US on Brink of Nuclear War

US on Brink of Nuclear War

Having been aged -50 years at the time the first atomic bombs were tested in warfare, my generation and our parents only know the stories of nuclear warfare, rather than reality. We remember Japan’s nuclear disaster following its 2011 earthquake, rather than the horrors of World War II. This ultimately affects our judgment, which can range from a fear of all things nuclear-related, or complete acceptance of nuclear weaponry as powerful weapons of mass destruction. Like many cases, the extreme opinions can be very dangerous, especially in these times. 

I had the unique experience of growing up with a mother who majored in nuclear engineering and, more recently, talking to my fiancé’s grandmother, who worked on the Manhattan Project. I also watched countless news sources take Geiger counters to the California shores and scare the public by showing normal radiation levels.

Just this past week, the public was told radiation was soaring in Fukushima, when the truth might be that they measured it at a closer location. The lack of education about nuclear power and weaponry causes excessive, unnecessary states of emergency, drawing away from the real emergencies; North Korea and Iran. 

Last week brought a significant amount of not-yet-violent conflict between the Islamic Republic and the United States. According to Iranian governmental officials, the country is allowed to test missiles under the international nuclear deal. While instances like these may showcase the loopholes in the deal, the fact is that we now have an Israel-hating state that clearly has the capabilities to design and build nuclear missiles, as well as acquire the uranium kindly provided by Russia to be enriched in the nation’s nuclear facilities. It’s no surprise that President Trump decided to apply new sanctions to Iran. Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, announced that the Middle Eastern nation had been “put on notice” for these missile launches, but it is likely too late to stop their underground nuclear weapon development. In response, the audacious country launched another missile in defiance of the new sanctions, displaying their increasingly aggressive behavior against those that oppose them. Hopefully, this conflict will not escalate any further, but the threat of a nuclear war between Iran and Israel is very real. 

North Korea also took their share in threatening nuclear war. Led by a paranoid and remarkedly sensitive Kim Jong Un, North Korea has launched satellites against UN resolutions and is preparing to test intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) capable of striking the US mainland. Before leaving office, Obama warned Trump that Pyongyang was the top security threat against the United States. While we definitely have big threats from many different sources, North Korea’s unstable leader presents an unpredictable future for their testing or potential attacks.

Only just recently, Kim Jong Un fired the state security chief, an act that could mean his death, depending on if the paranoid leader considered him a traitor. North Korea is also a master at circumventing sanctions, having almost succeeded in obtaining another shipment of ammunitions. During a trip to South Korea, the current Secretary of Defense, James “Mad-Dog” Mattis, announced that the US would have an “overwhelming response” to North Korea. However, the White House is fighting his Pentagon choices, which may compromise his ability to recommend actions to President Trump. The threat of North Korea appears unchecked, and poses a real danger to the safety of our citizens. 

The next step in preventing nuclear war would be to follow in Reagan’s footsteps during the Cold War. The chairman of the House Armed Service Committee has already recommended that we expand missile defense, an idea that Trump should support, based on his campaign promises.

While these actions may be perceived as escalatory by outside nations, the United States has to be able to defend itself from outside attack. If we need more advanced missile defense, then the government has to provide funds to the purpose of improving them. While some may complain about the amount we currently spend on military, the fact is that one of the federal government’s main purposes is to keep its citizens safe. Military and defense is a huge part of that, and should be a major cost to our government. Due to Obama’s reluctance to gradually improve military capabilities, under President Trump we will have to spend much more than regular maintenance and continual improvements. However, the payoff is that we could stop a nuclear war. 


Follow this author in Twitter at @UCDavisEngineer

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