[quote name='AvalonAngel' timestamp='1292774186' post='702962']
[font="Tahoma"]Didn't stop Al-Qaeda, m'boy
I'm sure terrorist organizations and other dissidents are perfectly aware of the capabilities of our countries' military. As would be any other first world countries with Nuclear Arms. The threat of retaliation didn't mean anything at Pearl Harbor, and that was before nuclear weapons. So what changed besides a better bomb? [/font]
You only focus on the intentional threat. The nuclear threat exists in three places. Intentional, accidental, and the miscalculated.
You already seem aware of the intentional threat, which is actually pretty simple to obtain. As long as you have enough money and enough patience, anyone can get the material. You are also only focusing on the US. You forget that nine countries have nuclear weapons. USA (1945), Russia (1949), Britain (1952), France (1960), China (1964), Israel (1967), India (1974), Pakistan (1990), North Korea (2006). And that over 40 countries are capable of obtaining them. There is not a single country in the world that doesn't have at least one enemy. Every country can use self defense as an excuse to obtain nuclear weapons, but if they do it is a much more dangerous world. The United States doesn't have a monopoly on the bomb.
You also forget that terrorism is like no other threat. You speak of terrorists as if they are afraid of us using bombs on them. Tell me, where should we bomb if Al-qaeda did managa to nuke us. Afganistan? There are less then a hundred members of Al-qaeda in Afganistan. What about Somalia? They have lots of known Al-qaeda members living there. Yemen? Guess they should get it too. Pakistan? We know they're there, maybe even Bin Laden himself, but they have nukes too, don't they? Tell me, what should we do about them? Should we just nuke all muslim arab nations, just in case?
And not just them. The terror death cult, Aum Shinrikyo, in Japan tried to buy a nuke from Russia. They tried to buy a sheep farm in Australia to mine Uranium to make their own bomb.
Osama Bin Laden has stated that his goal is to kill 4,000,000 Americans, including 2,000,000 children. Your not going to be able to kill 4,000,000 people by hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings. You have the added bonuses of suicide bombers, who would be more then happy enough to kill themselves even if they killed only one other person.
The most difficult part about building a bomb is getting the HEU. Which isn't as hard as one might think. If I was going to get HEU, I would go to Russia, or another country of the former Soviet Union. Many people have succeeded in stealing HEU in this region. The people of this prestigious list include a truck driver, a plumber, a janitor, a small time drug dealer, and a carpenter. If small time people like this can get a hold of HEU then imagine what professionals could do? People with training, with an ideology, with brains.
Once you have it, shipping it isn't that hard. 100 lbs. of HEU(Which is big enough for 3 Hiroshima size bombs) is smaller then a football. You could hide it in a six pack of beer. Now maybe your saying: Well what about port authority? Surely they scan cargo containers for radiation? This is true, but there are two parts to consider first.
1. Ever heard the expression 'Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.' Well this is the macro version of that. If your a terrorist and you think they might find your bomb, then you set it off in the port. Close is good enough in this situation.
2. As long as it's contained in lead, HEU gives off very low levels of radiation. The port authorities know this, so the sensors are cranked up to there maximum level. Unfortunately, this means that just about anything will set them off. Porcelain will set it off, old school CRT TV's, various household chemicals, kitty litter. As a result, port authorities get thousands of false hits a day. If you wanted to ship HEU into the country, hide it in a bag of kitty litter. As soon as port security sees that litter, they'll never even bother to open the bag. Plus, anyway you would ship drugs into the US would be just good as well.
