United States Must Lead in Avoiding War

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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To the Editors:

A view holds that we should use our superior nuclear power to “Make America Great Again.” In any nuclear war, even against Russia, China, or both combined, America would likely win.

Another view is that such a victory would be a Pyrrhic one at best. For while we could destroy all of those nations, perhaps no more than a fraction of ours would remain, and those few remaining cities would present a life worse than those we witnessed at the heights of Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, and Irma all together, but with no help from the outside world ever arriving. In effect, virtually the entire world would be on fire rather than submerged in water, with the earth’s environment being almost totally destroyed by radiation.

Of course, there’s the hope that there are enough people in our government who are sufficiently smart, creative, and humane to come up with options that will give our children and those in North Korea a chance to continue to search for answers that will unite the world rather than divide it, or worse, pulverize it.

But those in government may not act with the urgency and reasonableness needed unless far more ordinary people voice their concerns that our nation should probably not preemptively unleash our nuclear bombs; we did preemptively attack Iraq with conventional weapons, believing that that nation possessed weapons of mass destruction. That position proved to be so tragically wrong that it cost us almost five thousand lives, and a much greater number of Iraqis perished.

Sadly, in North Korea, China, and even in Russia, almost two billion people can’t debate publicly with their officials as freely as we can with ours. We can say, not arrogantly or thoughtlessly, that the use of nuclear weapons should not cavalierly be on the table, if ever at all.

We are in a somewhat enviable position. First, we do possess superior nuclear power. Second, we are the world’s only nation to have used nuclear weapons against another nation, which we did in World War II against Japan. And third, no matter the cost and pain, we can perhaps survive and prevail no matter what comes our way.

We, the strongest nation in the world, do not have to strike preemptively to have a fighting chance to survive. Without displaying any braggadocio or threats, we do need to make sure that weaker nations know our history and facts very well, while remaining wary of leaders who may act irrationally — never mind our awesome power to retaliate.

America’s paramount action must be to exhaust all the possibilities for lasting peace by stretching and straining every muscle and lever available to our State Department. We Americans must make known to our leaders that the most open, candid, and spirited debates must occur, making it abundantly clear to all what the consequences are for the actions we take or do not take as a nation.

Booker C. Peek
Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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