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Old 06-22-2016, 07:40 AM
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What is the purpose of nuclear weapons?


Unlike many other weapons, there is no peaceful use for them. You can cut vegetables with a knife, hunt with a gun, and use chemical explosives in mining.The nukes could be dismantled for nuclear power plant fuel, but they are incredibly expensive. It must be cheaper to mine uranium and put it in a powerplant then to build a bomb, then take it apart for the fuel.
They just seem too powerful to ever be used again. Even ignoring the scenario of MAD, launching a nuke will pretty much guarantee hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. What, if anything, is the point in having thousands of them?
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:49 AM
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the overall point was to prevent another culture taking over yours. It worked well
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:50 AM
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To blow shit up, of course.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:00 AM
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To blow shit up and scare people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boffking
Even ignoring the scenario of MAD, launching a nuke will pretty much guarantee hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. What, if anything, is the point in having thousands of them?
Counter-force targeting. This is pretty close to a distinction without a difference, since any counter-strike against nuclear missiles is going to kill a whole whack of civilians, but that can't be helped.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:01 AM
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Blow shit up real good.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:10 AM
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Unlike many other weapons, there is no peaceful use for them. You can cut vegetables with a knife, hunt with a gun, and use chemical explosives in mining.
What is the peaceful use of an air-launched cruise missile?

You've started with a bad assumption that there is an intrinsic connection between peaceful uses of a particular tool or technology and the legitimacy of using a similar technology for war. The lack of a legitimate peaceful use of a technology -- whether it is a cruise missile, a GPS-guided bomb, or whatever -- does not make the weapon illegitimate under any of the laws of armed conflict; and the fact that there is a legitimate peaceful use of a technology -- such as nerve gasses that could also be used as pesticides -- does not make them legitimate weapons.

Plus, you'll probably find that your definition of "peaceful use" is inevitably going to be distorted to make the point that you're trying to make. Explosives, as they are used in war, don't actually relate that much to how explosives are employed in mining. It's far more common for the explosives to be delivered in some manner that is totally inconsistent with peaceful uses -- such as being encased in a grenade or bomb -- than troops throwing sticks of dynamite at each other. Yet, you count explosives to be peaceful, which seems like you've made an opinion and you're backing in facts to fit your theory.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:21 AM
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What is the peaceful use of an air-launched cruise missile?

You've started with a bad assumption that there is an intrinsic connection between peaceful uses of a particular tool or technology and the legitimacy of using a similar technology for war. The lack of a legitimate peaceful use of a technology -- whether it is a cruise missile, a GPS-guided bomb, or whatever -- does not make the weapon illegitimate under any of the laws of armed conflict; and the fact that there is a legitimate peaceful use of a technology -- such as nerve gasses that could also be used as pesticides -- does not make them legitimate weapons.

Plus, you'll probably find that your definition of "peaceful use" is inevitably going to be distorted to make the point that you're trying to make. Explosives, as they are used in war, don't actually relate that much to how explosives are employed in mining. It's far more common for the explosives to be delivered in some manner that is totally inconsistent with peaceful uses -- such as being encased in a grenade or bomb -- than troops throwing sticks of dynamite at each other. Yet, you count explosives to be peaceful, which seems like you've made an opinion and you're backing in facts to fit your theory.
The point I was trying to make is that nuclear weapons haven't been used in war for 70 years, and that there really isn't anything else you can do with them.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:25 AM
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They are part of the "Mutually Assured Destruction" defensive strategy ... before the enemy's nukes can reach us, we've already launched ours ... argo, the enemy will not launch theirs ...

Seems to be working ...
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:26 AM
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The point I was trying to make is that nuclear weapons haven't been used in war for 70 years, and that there really isn't anything else you can do with them.
Not true, they have been used a deterrent to further escalation. Many of the wars fought over the past 70 years could have easily escalated into world wide conflicts under the old rules of war.

Last edited by Si Amigo; 06-22-2016 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:38 AM
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National defense. . . yeah, what's the point.

Have we totally forgotten WW II. Basically, I think we had to develop nuclear weapons before the Nazis and the Japs did.

