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Nuclear war

conflict or strategy in which nuclear weaponry is used to inflict damage on an opponent
For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness. You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have no right to hold in your hands — there is no one wise enough and strong enough to hold in his hands — destructive power sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great portion of our planet. ~ George F. Kennan

Nuclear war, or atomic war, is war in which nuclear weapons are used.

QuotesEdit

  • REST IN PEACE. THE MISTAKE SHALL NOT BE REPEATED.
    • Anonymous, Inscription on the cenotaph at Hiroshima, Japan. Quoted in Alan L. Mackay, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977. In Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340.
  • I'd rather be Red than dead.
    • Author unknown. Slogan of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament supporters; reported in Time (September 15, 1961), p. 30.
  • What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can't get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves.
    • Martin Amis, Einstein's Monsters (1987), "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • The arms race is a race between nuclear weapons and ourselves.
    • Martin Amis, Einstein's Monsters (1987), Introduction: "Thinkability".
  • We have men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.
    • Armistice Day speech (11 November 1948), published in Omar Bradley's Collected Writings, Volume 1 (1967).
  • But of all environments, that produced by man’s complex technology is perhaps the most unstable and rickety. In its present form, our society is not two centuries old, and a few nuclear bombs will do it in.
    To be sure, evolution works over long periods of time and two centuries is far from sufficient to breed Homo technikos… .
    The destruction of our technological society in a fit of nuclear peevishness would become disastrous even if there were many millions of immediate survivors.
    The environment toward which they were fitted would be gone, and Darwin’s demon would wipe them out remorselessly and without a backward glance.
    • Isaac Asimov Asimov on Physics (1976), 151. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 181.
  • The double horror of two Japanese city names [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] grew for me into another kind of double horror; an estranging awareness of what the United States was capable of, the country that five years before had given me its citizenship; a nauseating terror at the direction the natural sciences were going. Never far from an apocalyptic vision of the world, I saw the end of the essence of mankind an end brought nearer, or even made, possible, by the profession to which I belonged. In my view, all natural sciences were as one; and if one science could no longer plead innocence, none could.
    • Erwin Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature (1978), 3.
  • In 1945, therefore, I proved a sentimental fool; and Mr. Truman could safely have classified me among the whimpering idiots he did not wish admitted to the presidential office. For I felt that no man has the right to decree so much suffering, and that science, in providing and sharpening the knife and in upholding the ram, had incurred a guilt of which it will never get rid. It was at that time that the nexus between science and murder became clear to me. For several years after the somber event, between 1947 and 1952, I tried desperately to find a position in what then appeared to me as a bucolic Switzerland,—but I had no success.
    • Erwin Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature (1978), 4.
  • This revelation of the secrets of nature, long mercifully withheld from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in the mind and conscience of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, may become a perennial fountain of world prosperity.
    • Winston Churchill, statement drafted by following the use of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Due to the change in government, the statement was released by Clement Attlee (6 Aug 1945). In Sir Winston Churchill, Victory: War Speeches by the Right Hon. Winston Churchill (1946), 289.
  • In discussing the state of the atmosphere following a nuclear exchange, we point especially to the effects of the many fires that would be ignited by the thousands of nuclear explosions in cities, forests, agricultural fields, and oil and gas fields. As a result of these fires, the loading of the atmosphere with strongly light absorbing particles in the submicron size range (1 micron = 10-6 m) would increase so much that at noon solar radiation at the ground would be reduced by at least a factor of two and possibly a factor of greater than one hundred.
    • Paul Crutzen and John W. Birks, 'The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon', Ambio, 1982, 11, 115.
  • If you are not ready, and did not know what to do, it could hurt you in different ways. It could knock you down, hard, or throw you against a tree or a wall. It is such a big explosion, it can smash in buildings and knock signboards over, and break windows all over town, but if you duck and cover, like Bert [the Turtle], you will be much safer.
    • Duck and Cover (1951), on protecting oneself from an atomic explosion.
  • War is just another game
    Tailor made for the insane
    But make a threat of their annihilation
    And nobody wants to play
    If that's the only thing that keeps the peace
    Then thank God for the bomb
    • Thank God for the Bomb Robert John Daisley, Ozzy Osbourne, John Osbourne, Jake Williams, Robert Daisley
  • We face a probable future of nuclear-armed states warring over a scarcity of resources; and that scarcity is largely the consequence of capitalism itself. For the first time in history, our prevailing form of life has the power not simply to breed racism and spread cultural cretinism, drive us into war or herd us into labour camps, but to wipe us from the planet. Capitalism will behave antisocially if it is profitable for it to do so, and that can now mean human devastation on an unimaginable scale. What used to be apocalyptic fantasy is today no more than sober realism. The traditional leftist slogan ‘‘Socialism or barbarism’’ was never more grimly apposite.
  • I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
    • Albert Einstein in an interview with Alfred Werner, Liberal Judaism 16 (April-May 1949), Einstein Archive 30-1104, as sourced in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 173
    • Differing versions of such a statement are attributed to conversations as early as 1948 (e.g. The Rotarian, 72 (6), June 1948, p. 9: "I don't know. But I can tell you what they'll use in the fourth. They'll use rocks!"). Another variant ("I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones") is attributed to an unidentified letter to Harry S. Truman in "The culture of Einstein" by Alex Johnson, MSNBC, (18 April 2005). However, prior to 1948 very similar quotes were attributed in various articles to an unnamed army lieutenant, as discussed at Quote Investigator : "The Futuristic Weapons of WW3 Are Unknown, But WW4 Will Be Fought With Stones and Spears". The earliest found was from “Quote and Unquote: Raising ‘Alarmist’ Cry Brings a Winchell Reply” by Walter Winchell, in the Wisconsin State Journal (23 September 1946), p. 6, Col. 3. In this article Winchell wrote:

