking military officials have the exact numbers on thermonuclear bombs as of now, we can at least estimate from the Soviet Union. In 1961 Russia tested something known as the “Tsar Bomb,” the biggest thermonuclear device ever detonated. This bomb had a blast yield of 50 megatons of TNT. 50 megatons. That’s about 3,333 times the blast yield of Little Boy. The explosion could be seen from a distance of 100 miles and could be felt even further away. And here’s the fun little kicker, the Tsar Bomb carried half the explosive load it was designed for. So, all said and done, it could have been a 100 megaton bomb. Imagine if that were dropped on a city. Incidentally, part of the reason for not detonating the full yield was because the bomber would not have been able to escape the blast radius in time.

I think it’s fair to say that the bombs we now possess are at the very least as strong as what was created in the ’60s. Whenever we hit an election cycle, this should be considered, because if even one of these weapons were to be deployed in a military engagement, it would plunge the world into utter chaos. I can say without a single doubt in my mind that nuclear devices of any sort should never be used again by any nation. One of our two candidates (sorry Gary Johnson) will have access to these weapons, and Donald Trump has brought up their use on multiple occasions. He has stated that he would not rule using nukes against ISIS and has asked Chris Matthews “Then why are we making them?” with the implicit unsaid of “If we don’t intend to use them?” What’s more, he appears to be fine with the idea of other countries developing their own nuclear weapons, telling Chris Wallace, “It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody else has them.”

I understand that the president has to consider the use of our nuclear capabilities, but I would hope any sane individual would then rule them out as an option. Trump’s attitude is, quite frankly, incredibly blasé and naïve. It is the attitude of a man who has no conception of what these weapons can actually do. All Trump sees is a big bomb, not single devices that will wipe out cities and change the course of the world. It’s absurd to think nuclear weapons are a viable option when fighting ISIS. The bombs dropped on Japan helped precipitate the end of WWII because we were fighting a nation, not a guerilla army who can move to a different base of operation. And that’s not even considering the incalculable the collateral damage to innocent lives a nuclear bomb will cause. So, even if you don’t think Trump is racist, misogynist or just an all around terrible person, at least consider these comments and think about whether you want this man in control of something with the world-ending power of the Tsar Bomb.

Soren Malpass is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at skm94@cornell.edu. Sorenity Now appears alternate Thursdays this ­semester.

  • Arafat

    Indeed, but let’s not forget Clinton set the stage for the Ayatollahs to get the bomb. These being the same Ayatollahs who embrace death in the cause of expanding Islam’s caliphate. This decision by Clinton, Obama and her former cohorts may turn out to be the tipping point in our planet’s history.

    So let’s not focus on the madman Donald. It’s not like the alternative is any better on this particular issue. And don’t for a second suggest she would not have helped to give the Ayatollah’s the bomb for that would be deceitful, dishonest and disingenuous for you to do.