But, your right, they're terribly wasteful and it's hard to slice veggies with one.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:39 AM
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Unlike many other weapons, there is no peaceful use for them.
So what? They're weapons. By definition they don't require a peaceful use.

Nevertheless they have served a peaceful use as described by Si Amigo.
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Old 06-22-2016, 08:40 AM
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There are peaceful uses of nukes.

But the likely spread of atmospheric radiation prevents any from being carried out under old nuclear test ban treaties except deep underground. And even then, the lingering radiation on the site limited the application very much. So the economics just weren't there.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:01 AM
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First, anything can be weaponized. Take the chlorine from salt and you have deadly chlorine gas, used in WWI. Electricity can be built into taser, which often kill. Nuclear power can be contained to make electricity or not contained to make a bomb. The distinction between peace and war is wholly imaginary, and utterly disproven by history.

Second, our society has mostly forgotten what total war looks like. We have countless atrocities and horrors to contemplate every day but that's still not of the magnitude of the most advanced and populous countries in the world devoting every minute of their existence to trying to kill one another off. WWII traumatized every leader of every country for the next generation. Total war - a war involving and possibly risking the entire civilian population, not just the soldiers - no longer could happen, it had happened. It seemed entirely likely to happen again.

Only one thing in the history of mankind had to ability to deter a country bent on total war. Getting attacked by nuclear weapons was too big a price to pay for aggression. Mutually assured destruction (and the mythical but never entirely ruled out doomsday bomb) was the ultimate price that no one, not even madmen, were willing to pay. Nuclear bombs ensured survival, or at least kept warfare down to acceptable, localized levels.

Insane as it might seem, it has worked to perfection. Nukes have never been used since their first demonstration.

The flaw in the system is that madmen running large countries have too many layers of protection to launch a rogue attack. We may be at a point where madmen running unaffiliated groups or isolated nations could order a launch without being instantly deposed. We simply don't know whether that is a realistic possibility. Most everyone else is working to keep this possibility low. That's a form of deterrence too.

Deterrence is the purpose of nuclear weapons. Period.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:02 AM
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National defense. . . yeah, what's the point.
Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:10 AM
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Blow up asteroids on a collision course with Earth. In a Hollywood movie, anyway, but I think this has also been discussed by scientists, at least tongue-in-cheek.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:13 AM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
It may or may not be a stretch to say we "defended" the nation with them up to Dec. 26, 1991 simply by their existence.

Last edited by jz78817; 06-22-2016 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:18 AM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
Let's say you leave your college dorm and wander down to a pool hall. You're having a beer and you notice a guy giving you the stink-eye. You make some comment, he makes a comment, and you get off of your barstool to go confront the guy.

As you approach, you see he has a large handgun in a clearly visible holster. You decide it isn't worth it to pick a fight, and you leave the bar.

In this scenario, the other guy didn't use his gun. Or did he? He didn't FIRE his gun, but the existence of the gun altered your behavior, because you knew that if you taunted him further, he might hurt you real bad.

This is known on his part as deterrence. He had the capability to harm you in an overwhelming way, you understood the risks, and decided not to pursue further confrontation.

Nuclear weapons have been providing deterrence for a select number of countries since 1945. That's a fact.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:20 AM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
Aug 29th, 1949
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:29 AM
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Since the OP seems to want to debate the issue rather than just looking for factual information, let's move this over to Great Debates.

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Old 06-22-2016, 10:35 AM
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Unlike many other weapons, there is no peaceful use for them.
First of all, they don't have to have a peaceful purpose.

Second, nuclear weapons can indeed be used for excavation (Edward Teller once suggested it for a harbor in Alaska,) and could be used to blow up asteroids (although that might be worse than just steering the asteroids away.)


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They just seem too powerful to ever be used again. Even ignoring the scenario of MAD, launching a nuke will pretty much guarantee hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. What, if anything, is the point in having thousands of them?

There is this myth that nuclear weapons are only good for either sitting in a silo, or all-out MAD warfare, but nothing in between. In reality, a nuclear weapons can be used for tactical purposes. A country like Israel, for instance, could use tactical nuclear weapons to defend itself against an invading Arab enemy if the situation needed it (since none of its Arab rivals have nukes right now, Israel wouldn't get nuclear retaliation.)

