By John R. Kotson
POSTED: Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 – 10:18 a.m.
While President Donald Trump mindlessly blusters over the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea, most Americans, including the media, have little concept of what a nuclear holocaust entails. It has been almost 73 years since the United States used nuclear weapons against the empire of Japan. On August 6, 1945, a 16 KT (Equivalent to 16,000 tons of TNT) atomic bomb, code named “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima. Approximately 129,000 people died from the blast, burns, and radiation. Three days later, a second, 20 KT bomb, code named “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki with similar results. Since then, many countries have developed nuclear armaments but none has used them in war.
The U.S. government and the news media have been extremely reticent in failing to educate Americans of the horrors of a nuclear holocaust. In an all-out nuclear war what percentage of the U.S. population would quickly perish? How many more people would die due to diseases caused by radiation? These estimates are known by our government; why aren’t they made available to the public?
What if the escalating rhetoric of President Trump caused North Korea to launch a nuclear-equipped ICBM at Los Angeles? The U.S. missile defense system has been less than 100 percent effective in intercepting missiles in outer space, so there is a possibility that the missile would reach its intended target. A nuclear airburst over Los Angeles would create a fireball that would instantly cremate millions of people. Every large building and man-made structure would be destroyed by the accompanying shock wave. Radiation effects would condemn millions more to a slow painful death for many years. The only sign of existence for most people would be a fireball shadow left on the ground where they stood.
What options exist to curtail the threat of nuclear war? The U.S. military has the capability to totally destroy North Korea. One Trident-class nuclear missile submarine can deliver up to 80 independently targeted one megaton (1 million tons of TNT) nuclear warheads. These warheads are approximately 100 times greater in blast intensity than the Hiroshima bomb. Such a salvo would effectively destroy a small country such as North Korea in minutes.
The U.S. also could defeat North Korea through the use of conventional weapons but not without risk. North Korea has a well equipped, dedicated, million-man army. How many Americans remember the threat of a Dunkirk-like evacuation of a retreating American army at Pusan? Only a ring of steel set up by U.S. Navy warships and a high-risk landing behind North Korean forces at Inchon turned the tide.
A nuclear confrontation dwarfs all other problems facing America today and should take a strong precedence with our government. President Trump must quit enflaming the situation by insulting the Korean leader with his childish claims that “my red button is bigger than yours.” We should take the threat of a nuclear strike against North Korea off the table because it achieves nothing. The Congress and news media must educate the American and Korean peoples on the horrors of a nuclear war and why it should never be considered. The use of nuclear weapons should be outlawed as was poison gas after World War I.
There is still the use of diplomacy to convince the North Korean government that it is not in their best interest to continue on the path they have chosen. However, this requires patience from the American president that has so far been absent and some new ideas from our State Department on how to achieve a solution.
The continuing threat of a nuclear strike from North Korea must be curtailed. If diplomacy fails, we should use every option available to diffuse the situation. This includes political and economic sanctions, air- and sea-launched missile strikes, special-forces’ operations, a naval blockade and the limited use of ground forces.
Ultimately, the U.S. should take a leadership role with the United Nations to pursue a worldwide nuclear disarmament. The United States, Russia, and possibly China have enough nuclear weapons to easily destroy every living creature on earth several times over. To continue the development of new nuclear warheads is madness. Only by eliminating all nuclear stockpiles will countries be prevented from eventually destroying our planet.
John R. Kotson retired from IBM, where he was engineering manager for Missile Launch & Tracking Systems. He lives in Longmont.