Nuclear weapons have given us relative peace throughout the world, since World War II. I have heard it argued that we have been afforded this peace on account of the invention and use of atomic weapons. This relative peace is defined such because we have not had total peace. The Korean War, Vietnam War, multiple wars in the Gulf, and dozens of other skirmishes are just the wars most discussed by US scholars. There have been several genocides that have claimed the lives of millions, including those perpetrated by Pol Pot, and those in Darfur and Rwanda. Now, the instability in Libya and Syria have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands by a low estimate, and over a million by other estimates. “Relative peace” is a kind way of putting this era, at best.
To my original point, the span of 70 years is not that long when after 71 years we might see the first nuclear war. Would 70 years be worth it, if the peace ended today? That is to say, would the prospect of a first (and probably last) nuclear war after 70 years of “relative peace” be worth it for the risk at hand. I argue that it is not. Sticking with the exercise of years, let us consider whether 100 years be worth it. Maybe if this span of time without any global wars, if this relative peace outlasted multiple generations – what if it was 200 years. Would that make the risk of nuclear annihilation worth it? I argue the contrary. It would seem to me that the risk of ending the world, essentially holding the world at gunpoint to enforce peace, is the worst possible way to establish any kind of peace. And, the reality is that we might still stumble our way into a nuclear war if we drag this out long enough. The end-game here is total annihilation. This end would not be worth any number of years of relative peace.
What is the alternative? Yes, World War 2 was horrifying. As were all of the wars fought with conventional weapons before this. But this is infinitely preferable to the end of humanity. Conventional weapons-only, without any nuclear weapons, those types of wars breaking out would be preferable to WW3. Ten more wars on the level of World War 2 would be preferable because fifty years of global war would not end humanity as a single nuclear war would.
A thousand years of total peace, not even this relative peace, would not be worth it if humanity was annihilated at the end of this period.
Ten thousand years of total peace would be the same. We cannot entertain the mere possibility of total annihilation by nuclear weapons (or any weapons we could conceive). We have to scale back our nuclear weapons to 0, or consider the next option – we don’t have the will to save the human race.
This then begs the question, what do we when our will to save ourselves fails?