Finally, of course, deterrence. There's a reason the Cold War never turned hot.


Lastly, boffking, what is your purpose with all of these threads?
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:40 AM
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...Lastly, boffking, what is your purpose with all of these threads?
Avoiding homework.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:42 AM
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The point I was trying to make is that nuclear weapons haven't been used in war for 70 years, and that there really isn't anything else you can do with them.
I have a fire extinguisher in my apartment. I haven't used it in the longest time. Maybe I don't need...........
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:46 AM
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I have a fire extinguisher in my apartment. I haven't used it in the longest time. Maybe I don't need...........
Hah. I have several in my house that I've never used. My extinguisher arsenal is much larger than yours. You need to back off on your aggression.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:50 AM
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Displacing hurricanes? Nah.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:56 AM
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When you join the Nuclear Nations Club, you get a really cool club shirt. And don't ask about the official secret handshake.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:10 AM
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There are peaceful uses of nukes.

But the likely spread of atmospheric radiation prevents any from being carried out under old nuclear test ban treaties except deep underground. And even then, the lingering radiation on the site limited the application very much. So the economics just weren't there.
An air burst nuclear fusion device produces very little lingering radiation. The 1996 comprehensive test ban treaty prohibits any nuclear *test* detonation, underground or not -- but that treaty has never been ratified nor enacted: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/ctbtsig It also has other limitations (see below).

A nuclear-powered Orion launch vehicle using optimized fusion devices could possibly lift huge amounts of payload to space without leaving major fallout.

There have been 2,153 nuclear weapons detonated on earth, or vicinity. Of these about 520 were atmospheric tests, not underground.

Numerically most of the 2,153 detonations were underground, but these were all quite small. In terms of megatonnage, about 85% of all nuclear weapon power was detonated within the atmosphere, since the atmospheric tests on average were much larger: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing

This video graphically shows the location, year and type of each known nuclear detonation:

https://vimeo.com/135580602

Re the OP, the only practical method of deflecting a near earth object on short notice is a stand-off nuclear detonation: ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20150011453.pdf

The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (even if it were enacted) would apparently not govern use of nuclear weapons in this way. It only bans a nation from detonating those weapons "at any place under its jurisdiction or control". Outer space is not under the jurisdiction of any nation.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits "stationing" nuclear weapons in space, such as in orbit. However it does not prohibit nuclear weapons transiting through space (e.g, ICBM) or detonating them in space: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

Last edited by joema; 06-22-2016 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:14 AM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
Well, it might well have prevented World War III, so that's a nice thing.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:16 AM
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Well, it might well have prevented World War III, so that's a nice thing.
To date, anyway. It's not like it's off the table forever.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:21 AM
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Basically nuclear weapons makes it so that your opponents never want to leave you in a position where you have nothing else to lose.

This is the main reason Iran wants them and North Korea got them. Iran doesn't want to nuke Israel, they want them so that it the US will be forced to take the option of military regime change off the table.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:34 AM
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Speak softly and carry a big stick. Nukes are tools of diplomacy. Countries with nukes sit at the grown up table at international talks, while nuke-free countries sit at the kids table and basically get told what to do.
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Old 06-22-2016, 12:29 PM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
Like the German battleship Tirpitz, which operated as "a Fleet in being," strategic weapons can certainly fulfill a mission without being used.
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Old 06-22-2016, 01:12 PM
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Hah. I have several in my house that I've never used. My extinguisher arsenal is much larger than yours. You need to back off on your aggression.
We must not allow a fire extinguisher gap!
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Old 06-22-2016, 01:13 PM
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Like the German battleship Tirpitz, which operated as "a Fleet in being," strategic weapons can certainly fulfill a mission without being used.
Yes, and we all know what happened to Tirpitz, don't we!
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Old 06-22-2016, 02:06 PM
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Sometimes nuking them from orbit is the only way to be sure.
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Old 06-22-2016, 02:19 PM
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Cite that we have defended the nation with nukes at any time after August 9, 1945?
Your nation is defended by nuclear deterrence EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I'm sorry, but this statement is just astonishingly ignorant. The US invested vast sums in developing a credible and indestructible nuclear capability precisely so that they would never need to use them. The West's nuclear arsenal has successfully prevented not only nuclear war, but also major conventional wars, for the last seventy-one years.