      Joe Laitin reports that reporters at Bikini were questioning an army lieutenant about what weapons would be used in the next war.
      “I dunno,” he said, “but in the war after the next war, sure as Hell, they’ll be using spears!”

It seems plausible, therefore, that Einstein may have been quoting or paraphrasing an expression which he had heard or read elsewhere.
  • Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.
    • Albert Einstein discussing the letter he sent Roosevelt raising the possibility of atomic weapons. from "Atom: Einstein, the Man Who Started It All," Newsweek Magazine (10 March 1947).
  • The conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power, once again presented to mankind in semireligious trappings. The difference is that, this time, the development of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that, should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed.
    • Albert Einstein, address he was writing, left unfinished when he died (Apr 1955).
  • Patrolling the Mojave Almost Makes You Wish For a Nuclear Winter!
  • What a curious picture it is to find man, homo sapiens, of divine origin, we are told, seriously considering going underground to escape the consequences of his own folly. With a little wisdom and foresight, surely it is not yet necessary to forsake life in the fresh air and in the warmth of the sunlight. What a paradox if our own cleverness in science should force us to live underground with the moles.
    • J. William Fulbright, address to the Foreign Policy Association, New York City (October 20, 1945), in Fulbright of Arkansas: The Public Positions of a Private Thinker (1963).
  • Without birds to feed on them, the insects would multiply catastrophically. ... The insects, not man or other proud species, are really the only ones fitted for survival in the nuclear age. ... The cockroach, a venerable and hardy species, will take over the habitats of the foolish humans, and compete only with other insects or bacteria.
    • H. Bentley Glass as quoted in obituary by Douglas Martin, New York Times (20 Jan 2005).
  • Some one may pose the question: will China win her rights over the United States of America, by possessing and dropping the bomb? No, neither China nor the Soviet Union will ever use the bomb unless they are attacked by those who have aggression and war in their very blood. If the Soviet Union did not possess the bomb, the imperialists would speak in other terms with us. We will never attack with the bomb, we are opposed to war, we are ready to destroy the bomb but we keep it for defensive purposes. "It is fear that guards the vineyard," is a saying of our people. The imperialists should be afraid of us and terribly afraid at that.
  • God, I don’t know; it’s always frightening, isn’t it? When I was growing up everybody was building bomb shelters and nervous about the world being destroyed, although I must say that I never had any fear of it myself. I guess when you’re ten or twelve years old, you feel pretty indestructible anyway, in spite of intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at you.
  • Kenneth Johnson [1]
  • For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness. You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have no right to hold in your hands—there is no one wise enough and strong enough to hold in his hands—destructive power sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great portion of our planet.
  • The world is a very different one now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
    • John F. Kennedy Inaugural address (1961). Robert G. Torricelli and Andrew Carroll, In Our Own words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century (1999), 222.
  • A war today or tomorrow, if it led to nuclear war, would not be like any war in history. A full-scale nuclear exchange, lasting less than 60 minutes, with the weapons now in existence, could wipe out more than 300 million Americans, Europeans, and Russians, as well as untold numbers elsewhere. And the survivors, as Chairman Khrushchev warned the Communist Chinese, "the survivors would envy the dead." For they would inherit a world so devastated by explosions and poison and fire that today we cannot even conceive of its horrors. So let us try to turn the world away from war. Let us make the most of this opportunity, and every opportunity, to reduce tension, to slow down the perilous nuclear arms race, and to check the world's slide toward final annihilation.
