Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

And All of It for Nothing

with 5 comments

Twilight of the Bombs:

How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America’s current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix—all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use—all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear “ahead,” even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.

…At dinner Rhodes reflected that nuclear weapons may come to be seen as a strange fetishistic behavior by nations at a certain period in history. They were insanely expensive and thoroughly useless. Their only function was to keep a bizarre form of score.

Via Kottke.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] leave a comment » Great cartoon via Sam. […]

  2. As far as the fetishistic waste of the cold war is concerned, this passage reminded me of Jared Diamond’s description of the gigantic stone heads on Easter Island. For the islanders as for us, constructing these tremendous works was an all-consuming passion, driven by the need to outdo, or at least not be outdone by their neighbors.

    The fact that this crazy competition was the exact cause of the environmental destruction that ended them as a society is even more telling and fearful. See Diamond’s book, “Collapse;” lesser-known than “Guns, Germs and Steel,” but maybe better and more relevant for us today.


    October 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

  3. Well, not for absolutely nothing – at least it gave us Dr. Strangelove, a film that would have been impossible without the real-world nuclear insanity.


    October 1, 2010 at 11:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: