Q: Let's talk about the cost of the arms race in concrete terms, in dollars
and cents. Give us a sort of big-picture sense of how we paid for all
RR: In 1995, the U.S. national debt amounted to some $3 trillion. That is
approximately what the arms race cost us, for nuclear weapons and the systems
to deliver them. So it wasn't the welfare state that put us in such a terrible
hole financially. It was the nuclear arms race. What did we get for that in
return? Well, our country wasn't destroyed--if it would have been. Could we
have spent less and had the same result? I think anyone at all rational would
say, "Yes, of course we could have." It wasn't just deterrence. It was also
the aggrandizement of national power. The waste. The waste.
I spoke with a member of the board in Washington that's responsible for
cleaning up the military's nuclear waste from all the factories that made all
the bombs. He said, "It was as if we nuked ourselves." Hanford and all those
tanks of material that's leaking into the soil. Americans worry about nuclear
power primarily these days, because they think the waste is a problem. It's
not the waste from out nuclear power reactors. That's all sitting in swimming
pools at the reactors, nice and confined. It's the enormous waste all over the
country from building bombs, where the military was always able to tell itself,
"We'll worry about that later. There's a war on." And it's even worse in
Russia. They estimate officially, by their government estimates, that 40
percent of the Soviet land mass is seriously polluted with radioactive and
other military wastes.
That's the legacy that's left behind from all of this.
back to Interview Transcripts