Rethinking National Security: The Man in the TNT Vest

Prof. Martin Hellman, Stanford University

Imagine that a man wearing a TNT vest were to come into the room and, before you could escape, managed to tell you that he wasn’t a suicide bomber, so there was nothing to worry about. He didn’t have the button for setting off the explosives. Rather, there were two buttons in very safe hands. One was in Washington with President Trump and the other was in Moscow with President Putin, so just relax.

You’d still get out of that room as fast as you could!

Returning to the real world, just because we can’t see the nuclear weapons controlled by those buttons, why do we believe it is safe to live in a world with thousands of nuclear weapons? We should be plotting “an escape route,” but society sits here complacently assuming that, just because the Earth’s explosive vest has not yet gone off, it never will.

Of course, the risk is even greater because there are additional buttons in London, Paris, Beijing, Jerusalem, New Delhi, Islamabad, and Pyongyang—and terrorists are trying to get one of their own.

When World War II ended, the US was totally secure. Today, trillions of dollars later, we can be destroyed in under an hour. Isn’t it time we started to rethink national security?

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