A bunch of physicsts recently sent an open letter to President Bush warning him to not use nuclear weapons against Iran. It reminds me once again why getting my doctoral degree was one of the biggest mistakes in my life, redeemed only by the fact that the experience insulated me from ever again wanting to be part of American academia1.
The first thing to note is that the writers sent this to Bush, whose crime is apparently not saying that he will use nuclear weapons, but simply refusing to pre-emptively surrender that option. On the other hand, the writers seem to have no issue with the Iranian leadership, who are openly stating their desire to initiate a nuclear war as soon as they have the weapons. This is to me archetypical anti-Americanism, which is defined not by criticizing the USA but by blaming only the USA even when other nations involved are far more guilty of whatever is being blamed on the USA.
Nonetheless, some parts of the letter are hilarious in the mordant, “look at the over inflated egos!” kind of way that only academia can achieve.
Physicists know best about the devastating effects of the weapons they created
Uh, no. I would say that would be either the survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings, or the medical teams who examined and cared for them.
nuclear weapons in today’s arsenals have a total power of more than 200,000 times the explosive energy of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, which caused the deaths of more than 100,000 people
And so? Big numbers, scary! But apparently the correct approach in this regard is to encourage other nations to build even more nuclear weapons, instead of making an example that would frighten others in to not building more. That’s not even mentioning the fact that every nuke dropped on Iran is one less in today’s arsenals.
The letter echoes the main objection of last fall’s physicists’ petition, stressing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be irreversibly damaged by the use or even the threat of use of nuclear weapons by a nuclear nation against a non-nuclear one
Instead, the treay will be strengthened by watching Iran flagrantly violate the terms of it with no consequences?
In the end, I am left wondering just what warped point of view could lead to fatuous and unrealistic utterances. The only one I can come up with is that as privileged, Western academics, they simply cannot envision foreigners (such as the Iranian mullahocracy) as having true moral agency. The academics are simpl too parochial to think that some power other than the USA could possibly be driving events in the world. What a cramped, narrow view! And despite all of their diversity training.