Tick Tock, Tick Tock: The Nuclear Genie is Already Out

By Michael Willard

It is not in the nature of sovereign nations to cave to bullying rhetoric or even crushing sanctions. In light of this, the US should drastically alter its strategy on curbing nuclear proliferation.

It’s not working, nor will it work.

The nuclear club, in all likelihood, will grow over time, but it can be contained, and made less dangerous. Fact is, it is difficult for one nuclear power — even the US — to tell everyone else to stand down.

However, the world can be made safer if we realize there are tools other than threats which have the impact of snow cones hurled at concrete or even sanctions which generally result in nationalistic blow back.

The US has sanctions on 30 countries. We have had an embargo against Cuba for nearly 60 years. One can debate the effectiveness, but when it comes to nuclear policy, sanctions are not a strong hand absent other measures.

Countries which already have nuclear weapons won’t easily give them up without a quid pro quo that they can promote to their people and the rest of the world as significant and a win-win for both sides.

We have to find those sweet spots, and that is through an expanded club of allies, patient negotiation, real compromise and an attitude adjustment in our own often nationalistic personality.

It is difficult assignment but not impossible.

There is, of course, a such thing as American pride — but also we have to realize Iranian pride, North Korean pride and, would you believe , Liechtenstein pride, speaking of a 62 square mile country.

If leaders cannot see this, they — paraphrasing the Butch Cassidy flick — “Are looking through bifocals and have no vision.”

The nuclear genie was released from that bottle nearly 75 years ago over Japan with the deaths 250,000 people. Today nine countries have nuclear weapons or the capability to produce them.

This doesn’t include five NATO countries which have the shared responsibility of such weapons of mass destruction. It does include Pakistan, where the terrorist Ben Laden hung out.

When it comes right down to it, compromise was what the Iran nuclear deal was all about. It was also endorsed by our allies and some countries we call enemies. It was the right direction.

That Obama agreement kicked the ball down the road several decades, giving us ample opportunities to re-visit and reshape it. It wasn’t a perfect agreement, but better than where we stand today.

One man intent on undoing everything his predecessor accomplished — whether the climate treaty, health care, the Iran agreement, the arms control treaty with Russia — is not sensible reasoning and policy.

I’m not an expert on the topic, but I was an observer who sat around the table in the Kremlin when the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty was being discussed with the USSR leadership.

Though I visited in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia the very early rocket facilities of the Chinese years ago, I still don’t know beans about throw-weights, telemetry and encryption formulas.

However, let’s examine Orlando where I currently reside in a placid and gated community with neatly manicured lawns and nice, mainly Hispanic neighbors. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but…

if North Korea’s Kim Jong-un should become upset by a Disney flick and lob a missile at the Magic Kingdom, as many as 50 to 90 per cent of us would have the opportunity to test the veracity of the Biblical New Testament vision of heaven. We would be incinerated.


That’s depressing, but the good news is North Korea and Iran are a long way from having that ability. So, folks go-ahead, enjoy the sunshine and make sure you put on sunscreen.

But, for gosh sakes, let’s look to the future.

My obvious interest in the general topic is because I have kids and grandkids, and before too long they will have kids. I am also, when it comes to nuclear weapons, firmly anchored in the reality zone

I remember the “duck and cover” drills in elementary school in the 1950s. Also, I recall being evacuated in a pretend nuclear attack in Memphis. Upon returning to school, we were told most all of us would have died. I remember the bomb shelter buying craze.

During the Cold War, we and the Soviets hid behind the theory that MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction — would prevent either side from doing the unthinkable.

Today that theory is out the window.

There are simply too many actors with nuclear capabilities, some with insane religious motivations. There are too many possibilities of regional conflicts — such as India and Pakistan — spreading. Nuclear terrorism is a clear danger, as are the complications of cybersecurity.

We cannot depend just on the wisdom of individual leaders.

There were those who thought Hitler was a wise leader in the 1930s, and six million Jews died. There were those who thought Stalin was a wise leader, and he covered up the starvation of six million in Ukraine.

Given our experience, really wise leaders are historically and universally in short supply. The question of nuclear proliferation should not be a political one but a commonsense one.