I was out of town this past weekend, and was shocked when i turned on the news Saturday night to see two headlines:
North Korea Successfully Launches Missile – claims it was a satellite, China and Russia agree it was, but the rest of the world can’t seem to find this successful satellite. The missile was launched in the direction of the Western United States.
Obama Vows To Reduce US Nuclear Arms
There were actually a few other disturbing headlines (“Hillary Clinton Announces 90% of the Guns in Mexico Came From The US, and Vows to Disarm American Citizens”, and “Venezuelan President Chavez Urges Nations to Eliminate Capitalism and Spread Socialism”), but I’ll save those for later.
Until I knew exactly what was going on, i thought there was a nuclear warhead headed straight for me from North Korea (ally to Russia, China, Iran, etc). Reading, during that time of fear, that Obama wants the US to get rid of its nuclear weapons – our defense against North Korea, China and Russia – was surreal.
But it really happened.
To me, the idea of calling out to the world to get rid of their nuclear arms with countries like north Korea out there is as unbelievable as the idea that calling out to the people of the United States to get rid of their firearms is going to make everyone safe. It won’t, and here’s why: The only people who follow the laws – these requirements, these pleas – are those from whom no threat existed in the first place: those who abide by the law. As a nation, we can get rid of our nuclear arms, and we can request and threaten that others do the same. As individuals, we can get rid of our arms and request that others do the same. Rogue individuals, though (we call them ‘criminals”) pounce on these opportunities immediately, however, because their victims are defenseless. Rogue nations operate the same way.
I remarked on it to a friend, who sent me to a You Tube video made by an Ice-Cream guy, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream.
The video shows Cohen talking about some statistics and dropping BBs on the screen. It’s kind of cool, actually. It’s also inaccurate and misleading.
Cohen makes the following claims:
· In his demonstration, 1 BB = 15 “Hiroshima-sized” bombs
· In his demonstration, 6 BBs = “enough nuclear weapons to blow up all of Russia”
· 10,000 BBs to represent 150,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.
Cohen then tosses the BBs onto a plate of glass as he gives some official-sounding statistics. What he said sounded pretty realistic, but as is the case with most liberal infomercials, it was lacking in solid sources, so I figured I would look up the actual data he mentioned, gather it together, and analyze it, looking for similarities and contradictions. After all, what good is knowledge if it is not based on fact?
I learned the following about History and Geography:
· Russia is 6,592,800 sq mi (or 17,075,400 square kilometers)
· The explosion of the Hiroshima bomb (“Little Boy”) destroyed about 1 to 4.4 sq miles (1.6 to 11.4 sq km). 1 mile of destruction, 4.4 miles of fires. It had between 13 and 18 kilotons (kt) of destructive power.
I then looked up stats on nuclear proliferation which are publicly available:
· In 2007, the US had 5,335* warheads: 3,575 (strategic) + 500 (non-strategic) + 1,260 (inactive, and in various phases of disassembly). [*correction: Cohen talks about those being ‘maintained’, which = 4075]. Of those:
· 450 – 500 non strategic (in US): W62 & W87 range from 170 kt to 300 kt, possibly up to 475 kt (e.g. each is equal to around 11 to 20, possibly 32 Hiroshima Bombs)
· 336 submarine missiles, some with W88 warheads, which can deliver up to 475 kt
· 400 Gravity Bombs (no public data for destructive capability, but likely would not exceed the maximum of missiles, which at the moment seems to be 475 kt)
· Total of 1186 “accounted for” (to US public) weapons, out of less than 4075.
· IF all 4075 were 475kt, destructive power would be 1,935,625 kt, total, or the equivalent of 129,042 “Hiroshima sized bombs”.
· IF all 4075 were considered the average destructive ability (more likely average is 235 kt for all but *some* of the 336 submarine missiles), total destructive power would be 957,625 kt total, or 63,842 “Hiroshima sized bombs”
Easy arguments can be made, based on mere semantics, against Cohen’s claims. For example:
· To “blow up all of Russia”, it would take 1,497,842 “Hiroshima-sized bombs”, and that is only if you count the areas that catch fire in addition to the areas actually destroyed. Cohen has given us a number (150,000) that is only 10% of what it would really take, (and, as you will see below, 10% is quite generous when you see how few we actually have).
· Russia is not our only nuclear threat. We also have to worry about China, North Korea, Cuba, and the numerous other countries with the capability to “blow us up”. If we already don’t have enough for Russia, how could we possibly hope to defensively survive attacks Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and the other nations who don’t “play by the rules”?
· The “Hiroshima bomb” (“Little Boy”) is a bad example, mathematically, because it was one of the least efficient, most “dirty” bombs we ever dropped, and we actually missed the target. Cohen uses “Hiroshima” because it is an ugly and terrible reminder of the dangers of nuclear weapons. He reminds us of our guilt, and of the terror this weapon caused … while conveniently failing to remind us that more countries in the world are pointing their bigger, dirtier “bombs” at us right now, and we are likely to suffer the terrible fates suffered by the Japanese during this dark moment in world history.