  • During the next several years, in addition to the four current nuclear powers, a small but significant number of nations will have the intellectual, physical, and financial resources to produce both nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. In time, it is estimated, many other nations will have either this capacity or other ways of obtaining nuclear warheads, even as missiles can be commercially purchased today. I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament. There would only be the increased chance of accidental war, and an increased necessity for the great powers to involve themselves in what otherwise would be local conflicts. If only one thermonuclear bomb were to be dropped on any American, Russian, or any other city, whether it was launched by accident or design, by a madman or by an enemy, by a large nation or by a small, from any corner of the world, that one bomb could release more destructive power on the inhabitants of that one helpless city than all the bombs dropped in the Second World War.
  • Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
    • John F. Kennedy Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
  • The living will envy the dead.
    • Attributed to Nikita Khrushchev, speaking of nuclear war. Ed Zuckerman, "Hiding from the Bomb—Again", Harper's (August 1979), p. 36, attributes "the survivors would envy the dead" to Khrushchev. This issue of Harper's was stamped in the Library of Congress on July 12, 1979. Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also attributed this same quotation to Khrushchev in hearings held July 11, 1979, and again on July 16, 1979. See The Salt II Treaty, hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 96th Congress, 1st session, part 1, p. 333, and part 2, p. 27 (1979). An Associated Press news release, dated August 4, 1979, summarized these meetings: "In a month of hearings on the SALT II treaty, many senators have… quoted and requoted the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who once said that after a nuclear exchange, 'the living would envy the dead.'" The quotation has been widely used in the press since then, including in The Washington Post (March 20, 1981), p. A23, the earliest attribution appears to be by John F. Kennedy with Khrushchev's comments in referenceto a otential war with Russian/Chinese war. Reported as unverified in the speeches or writings of Khrushchev in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • I remember President Kennedy once stated... that the United States had the nuclear missile capacity to wipe out the Soviet Union two times over, while the Soviet Union had enough atomic weapons to wipe out the United States only once.... When journalists asked me to comment... I said jokingly, "Yes, I know what Kennedy claims, and he's quite right. But I'm not complaining.... We're satisfied to be able to finish off the United States first time round. Once is quite enough. What good does it do to annihilate a country twice? We're not a bloodthirsty people."
  • I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, Mr. President, but I do say not more than ten to twenty million dead depending upon the breaks.
    • Stanley Kubrick in Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340.
  • But this very triumph of scientific annihilation—this very success of invention—has destroyed the possibility of war's being a medium for the practical settlement of international differences. The enormous destruction to both sides of closely matched opponents makes it impossible for even the winner to translate it into anything but his own disaster…. Global war has become a Frankenstein to destroy both sides. No longer is it a weapon of adventure—the shortcut to international power. If you lose, you are annihilated. If you win, you stand only to lose. No longer does it possess even the chance of the winner of a duel. It contains now only the germs of double suicide.
    • Douglas MacArthur, speech to a joint session of the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines (July 5, 1961); in Representative Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (1964), p. 98. Senate Doc. 88–95.
  • It did not take atomic weapons to make man want peace. But the atomic bomb was the turn of the screw. The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.
    • J. Robert Oppenheimer Commencement address (1946), as quoted in book review, William J. Broad, The Men Who Made the Sun Rise, New York Times Book Review (8 Feb 1987), 39.
  • In plain words; now that Britain has told the world she has the H-Bomb, she should announce as early as possible that she has done with it, that she proposes to reject, in all circumstances, nuclear warfare. This is not pacifism. There is no suggestion here of abandoning the immediate defence of this island.... No, what should be abandoned is the idea of deterrence-by-threat-of-retaliation. There is no real security in it, no decency in it, no faith, hope, nor charity in it.
  • A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely.
