02/05/2013 09:06 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

The Nuclear Misconception

I've noticed that many people often form opinions based off of misinformation or a misunderstanding. Some people still think Barack Obama is Muslim, and some people still think Ronald Reagan never raised taxes and never voiced support for gun control. Each of these claims can be indisputably proven false; those who believe such falsehoods to be true are simply misguided or deluded.

One of the best professors I've had at George Mason University taught me when to argue, and when to give up. Some people are so far out of touch with reality that there's no point in pursuing an argument -- these radicals from either side of the aisle are so extreme that fact-based arguments have no effect on their perception of a situation. And while these armchair lawyers or "Facebook martyrs" will drive us all insane at some point or another, there is little purpose in responding to the claim that George Bush himself flew a plane into the World Trade Center.

People of such dispositions will never have a prominent spot in politics and, as such, will have little opportunity to spread their influence. Don't waste your time on them.

I've also had questionable professors at Mason, such as one who insisted that the United States Postal Service was funded entirely by taxpayer funds. The United States Postal Service, I retorted, is funded by the cost of postage. Only recently, and as a result of congressional measures, has USPS reached a deficit which has required public support. In order to prove this professor wrong, I had to pull up the congressional reports from the USPS and calculate revenue alongside expenditures. The professor who taught this nonsense was being supported by the students who, bizarrely, also confided in this apparently common misconception.

But some misconceptions, however, are more problematic than others. For instance, many believe deterrence now exists only in the form of nuclear arsenals. In fact, most scholars argue that, as more countries acquire nuclear weapons, the likelihood of them being used increases. The nuclear deterrence argument was quite accurate in the Cold War -- a time in which two superpowers, each with significant following, balanced each others' power out rather equally.

In reality, deterrence is now defined more accurately be economic mechanisms. Globalization and the digital age have led to a revolutionized system of economic interdependence. With this in mind, one begins to recognize that the destruction of one country also leads to the destruction of many others. And there is no greater form of deterrence than the fear of isolating your own state from much-needed surrogates.

We are entering the second decade of the 21st century with 40-year-old tactics; it is quite the understatement to call such consequential thinking a disservice to ourselves.

Today, nine countries are generally recognized to have nuclear weapons, and Iran likely is attempting to weaponize its current program, making it the 10th member of the "nuclear club." And all it takes to set off a tragic but predictable apocalypse is one more accident. The United States alone has misplaced 11 nuclear weapons, none of which were recovered. We flew a nuclear bomb across the Midwest on accident, forgetfully leaving it in the belly of a bomber.

The United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in warfare, but a weapon being detonated is increasingly more likely to happen as a result of human error than by a warmongering calculation. And yet, according to recent reports, world leaders will spend around $1 trillion on maintaining nuclear arsenals in the next decade. Whether this maintenance is subsequent to ignorance, fear, or artificial employment by the nations' defense sectors, we are blindly assuming both the destruction of our economies and the endangerment of our civilization as a cost. And I presume none of us are willing to pay that price.

The facts about nuclear weapons have been shrouded in misinformation for far too long, and the effects of sensationalist media have been bizarrely influential on the freshly-misinformed populace.

It is time that the facts are elucidated and the logical argument for reduction espoused. Reagan gave muscle to the discussion with the first START Treaty, and President Obama continued in the Republican's footsteps with the New START Treaty. These are crucial steps towards arms reductions, but the question remains: How quickly would you work to achieve a goal with an uncertain deadline if missing the deadline in question could prove fatal?

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