The US plans to spend $1.5 Trillion upgrading its Nuclear Missiles!!

Just saw this article in Scientific American (December edition). Probably some people who follow this closely know all about it, but I didn’t.

The New Nuclear Age—Scientific American

I am curious to know how many Americans were consulted about the decision to spend about $10,000 per tax-payer on upgrading nuclear weapons.

My personal opinion on this doesn’t matter. But surely this is a decision that American voters should have been deeply involved in, given that it impacts both their taxes and their chance of being obliterated in a nuclear apocalypse.

It feels like that much money could be much better spend in other areas.

Isn’t there a contradiction between the idea that nuclear weapons serve as a deterrent and the idea that we need to upgrade them? The implication would seem to be that the largest nuclear missile stockpile on the planet still isn’t a sufficient deterrent, in which case what exactly would constitute a deterrent?

More to the point, is this decision being taken by people who see nuclear war as a zero-sum game—we win or we lose—or by people who truly believe that spending all this money creating these horrific weapons will actually make them safer?

Or is it just the military industrial complex frustrated that it’s not making enough money from all the wars that are already happening?

If the US truly needs to upgrade its nuclear arsenal, then surely the same is true of Russia (I’ve heard the opinion previously that Putin would not go nuclear because many of his missiles wouldn’t actually work anymore). If that were the case, then surely this should be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to just get rid of nuclear weapons, since it’s hard to imagine Putin wants to spend $1.5 trillion on his missiles.

Given the success of Oppenheimer and the spectre of nuclear annihilation that has been raised by the war in Ukraine, this might be the moment to get the public behind such an initiative.

But, at minimum, surely this kind of question should be publicly debated rather than decided in some dark room by characters who are among the very few who might actually benefit from spending so much money on destructive weapons?

Perhaps more tangibly here, are there things that we in the EA community might do to encourage such a debate? Rather than wait until the money has been spent and the weapons and in place, it would seem that now is a good time to call for a halt to this madness.

Caveat: When I was young, Scientific American was a great source of unbiased information. In recent years, sometimes it gets blinkered by its liberal politics, but even still, they write for an informed, scientific audience. I have not cross-validated this story, but it’s highly unlikely that they have published a whole edition about nuclear weapons without doing due diligence on the main story. Very happy to have anyone offer corrections or insights that I have missed.