EDIT: The Japanese Emperor secretly decided to surrender prior to Nagasaki, but I'm not sure it's accurate to say he "tried to surrender."
I came out of podcast hiatus to have a conversation with Longview's nuclear security co-lead Carl Robichaud for The Most Interesting People I Know (found wherever you find podcasts).
Carl Robichaud is the first person I go to on the topic of nuclear weapons. He has been working as a grantmaker and analyst of nuclear weapons policy for close to two decades. He co-leads nuclear security grantmaking at Longview Philanthropy, where I used to work as a media consultant. Prior to Longview, Carl led nuclear grantmaking for the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
We recently saw Oppenheimer together and decided to have a discussion about the film, the real history, and nuclear weapons more broadly.
This episode was released on the 78th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, which happened after the Japanese emperor secretly tried to surrender. As we discuss, the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used in war in the nearly eight decades since should be seen as a remarkable achievement, or a sign of extreme luck.
We have a spoiler-filled discussion of the new film Oppenheimer and the real history until 31:12, in case you’d like to skip ahead.
- Alternatives to bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- The controversial development of the hydrogen bomb
- Oppenheimer's retrospective feelings about the bomb
- Health effects of nuclear tests
- Why the world isn't totally full of nukes
- Whether ICBMs can be justified while nuclear subs exist
- Why the US won't commit to no first use
- How arms control agreements help get out of traps
- Ukraine and the possible breaking of the nuclear taboo
- Would we all die
- Near misses
- Whether there's always a “guy in the chair”
- What we should do
- Aspiring for a world free of nuclear weapons
- Calls to action
- The decline of activist and philanthropic interest in nuclear weapons
- Estimated nuclear warhead stockpiles, 1945 to 2022
- “The Illogic of Nuclear Escalation” by Fred Kaplan in Asterisk Magazine
- The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg
- Humankind by Rutger Bregman
- “The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered” by Barton J Bernstein in Foreign Affairs
- “Counting the dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki” by Alex Wellerstein in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
- “The Puzzle of Non-Proliferation” by Carl in Asterisk Magazine
- Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine by Mariana Budjeryn
- 80,000 Hours Podcast: Daniel Ellsberg on the creation of nuclear doomsday machines, the institutional insanity that maintains them, and a practical plan for dismantling them.
- ”Ronald Reagan’s Disarmament Dream” by Jacob Weisberg in the Atlantic
- How many people would be killed as a direct result of a US-Russia nuclear exchange? By Luisa Rodriguez
- Wikipedia: List of nuclear close calls
- “39 years ago today, one man saved us from world-ending nuclear war” by Dylan Matthews in Vox
- Longview Philanthropy: Nuclear Weapons Policy Fund
- “The biggest funder of anti-nuclear war programs is taking its money away” by Dylan Matthews in Vox
- General Advisory Committee's Majority and Minority Reports on Building the H-Bomb - October 30, 1949
- J. Robert Oppenheimer - Address to the American Philosophical Society - delivered 16 November 1945, University of Pennsylvania, PA