Ever notice how we never fought a war with Russia? And ever notice how our wars have been getting progressively smaller? Notice how we've been fighting bullshit proxy wars in third world countries, instead of catastrophic global wars that kill tens of millions of people?

That is the DIRECT result of nuclear weapons. You're welcome.

Last edited by Chihuahua; 06-22-2016 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 06-22-2016, 03:17 PM
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I recommend reading the excellent book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser.

The book uses the events surrounding a Titan II missile explosion (the rocket exploded, not its warhead) in Arkansas in the early 80s as a backdrop for a very in-depth history of many of the factors involved in nuclear weapons.

As an example, at first glance, it seems outrageous and asinine that SAC missiles had their control codes set to 000000, to the point of disbelief. But after reading about the infighting between the various parties (Joint Chiefs, Sandia, Livermore, President, Congress) it is easier to see that some demanded absolute safety, while others (with uniforms) demanded that nothing get between the military and their weapons. Hence the military's decision to undermine the safety feature, while complying to the letter of the law.

The book is chock full of stuff like that, giving lots of detail behind dozens and dozens of accidents with nuclear weapons, discussion of the concern for preventing a decapitation attack (offshore missiles targeting leadership in Washington), as well as a lot of detail about the hemming and hawing about how to design a comprehensive war plan that would involve all services, and minimize duplication, while ensuring target destruction.

As the arguments unfold, one can understand--if not agree with--ideas such as all-or-none destruction and the inability to destroy or recall missiles once they have been launched.

And yes, the author does cover the purpose of nuclear weapons.
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Old 06-22-2016, 06:39 PM
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Since someone beat me to the fire extinguisher gap joke ...

The purpose of nuclear weapons in 1944 -45 was clear. To end the war and to beat the Germans. IIRC it is laid out in Einstein's letter.
Once that happened, it was out of the bag. We certainly couldn't trust Stalin to eschew them back then, so MAD, however insane it is, was the best option. And it worked.
I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our you can listen to Dylan songs from 1963. Anyone saying that 50 years later the threat of an all-out nuclear war would be lower, and no weapon would ever be detonated in anger, would have been considered a naive optimist. But look where we are. Doomsday comes from aliens or asteroids or zombies, not from nuclear war.
No one has fallout shelters and my kids didn't have to practice putting their head between their legs and kissing their ass goodbye like I did. We've actually done a pretty good job.
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Old 06-22-2016, 07:01 PM
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OP: What's the peaceful use of an anti-personnel mine?
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Old 06-22-2016, 09:25 PM
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Well yes, but Teller was... how to say this politely... stark raving nuts and never met a thermonuclear explosion he didn't love
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Old 06-23-2016, 08:01 AM
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OP: What's the peaceful use of an anti-personnel mine?
The OP sort of dodges around this already, though, by saying "you can use chemical explosives in mining." So any munition can be alleged to have a peaceful purpose in the sense that at its heart is an explosive, and explosives have peaceful commercial uses, even if the munition is quite obviously solely for war, such as an anti personnel mine, or a guided missile, or an artillery shell.

Of course, anyone can then immediately point out that the same analogy applies to nuclear weapons, since at their heart is fissionable material, which can be used for peaceful purposes, and in fact is - generating electricity.
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Old 06-23-2016, 08:10 AM
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Since someone beat me to the fire extinguisher gap joke ...

The purpose of nuclear weapons in 1944 -45 was clear. To end the war and to beat the Germans. IIRC it is laid out in Einstein's letter.
Once that happened, it was out of the bag. We certainly couldn't trust Stalin to eschew them back then, so MAD, however insane it is, was the best option. And it worked.
It should be noted that the concept of MAD came around as accepted nuclear warfare doctrine a long time after Stalin.

The idea of MAD, which can be explained in game theory, predates nuclear weapons; the idea of "we are both so powerful a war would be too destructive to start at all" is an old one. As applied to nukes, though, it was not formal strategy until the 1960s, at least on the part of the USA/NATO.

