Discussions regarding nuclear weapons are front and center. People are understandably nervous given recent world events, and rightly so since the use of nuclear weapons threatens our very existence. That is why attempts to normalize the tactical use of nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The recent commentary by Tyler Cowen, “Nuclear strike reaction not what you would expect,” (May 12) is a prime example of this danger. Mr. Cowen suggests that the deployment of a “tactical nuke” by Russia may not change the world, since nowadays the social media cycle is so rapid that the event would be lapped by the next “Current Thing.” He further suggests the possibility that a tactical nuclear weapon used in Ukraine “would kill only a small fraction of the number that have died in the war overall.”
What nonsense! Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction. A tactical nuclear weapon is defined as one that is used over short distances. Nonetheless, its destructive power is massive. These weapons range from less than one to 100 kilotons, with many of them being in the tens of kilotons. By comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons. That one bomb killed 100,000 and injured 75,000. Furthermore, the blast effects, hurricane force winds, firestorms, resultant electromagnetic pulse, radiation effects and secondary environmental effects of these weapons place nuclear bombs into a destructive class all by themselves, no matter what size.
In 1945 when the bombs over Japan were dropped, there was no capability of nuclear retaliation. This is far from the case in 2022. How can anyone suggest that a tactical nuclear weapon used by any side in a conflict won’t result in a tit-for-tat retaliatory strike? We survived the Cold War due to the understanding, as Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev stated, that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Any argument to the contrary is existentially dangerous and downright foolish.
The way out of this quagmire is to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. This is the goal of the United Nations adapted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Sixty countries have ratified this treaty. Unfortunately, no country possessing nuclear weapons has signed on. Nonetheless, a coalition called “Back from the Brink” (preventnuclearwar.org) is working toward that goal. Back from the Brink resolutions have passed in Baltimore and 64 other towns, cities, counties, and states. This initiative needs support from rational people like you, the reader, to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used on planet Earth.
— Peter H. Gorman
The writer is a professor in the Department of Neurology of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and writes on behalf of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.