But what about the accidental threat. Now, I know in the United States, we like to believe that our military is infallible. That they could never make such a disastrous mistake as to accidentally set off a nuke in this country. Allow me to assure you, that from personal experience, the military can be just as incompetent as any other organization. We once had an incident where a B-52 blew during a refueling mission. The four nuclear warheads fell on to Spainish territory and into the Mediterranean. A B-52 crashed over Greenland with nukes on board, spreading radioactive plutonium over the ice cap. In 1960 a Bomark air defense missile exploded on the launch platform, melting the nuclear warhead. In 1968 the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine, sank. The nuclear weapons on board were never recovered. A B-47 bomber was lost over the Mediterranean. The nuclear weapons are board were never recovered. In 1959 an aircraft crashed off the coast of Washington. The nuclear depth charges were never recovered. A sky hawk strike aircraft rolled off the deck of an aircraft carrier with a nuclear weapon on board in the sea of Japan. The weapon was never recovered. In 2006 a B-52 with 6 nuclear warheads on board was flown across the United States. The problem: Nobody knew that there were nukes on board. Not the crew or the command on the ground. In 1961 a B-52 broke up over North Carolina, dropping two nuclear warheads. One had it's safety parachute deploy and it landed safely. The other ones didn't, and it had 5 of 6 fail safes malfunction. A single switch prevented a full blown nuclear explosion.
When I came into the US military, I believed that the odds of an accidental nuclear explosion in the United States was very low. I still believe that, but the reality is is that low probability events happen all the time. There is a first time for everything. And even having it happen once, could be disastrous.
Then there is the threat of miscalculation. In 1995 Pete Sampras won the US open and Wimbledon, George Clooney made his first big movie, a bomb blew up the federal building in Oklahoma city, OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder, and we also came close to an accidental nuclear launch. On January 25th 1995, the US launched a missile over Norway to study the northern lights. We sent word along to Moscow about this, but word never got passed along. When they saw the 4 stages of this missile, it looked exactly like a nuclear strike. For the first time in the nuclear age, they opened the 'atomic football', the command and control box. The brought it into president Boris Yeltsin and assured him that the country was under attack and that he had five minutes to give the launch command for the nations nuclear arsenal. Luckily, Yeltsin wasn't drunk, and he didn't believe that it was true, that there had to be another answer.
The Russians have the same launch protocol as the United States, which is 'Launch on warning'. If you THINK you are under attack, you launch your own missiles. You don't wait for their bombs to hit first. To this day, we have no idea why president Yeltsin didn't launch his bombs, all we know is that he didn't.
During the cold war, we had a number of false alarms. There have been instances where the rising moon was interpreted as a Russian ICBM attack. A flock of geese was mistaken for bombers. A training video was slipped into the command and control center at NORAD. Everyone involved believed it to be real. No one noticed til after the launch procedures had already gotten underway all across the country to launch an all out assault against the Soviet Union. In some cases, mobile air command ships, including the presidents 'doomsday' plane, took off in anticipation of the destruction of all US military command centers. Another incident was caused when a malfunctioning computer chip set off a warning of a full scale nuclear launch. Command codes were removed from their safes, keys were put into launch switches, President Carter was woken up in the middle of the night, 8 minutes worth of launch prep was carried out, before they realized that it nothing more then a malfunctioning computer chip that cost less then a dollar to replace.
When you have nuclear weapons on hair triggers, it is not a matter of 'if' an accidental launch will occur, but when.
The question is: What can we do? For starters, we do away with the material. Without the highly enriched uranium or plutonium a bomb is impossible to build. Not an ounce of gold has ever been stolen from Fort Knox, so we should seal up all the material in Fort Knox like structures to ensure that it never falls into anyone's hands ever again. We then sign binding and legal treaties with all other countries forbidding any nation from possessing them, just like we did with chemical weapons. These are now taboo, just as nukes should be.
And, since you sited Pearl Harbor, I would like to point out the inaccuracy in your own assessment. The dropping of the nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasake was unnecessary. We think of that time today and think that if we hadn't dropped the nukes on Japan, that they would have kept fighting, but once the nukes hit they instantly caved. The truth is is that the Japanese had been trying to surrender all that summer before. But president Truman wanted to drop the bomb as a show of force. He did it, not to break the Japanese, but to frighten Stalin. To change the balance of power in the world. To declare war on communism.
Your own world view, this idea that he who has the mightiest arsenal stands atop the world, untouchable, is straight up delusional. When you say that people fear our might, you're right, but just as many people hate us for it as well. When unstable countries like Pakistan and North Korea have bombs, how long til you think someone uses theirs?