The Disarmament Delusion

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 23, 2010

(by Thomas Sowell, – One of many words that sound so attractive, to people who don’t think beyond the word, is “disarmament.” Wouldn’t it be better to live in a world where countries weren’t armed to the teeth, especially those armed with nuclear weapons?

But the only country we can disarm is our own. The only countries we might be able to persuade to disarm are countries that intend no harm in the first place. Those that do intend harm would be delighted to have all their victims disarmed.

What if we can just get nuclear disarmament? We need to think beyond the word to the realities of the world.

Had there been no nuclear weapons created during World War II, that would’ve given an overwhelming military advantage in the postwar world to countries with large, well-equipped armies. The US troops that remained in Western Europe after the war weren’t enough to stop the Soviet army from marching across the continent to the Atlantic. But they were enough that their slaughter by the Russians would have risked nuclear war with America.

Western Europe has had one of its longest periods of peace under the protection of the American nuclear umbrella. Japan, one of the 20th century’s biggest and most cruel conquerors, has become a peaceful nation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the real world, the question of whether nuclear disarmament is desirable is irrelevant because it’s simply not possible, except in words — and we’d truly be fools to accept such words at the risk of our lives.

Even if every nuclear weapon on the planet were destroyed — and how could we be sure that had happened? — it still wouldn’t destroy the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons. Countries with aggressive intentions need only choose the time when they would put their knowledge of nuclear weapons to use, and have the world at their mercy.

Why then is President Obama pursuing international nuclear disarmament? It can’t be because he thinks it’ll work. His political advisers, however, can tell him that it would be a “historic achievement,” just like ObamaCare.


International disarmament has long been a favorite crusade of the left. The period between the two World Wars were full of popular disarmament agreements and renunciations of war.

In fact, such pious agreements contributed to the outbreak of war. Because some nations adhered to these agreements and others did not, the military advantage swung to the latter, who started the war — in which tens of millions of human beings died.

Dr. Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of “Applied Economics” and “Black Rednecks and White Liberals.”

This article was first in the New York Post on September 15, 2010.  Reprinted here on September 23rd for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Post. Visit the website at