21 September 2016

Keyboard commandos, here's one simple reason why nuclear war is a bad, bad thing

The Uri attacks have inspired some ballistic bombast.

A horrible attack on an Indian Army base in Uri, Kashmir leaving 18 dead and 19 injured.

Social media, with characteristic restraint, decided to demand retribution by asking for more to be killed. Many, many, many more.

Here, an instant classic example:

Are we Indians prepared for a nuclear war for finishing Pakistan as a country. Many of us may die in the process— Sanjay Dixit (@Sanjay_Dixit) September 18, 2016

That's a former Indian Administrative Services officer who works with the Rajasthan government choosing to run a Twitter essentially calling for nuclear warfare. That might be worth underling and putting in bold:Nuclear warfare.

On TV last night, @sushantsareen literally said: '500 mn Indians might die, but remaining 500 mn will make a stronger India.' Yay patriotism— Raghu Karnad (@rkarnad) September 19, 2016

This bellicosity was not restricted to social media – the television channels certainly got in on the game too – but it thrived online.

Social media by its nature can be both trivial-seeming and more serious-than-you-realise, so it's worth spelling out exactly what is being demanded here: The use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan, a move that would almost certainly result in the use of nuclear weapons against India and kill untold millions.

Let's spell that out even more. There are a lot of nuclear weapons on this planet. 15,375 according to the World Nuclear Weapon Stockpile. India and Pakistan have 250 between them. Even North Korea is believed to have a few. Despite all these weapons out there, using technology that was developed in the 1940s, nuclear bombs have only been used twice.

Two times. Once on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and again on the city of Nagasaki in August 1945. There's a reason the weapons haven't been used ever since, despite plenty of conflicts. There's a reason those two weapons effectively ended the second World War.

Atomic bomb victim, Hiroshima https://t.co/gAQOK1h1RLpic.twitter.com/jAFZ2WdWfC— Old Pics Archive (@oldpicsarchive) August 24, 2016

More than 1,40,000 were killed in Hiroshima alone, in an attack that destroyed 70% of the city and left parts of it uninhabitable. The physical and psychological effects of the attack would persist for decades. A couple of days later America repeated its experiment, this time with plutonium, over Nagasaki. The results were equally disastrous.

Most of this should be obvious to anyone who has learnt about the horrors of the nuclear bombs, but as we get further away from those fateful days, it is possible that social media warriors have not fully understood exactly what they are advocating. This is destruction on an unimaginable scale.

India choosing to use nuclear weapons in retaliation for Uri – which would already go against the country's stated doctrine of no-first use – would most likely lead to Pakistani retaliation that could leave millions dead, and cause environmental devastation that would "suddenly dwarf any other global problem."

All of this for, as Dixit, says "finishing Pakistan", an outcome that is by no means assured even with the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

None of this is to suggest that India cannot find a response that might be an appropriate way to retaliate after the Uri attacks. India has one of the world's largest militaries and has presumably spent much of its time acquiring equipment and expertise aimed specifically at neutralising Pakistan's capabilities. But to suggest that this retaliation has to be nuclear suggests, at best, a certain level of delusion about India's capabilities (or a level of nihilism that is only appropriate for anyone who spends too much time on social media).

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