For most of the time up to that point Western nuclear doctrine was the assumption that the west would used nuclear weapons first; they served as a defense against a CONVENTIONAL attack, a concept known as "massive retaliation" whereby the USA said, in effect, "if your troops enter West Germany we'll annihilate you with nukes." This strategy made perfect sense in a situation where the Soviet Union had greater in-theatre conventional force but the West had greater nuclear force. For much of the late 40s and 1950s, the idea of a nuclear war being an unwinnable global holocaust was absolutely NOT how people thought about nuclear war; nuclear war was seen as being a new type of war you could win, if you fought it correctly.

As the USSR caught up in nukes and delivery systems, it stopped making sense, and by the 1960s the volume of nuclear weapons and manner of their delivery made it apparent that nuclear war would result in the annihilation of both parties; MAD became the doctrine of choice, and the purpose of nuclear weapons changed to one of pure deterrence.

That's what the USA has them, anyway. Other countries with nuclear weapons have difference reasons.
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Old 06-23-2016, 08:30 AM
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I never got what was so insane about MAD. Both sides are so powerful that neither can start a war. This sounds like the most rational thing I've ever heard of.
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Old 06-23-2016, 10:48 AM
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Unlike many other weapons, there is no peaceful use for them. You can cut vegetables with a knife,
Tape a knife to your nuke. BAM! Now you can cut your vegetables with your nuke.
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Old 06-23-2016, 11:08 AM
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OP: What's the peaceful use of an anti-personnel mine?
They make exciting paving stones for your outdoor living areas.
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Old 06-23-2016, 01:40 PM
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They make exciting paving stones for your outdoor living areas.
"We're going to need another Timmy!"
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Old 06-23-2016, 04:18 PM
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I never got what was so insane about MAD. Both sides are so powerful that neither can start a war. This sounds like the most rational thing I've ever heard of.
You have to go back and look at what was said about other weapons. The airplane would make war impossible. The machine gun would make war impossible. Poison gas would make war impossible. Tanks would make war impossible. Every new weapon would be so terrible that it would make war impossible because no sane leaders would ever use it and there could be no defense against it. And then they were used and wars got more horrible.

Military leaders seriously proposed using nuclear weapons every single time there was a problem anywhere. In an ironic way, we should be thankful that the USSR started building its own thousands of bombs. If only a few existed, one would certainly have been used somewhere. Only the prospect of society-level destruction turned out to be too much. And most historians think that was a close thing.

MAD looks much better in hindsight than it did at the time.
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Old 06-23-2016, 05:51 PM
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This sounds like the most rational thing I've ever heard of.
That's really the problem with it--it demands rational actors. It did work rather well with the USSR, which despite their economic incompetence at least understood game theory, but non-rational entities like North Korea are a different story.

Also, as you know, the Premier loves surprises.
  #48  
Old 06-23-2016, 08:05 PM
Johnwaynelsd25 is offline
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Ww2 claimed about 50 million lives BEFORE hiroshima. That is more than triple the total deaths of every conflict of the last seventy years combined. Since then, and mostly because of MAD, large scale warfare is unthinkable. So i would say that nukes prevented WW3. In short, nukes make countries behave themselves when it comes to declaring major war.
  #49  
Old 06-24-2016, 12:13 AM
Velocity is online now
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Obama's talked twice about creating a world without nuclear weapons. Surely this is simply saying nice-sounding things and not something he really believes?
  #50  
Old 06-24-2016, 07:02 AM
Shodan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Strangelove View Post
That's really the problem with it--it demands rational actors. It did work rather well with the USSR, which despite their economic incompetence at least understood game theory, but non-rational entities like North Korea are a different story.
You are correct that it is different with North Korea, in that the Assured Destruction isn't Mutual vis-à-vis most of the Western world. Eventually NK will be able to deliver one, or possibly two, nuclear missiles against South Korea or Japan or Guam or someplace like that. If and when they do that, they will cease to exist. So deterrence will still work, even if it is "hurt us terribly and die" instead of "destroy us and you will not survive".

Somewhat the same with Iran and Israel and the West.

Regards,
Shodan
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