Americans are much more comfortable with the idea of solving global problems with nuclear weapons, according to a new study.
Scott D. Sagan and Benjamin A. Valentino argue in the study that the “nuclear taboo” that existed in the wake of the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nakasaki has begun to disappear in American society as Americans are increasingly opposed to conflicts in which the U.S. armed services might experience high casualties.
The U.S. faces threats from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, as three of these countries have developed weapons systems capable of delivering nuclear payloads to U.S. cities, and one is a sponsor of global terrorist activities and a rising nuclear catastrophe waiting to happen. With all options on the table, the Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of a military option in North Korea, with some considering similar options in Iran.
The study, “Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran: What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants,” which was published online Tuesday, observes that 55.6 percent of Americans polled prefer a nuclear strike on Iran and the death of 100,000 Iranian civilians to a ground war that would cost the lives of 20,000 American troops.
“Today, as in 1945, the U.S. public is unlikely to serve as a serious constraint on any president who might consider using nuclear weapons in the crucible of war,” the two authors of the study conclude. After President Harry Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over 200,000 people, roughly 85 percent of respondents to public surveys supported the president’s decisions. Support for the bombing, however, has decreased over time.
A 2015 survey discovered that only 46 percent of the Americans polled still believed that dropping atomic bombs on Japan was “the right thing to do,” but the willingness to use nuclear force to resolve global problems appears to be on the rise again according to Sagan and Valentino’s report. The author’s previously determined that Americans are more willing to use nuclear weapons even if a conventional weapon will do the job.
Among those polled, females were more supportive of a nuclear strike than male survey participants, regardless of whether the death toll was 100,000 or two million, but male participants were more in favor of a conventional strike over a nuclear strike, even if the death toll remained unchanged.
The authors of the study also found that those who prefer the death penalty were twice as likely to prefer the nuclear strike option than those who opposed the death penalty. The study observes that Americans are increasingly more willing to sacrifice the lives of foreign noncombatants than those of U.S. service members in the event of a conflict.
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