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You Too Can Have a Future in Nuclear Destruction

Kids, don't know what career to pursue? Get a masters in nuclear deterrence.

By Russ Wellen, February 10, 2016


The nuclear-weapons establishment has never flagged when it comes to fanning the flames of deterrence theory. (Photo: Steve Jurveston / Wikimedia Commons)

Recent years have seen a string of scandals among those who command and man nuclear missiles silos. Among them have been cheating on tests and drug use. They are considered symptoms of low morale among those working in a branch of military that is seen as having little to actually do and with no future. Of course, for the rest of us, that’s a plus because it means they are not lighting off their ICBMs (the intercontinental ballistic missiles housed in the silos).

Presumably, in part to combat that, in August of last year, the Air Force Global Strike Command, which presides over nuclear weapons, inaugurated the School for Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies (SANDS) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Its press release at the time reads:

It will consist of AFGSC officers, civilians, and joint officers who seek to become masters of the nuclear enterprise–all learning and working from the same capstone education. The curriculum stands as a consolidation of all things assurance and deterrence.

Master of the nuclear enterprise? Sure to be met with quizzical stares by friends and family wondering what you have been studying. As part of the program, said Dr. Adam Lowther, SANDS’ director:

“They will also be expected to complete a ‘Great Books in Deterrence’ reading program, and complete several professional courses from Defense Threat Reduction University, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons College and Sandia National Labs.”

‘Great Books in Deterrence’ is obviously intended to be a nod to the Great Books Program, originally offered by Columbia University in the early part of the 20th century and later by the University of Chicago. But it was intended to give students a comprehensive grounding in civilization, not the destruction of civilization.

Meanwhile, a SANDS press release (courtesy of Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group) from last week describes a panel discussion (by invitation only) on “why the United States has a nuclear arsenal and how it contributes to the nation’s security.” Dr. Lowther again:

“When it [the panel discussion] is over, attendees should be able to explain to their mother in Des Moines why the United States has a nuclear arsenal and how it contributes to the nation’s security,”…

Yes, she had been waiting to find out with bated breath. At this point, it seems appropriate to trot out Paul Brians’ quote:

Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details. . . . almost everyone seems to feel adequately informed by reading one book about nuclear war.

Fortunately, great books have been written about nuclear war.

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