Eliminate ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles)

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At the height of the Cold War, the US and Russia had 70,000 nuclear weapons scattered around the globe, ready to launch on warning of an attack. This system was called "Mutually Assured Destruction", or MAD. The idea was that if you nuke me, I nuke you, and everyone dies, so nobody nukes anyone. Although MAD has so far deterred nuclear conflict, it means that a minor conflict or miscalculation could rapidly escalate into all-out nuclear war. This nearly happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, but also in 1960, 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1995 due to false information.

While the Cold War has ended, some of the most dangerous elements of MAD have not. By far, the most dangerous and unnecessary weapons in the US nuclear arsenal are the ICBMs. ICBMs are land-based, long-range missiles that are ready to launch within minutes of warning on an incoming attack and can reach their targets in under 30 minutes. The US currently has 405 ICBMs located in missile silos in Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. 

IBCMs are dangerous, unnecessary, and expensive.

Why are ICBMs so dangerous? Because they incentivize rapid response to an incoming attack or false alarm of an incoming attack - of which there have been many. ICBMs are powerful, sitting targets, which means that any country who attacks the US will likely attempt to destroy the ICBMs first. This means ICBMs are "use it or lose it", which incentivizes rapid retaliation even before explosions are confirmed. To make things worse, ICBMs cannot be recalled once they are launched. There is no way to call back a mistaken launch. 

Why are ICBMs unnecessary? The US nuclear arsenal is called the "nuclear triad", and it's made up of land-based ICBMs, sea-based nuclear submarines, and strategic nuclear bombers. While the purpose of the triad is to deter attack on the United States and our allies, our nuclear submarines are already an incredibly powerful deterrent. The 14 ballistic missile submarines carry a total of 336 long-range ballistic missiles and provide a strategic advantage over ICBMs, being undetectable and offering second-strike capability. The US can eliminate ICBMs while maintaining an incredibly strong nuclear deterrent. 

How expensive are ICBMs? The Pentagon estimated the US will spend $238 billion over the next 30 years to modernize ICBMs as part of a $1.2 trillion nuclear modernization program.

If ICBMs are unnecessary, why do we still have them? It comes down to preserving jobs in the five states where ICBMs are stored, tested, and controlled. Senators from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah, and Louisiana - both democrats and republicans - have formed the "ICBM caucus" and used their outsized influence to prevent congress from seriously considering reducing or eliminating ICBMs. This situation is unlikely to change unless the public demands it. 

Why focus on ICBMs? While our nuclear weapons policy is dangerous in a number of different ways, this petition focuses solely on ICBMs because they are particularly dangerous and unnecessary. ICBMs represent a logical first step in any nuclear weapons reform, reform which involves ideas that should appeal to all Americans: eliminating wasteful government spending, preventing unnecessary wars, and keeping Americans safe.

What are the counterarguments? While few people publicly argue in favor of ICBMs, here is a link to an opinion piece whose argument I find incredibly uncompelling: https://bit.ly/whyICBMs

Link to instagram post on nuclear weapons: https://bit.ly/instagram_nukes 

Link to an informal pdf with additional information and reading material: https://bit.ly/nukes_pdf



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