Nuclear Weapons Are
  A Clear And Present Danger To Humanity

by Nile Stanton

March 1, 2023

      In The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War, David Livingston Smith maintains that “[W]ar’s allure comes from tendencies inscribed in our genes over evolutionary time, and that violent conflict benefited our ancestors, who were victors in the bloody struggle for survival.”  He continues, “This is why the disposition to war lives on in us, and why we periodically yield to it and are drawn down into a hell of our own making.”


      During the arms race 60 years ago, I happened across an article by Jerome Frank, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. I had been following the increasing U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the nuclear arms race with great concern, and here was an article that presented an aspect of war and the threat of war that was new to me -- a consideration of major cognitive factors that press toward war.

      Frank’s article was highly controversial at the time. In the second sentence, he wrote: “As a psychiatrist, I have been struck by an analogy between the behavior of policy makers today and the behavior of mental patients. That is, they see a problem or a threat and then resort to methods of dealing with it which aggravate it. The leaders of the world agree that nuclear armaments pose or will soon pose an insufferable threat to the existence of humanity…. Yet preparation for war goes on feverishly.” (Emphasis added.) 

      Today Jerome Frank’s analyses strikes me as more poignant and compelling than ever. He noted that, “The responses of individuals to the threats of modern weaponry include all the reactions that people customarily show to massive dangers which exceed their powers of adaptation,” and proceeded to explicate several of the common maladaptive responses.

      In highly truncated form, the maladaptive responses Frank identified are:

  1. Apathy or fatalism sets in when one contemplates what is perceived as inevitable doom. (“Better Dead than Red” was the fatalistic credo of many Americans in the late 1950s and early 1960s.) “There will always be war, so who cares?"

  2. Habituation to danger. That is, we seem “unable to sustain our feeling of fear in the presence of a constant, continual danger, and we lose our moral repugnance toward any evil which persists long enough.”  (The use of force to obtain desired results becomes commonplace and soon goes unnoticed.)

  3. Denial of the existence of an overwhelming threat is a common maladaptive response to problems. According to Frank, minimizing the dreadfulness of nuclear weapons seriously impedes our efforts to resolve the threat they present.  Another form of denial is to believe that nuclear weapons will not be used merely because they are so terrible.  He identifies as yet another form of denial the tendency to use reassuring words to describe our nuclear predicament.

  4. Insensitivity to the remote. For example, a parent who would get very upset to see their child’s finger badly cut might be relatively unmoved by a report of thousands of people being killed or maimed in an earthquake or war on the other side of the globe.  (People tend to ignore horrors that are taking place thousands of miles away.)

  5. The formation of stereotypical views of “the enemy” tends to seriously disrupt communications and, further, makes dangers come true because of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are absolutely convinced that “the enemy” will do wrong, our actions and those of the enemy will often prompt the wrong to occur.


      On June 13, 2022, Hans M. Kristensen, Associate Senior Fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme and Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), starkly warned, "There are clear indications that the reductions that have characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the cold war have ended." Wilfred Wan, Director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, observed that, "All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies." Prophetically, he added, "This is a very worrying trend."


      Before addressing these matters further, a short multiple-choice test is appropriate in order to suggest a little historical context:  (The choices are China, U.S.A., or neither.)

1 – Over the each of the past twenty years, which country has spent almost four times as much on its military than the other country?

2 – Which country does not have a "No First Use" policy with regard to nuclear weapons?

3 – Which country has over five times the number of nuclear weapons as the other country and has them deployed, rather than have the weapons decoupled from their delivery systems as the other does?

4 – Over the last two decades, which country has sent its warplanes thousands of miles from its shores to bomb several countries?

5 – Over last two decades, which country’s military has spread “collateral damage” over a vast area, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent civilians?

6 – Which country provides weapons and/or military training to over half of the countries in the world?

7 – Which country has hundreds of military bases beyond its own borders, as compared to one foreign base the other has?

8 – Which country has aircraft carrier strike groups in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans?


      War is the ultimate sabotage and maximum barbarity. It is Evil. It is easy to understand why many religious people think of war as a tool the Devil designed to destroy God's creation.



     Consider this as the preface to a series of essays I plan to present regarding "war profiteering," "aggression," "just war theory," "Judaism, Christianity, Islam and war," and the like, in examining the causes and consequences of the horror people say they hate yet pursue with a passion. 



* Nile Stanton lives in southern Spain. He was a professor for the University of Maryland University College for 20 years, where he taught U.S. active duty service members on U.S. military bases in Spain, Italy, Bosnia, and (mostly) Greece as well as online to troops throughout Europe and Asia. The course he taught most often (32 iterations) was the upper-level government course called “Law, Morality, and War.” Thereafter, he taught for the University of New England at its Tangier, Morocco, campus for two years, where his signature course was “War and Public Health.” He was born and raised a Quaker and tends to examine the excuses for war and lack of diplomacy more carefully and from a different perspective than many people.

Nile |@|