Peace on Earth

The START treaty is one step closer to ratification in Russia. Of course, it probably doesn’t affect the probability that we’ll all die in a nuclear war in any significant way, but I still generally think a world with fewer nuclear warheads sitting around is a good thing.

The story I linked to is still missing something: a broader analysis of why the leadership of both countries is so firmly behind nuclear reduction. I understand that it’s expensive to maintain the weapons, and that both sides likely see the reduction as having little effect on their deterrent capabilities, but there’s a third reason. I’ve read — I can’t remember where, and would love to be pointed to links in the comments — that the worldwide use of nuclear full for power generation outpaces worldwide mining of fissionable materials and that continued destruction of old warheads is thus necessary to keep nuclear power cheap. If that’s true, it’s a pretty key fact that’s being left out of coverage. Wouldn’t the story be different if it was framed as “there’s a shortage of nuclear fuel and if the elites can’t figure out a way to keep disarmament going, it will affect energy prices in the long term”?

I think this underscores a shortcoming of traditional journalism. By focusing on key individuals doing key things and making public statements, broader historical, social, and economic trends can get missed, or downplayed. We end up with a “Great Men” first draft of history rather than a more complete and true picture.

Anyway, Merry Christmas.

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12 2010

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