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Only way to survive nuclear war is to prevent it

Dr. Lewis Patrie, GUEST COLUMNIST 6:42 a.m. ET Feb. 20, 2017

lew patrieCreated by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, the Doomsday Clock assesses the likelihood of nuclear war. Those original scientists developed the bombs dropped by the U.S. on Japan in 1945. Current atomic scientists are globally distributed and have expertise in potential impact from nuclear weapons detonation as well as changing geopolitical circumstances.

Each year the clock is reset to forecast the likelihood of nuclear war. The closer the minute hand is to midnight, the closer the board believes the world is to nuclear Armageddon. Over the decades “minutes to midnight” warnings have varied from 17 to the current 2 1/2 minutes to midnight. Thus these experts are telling us that dangers from nuclear weapons and worldwide doom have never been greater.

Nuclear weapons nations have failed to effectively act to reduce these death dealing devices. Many people think these weapons need to be kept only in the hands of responsible world leaders. In an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 23, Dr. Ira Helfand and Dr. Robert Dodge noted that “A growing chorus of politicians and national security experts have questioned whether it would be safe” for any one person to control the nuclear button. “The right question for us to ask is: should anyone be able to press the nuclear button? And the right answer is a resounding “No.”

No individual, nor for that matter group of individuals, should have the right to give a command that unleashes nuclear Armageddon. Humankind has experienced many lucky outcomes from many close calls that could have caused nuclear catastrophe over these 70 years; a policy based on luck is a poor policy. Today’s complex global environment is in need of deliberate and considered policy responses. It is ever more important that senior leaders across the globe calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war, either by accident or miscalculation.

However, the U.S. and Russia continue to have more than 1,000 nuclear weapons targeting each other and set to launch on warning. Both countries have massive programs to modernize their nuclear arsenal, thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties and worsening the international threat.

One hundred and twenty three non-nuclear weapon possessing nations are now acting assertively to rid earth of these weapons. These nations have grown weary of waiting on the nuclear weapons states to take the lead in reducing the risk of their use. In October 2016, at the UN, these 123 nations adopted a resolution to commence negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The United States, Russia and the other nations which possess these weapons have declined support of this initiative. Yet, it has a chance of success in that it is structured in such a way that the five permanent members of the Security Council cannot block the implementation of any UN mandate that this this convention establishes.

Physicians for Social Responsibility continues to emphasize there is no way to effectively recover from nuclear war; the only survivable solution is prevention.
Here’s what you can do to help defuse this incredibly dangerous situation: Contact your legislators and ask them to support Senate Bill 3400, “The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act” which would prohibit the president of the United States from using nuclear weapons without congressional authorization except when the US is under attack.

Promptly call your senators and Congressional representatives:
Sen. Richard Burr 202-224-3154 or 828-350-2437
Sen. Thom Tillis 202-224-6342 or 919-856-4630
Rep. Mark Meadows 202-225-6401 or 828-693- 5660
Rep. Patrick McHenry 202-225-2576 or 828-327-6100

Lewis Patrie, MD is a member of the Western NC Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility. Contact Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility for more at

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.