  • There is a further advantage [to hydrogen bombs]: the supply of uranium in the planet is very limited, and it might be feared that it would be used up before the human race was exterminated, but now that the practically unlimited supply of hydrogen can be utilized, there is considerable reason to hope that homo sapiens may put an end to himself, to the great advantage of such less ferocious animals as may survive. But it is time to return to less cheerful topics.
    • Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948), part I, "The World of Science", chapter 3, "The World of Physics".
  • Suppose atomic bombs had reduced the population of the world to one brother and one sister, should they let the human race die out? I do not know the answer, but I do not think it can be in the affirmative merely on the ground that incest is wicked.
  • The best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with H-bombs might possibly put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration.
  • The human race may well become extinct before the end of the century. Speaking as a mathematician, I should say the odds are about three to one against survival.
    • Bertrand Russell, Interview, Playboy (Mar 1963). 10, No. 3, 42. In Kenneth Rose One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture (2004), 39.
  • If we have to start over again with another Adam and Eve, then I want them to be Americans and not Russians, and I want them on this continent and not in Europe.
    • Richard B. Russell, remarks in the Senate during debate on the antiballistic missile (October 2, 1968), Congressional Record, vol. 114, p. 29175.
  • One must expect a war between U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. which will begin with the total destruction of London. I think the war will last 30 years, and leave a world without civilised people, from which everything will have to build afresh—a process taking (say) 500 years.
    • Bertrand Russell (one month after the Hiroshima atomic bombing), Letter to Gamel Brenan (1 Sep 1945). In Nicholas Griffin (Ed.), The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (2002), 410.
  • The prediction of nuclear winter is drawn not, of course, from any direct experience with the consequences of global nuclear war, but rather from an investigation of the governing physics. (The problem does not lend itself to full experimental verification—at least not more than once.)[co-author with American atmospheric chemist Richard P. Turco (1943- )]
    • Carl Sagan, A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990), 26.
  • The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.
    • Carl Sagan a summary version, as written by Kristen Ghodsee in Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Communism (2011), 2-3. Note the author states it as “I remember,” and the wording is not verbatim from Sagan's original remark made during a panel discussion in ABC News Viewpoint following the TV movie The Day After (20 Nov 1983).
  • Anyway, I'm sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war. I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.
    • J. D. Salinger lines spoken by Holden Caulfield, in Catcher in the Rye (1951), 183.
  • The news today about 'Atomic bombs' is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men's hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope 'this will ensure peace'. But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in. Well we're in God's hands. But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.
    • J. R. R. Tolkien, From a letter to his son Christopher Tolkien (9 August, 1945).
  • The atom bomb was no “great decision.” It was used in the war, and for your information, there were more people killed by fire bombs in Tokyo than dropping of the atomic bombs accounted for. It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness. The dropping of the bombs stopped the war, save millions of lives.
    • Harry S. Truman in reply to a question at a symposium, Columbia University, NYC (28 Apr 1959). In Truman Speaks (1960), 67.
  • Once launched, the bomb was absolutely unapproachable and uncontrollable until its forces were nearly exhausted, and from the crater that burst open above it, puffs of heavy incandescent vapour and fragments of visciously punitive rock and mud, saturated with Carolinium, and each a centre of scorching and blistering energy were flung high and far.

    Such was the crowning triumph of military science, the ultimate explosive, that was to give the "decisive touch" to war....

  • In the map of nearly every country of the world three or four more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark the position of the dying atomic bombs, and the death areas that men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces, and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine....

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