· Cohen fails to explain what he means by “Hiroshima-sized bombs”. Grammatically, this could mean “bombs the size of Hiroshima” or “Bombs of the same physical measurements as that which was dropped on Hiroshima”, but we suspect he intended to base his standard on the destructive capability (measured in “kilotons”) of “Little Boy”. To attempt to use either of the former interpretations yields mathematical results even further away from reality.
By diligent (and quick, thanks to the internet) research and easy calculations we can determine the following, which is actually far more important in the analysis of Cohen’s claims than bickering over how many bombs it would take to erase Russia:
· Independent watchdog groups have determined the U.S. military had a little over 5,000 nuclear “bombs” (bombs + missiles) in 2007, over 1,000 of which were inactive and being dismantled. That means that by now (2009), there are less than 5,000 total, and likely less than 4075 total actively “being maintained”.
· The peak destructive ability of most warheads is 300 kt, but there’s a range in the majority of 170 to 300. This gives us an average of the majority being 235 kt. A few may be capable of 475 kt.
· If all 4075 were somehow capable of reaching that peak number (475 kt), then the United States would have 1,935,625 kt of nuclear destructive power, which is equal to 129,042 “Hiroshima sized bombs”. (Cohen made the claim that we had 150,000 times the power of a “Hiroshima sized bomb”, which would be about 2,250,000 kt of destructive power.
· If the 4075 were calculated at a more realistic number (the average kt of the majority of the weapons), the total destructive capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would be 957,625 kt total, or only 63,842 “Hiroshima-sized bombs”.
· With the unrealistic number (using the maximum claimed ability of some warheads for the representative ability of all warheads), Cohen’s suggestion of 150,000 “Hiroshima-sized bombs” inflates the highest possible number, 129,042, by more than 116%.
· With the more realistic number of the U.S.’s capacity for destruction being equal to 63,842 Hiroshima-sized bombs, Cohen’s 150,000 estimate is inflated to 235% the real number.
At the end of his dramatic display, Cohen makes the claim that 17 Billion dollars a year are spent maintaining these weapons, and that that much money could fix all of our public schools and “head start” programs.
Cohen is either ignorant of the following, or doesn’t want the truth to distract from his ideological propaganda:
· He suggests that $17 Billion dollars a year would be sufficient to “fix” all public schools and head start programs. In 2008, the state of Hawaii determined they alone needed $412 million to fix their public schools, not including private schools or “head start” programs. In 2006 California was seeking $10.4 Billion to fix their public schools. These two numbers alone (both likely to be even larger in 2009) would leave only $7.2 billion for the other 48 states and D.C.
· He wants us to focus on how much the government is “wasting” protecting us from the nuclear threat from other countries, and not on the amounts of money the government is wasting elsewhere, like the multi-trillion government buyouts President Obama added to the handful of equally distressing bailouts that occurred in the last months of the Bush administration.
· Much of this money is spent on the guarding of these defense tools from terrorists, and in maintaining their safety to the American people.
I don’t like living under the threat of nuclear war any more than any other reasonable person. It would be great if all nations destroyed and banned all nuclear weapons, followed by chemical weapons, biological warfare, imperfect socialism, communism, tyranny, disease, discrimination, starvation, and any number of the other ills and concerns of most societies. If it was realistic to believe that banning things, or setting the example in not using things was an effective way to fix problems in the world, I would also be at the front of the pack banning firearms.
Unfortunately, however, as long as there is selfish evil and power-hungry people in the world, crime will exist – both on the small scale of individuals and on the larger scale of nations – and those who are not sold on the opinions and designs of well-meaning nations and people will continue to be opportunistic in preying upon those without the ability to defend themselves. If, as a nation, “we put down our weapons”, other nations will pounce upon us, taking advantage of our backs being turned. Our national freedoms will be lost from the outside as quickly as Obama has been taking our individual freedoms from the inside.
I really liked Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. I’m not announcing a boycott or anything (if I understand correctly, Cohen is no longer active with the company, except as an occasional advisor), but taking nuclear proliferation lessons from an ice-cream maker seriously is as ridiculous as getting your news from a comedy show.
Mr. Cohen’s Cute Demonstration http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bJsGJhpZd8
1999 U.S. Nuclear Stats http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/summary.htm
2003 U.S. Nuclear Stats http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/61/date
2007 U.S. Nuclear Stats http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/pr53n270241156n6/fulltext.pdf
Info about the W88 Warheads: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W88
Types of Deployment devices: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_06/Belgium_Germany_Tactical
2008 Hawaiian School Costs: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/05/29/news/story02.html
2006 Californian School Costs: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/01/BAGA9LG6B31.DTL