[Lawrence S., A former president of the Council on Peace Research in History (now the Peace History Society), an affiliate of the American Historical Association, Professor Wittner also chaired the Peace History Commission of the International Peace Research Association.He has received major fellowships or grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Aspen Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the United States Institute of Peace., George Mason History News Network, “Do We Really Want a New Generation of Nuclear-Armed Submarines?,” http://hnn.us/article/156221, accessed July 6, 2014, EK]
Ever since the horrors of submarine warfare became a key issue during World War I, submarines have had a sinister reputation. And the building of new, immensely costly, nuclear-armed submarines by the U.S. government and others may soon raise the level of earlier anxiety to a nuclear nightmare.
This spring, the U.S. government continued its steady escalation of research and development funding for the replacement of its current nuclear submarine fleet through one of the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in American history -- the phasing-in, starting in 2031, of 12 new SSBN(X) submarines. Each of these nuclear-powered vessels, the largest submarines the Navy has ever built, will carry up to16 Trident ballistic missiles fitted with multiple nuclear warheads. All in all, this new submarine fleet is expected to deploy about 1,000 nuclear warheads -- 70 percent of U.S. government’s strategic nuclear weapons.
From the standpoint of the U.S. military, nuclear-armed submarines are very attractive. Capable of being placed in hidden locations around the world and remaining submerged for months at a time, they are less vulnerable to attack than are ground-launched or air-launched nuclear weapons, the other two legs of the “nuclear triad.” Moreover, they can wreak massive death and destruction upon “enemy” nations quite rapidly. The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014 explained that the U.S. Navy’s future fleet would “deliver the required presence and capabilities and address the most important war-fighting scenarios.”
From the standpoint of civilians, the new Trident submarine fleet is somewhat less appealing. Strategic nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons in world history, and the use of only one of them over a large city could annihilate millions of people instantly. If the thousands of such weapons available to the U.S. government and other governments were employed in war, they would incinerate most of the planet, reducing it to charred rubble. Thereafter, radioactivity, disease, nuclear winter, and starvation would end most remaining life on earth.