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Illustration by Joan Wong; Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Finger on the Nuclear Button” (editorial, Feb. 6):

For decades, the United States has sought to keep even a single nuclear weapon out of the “wrong hands” while arguing that it was acceptable, even beneficial, for the United States and other nuclear-armed countries to maintain nuclear arsenals.

Considering the catastrophic effects that would result from even a very limited use of nuclear weapons, scientists and doctors have long argued that there are no “right hands” to control these weapons. But for the moment, that question has become moot because, as you note, we have placed our entire arsenal in the very wrong hands of Donald Trump.

By doing so, we have demolished a critical underpinning of nuclear deterrence policy: the requirement that the arsenals of the nuclear-armed states would be controlled by responsible leaders.

It is time to acknowledge that these weapons are simply too dangerous to exist. The United States must seek to eliminate them as our highest national security priority. It should start by supporting the negotiations for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons that will begin at the United Nations next month.

IRA HELFAND

Bogotá, Colombia

The writer is co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

To the Editor:

You say that “the only legitimate role for nuclear weapons is deterrence” and that we have “enough advanced conventional weapons to defend against most threats.” I suggest instead that there is no legitimate role for nuclear weapons and that we have enough conventional weapons to defend against all threats.

Targets in any future conflict are not cities or large areas. They are small and can be reached with pinpoint accuracy.

There is simply no rationale for the use of nuclear weapons, even in response to a nuclear attack. The correct number of nuclear weapons in the world, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders have recognized, is zero.

KENNETH W. FORD

Philadelphia

The writer, a physicist who was part of the team that developed the first hydrogen bomb, is the author of “Building the H-Bomb: A Personal History.”

To the Editor:

Your editorial contrasts the impulsive unpredictability of President Trump with the unexamined assumptions and mythology of current nuclear doctrine.

Medical and climate scientists have shown that even a small regional nuclear war using less than one-half of 1 percent of the global arsenal would kill up to two billion people from the ensuing climate-change-induced famine.

Correcting the mythology:

Nuclear deterrence has been the greatest driver of the arms race.

Deciding to respond to an attack quickly only hastens self-assured destruction, effectively making us suicide bombers.

You repeat the unexamined assumption that all presidents have had and should have the authority to launch a nuclear attack. It is unlikely that this president or any modern president has any idea what the consequences of a nuclear attack would be. None have been asked when they would unleash such an attack ending life as we know it.

We now know that it has been sheer luck that we have not destroyed the planet with our arsenals. Ultimately, luck isn’t a security policy and eventually runs out.

ROBERT DODGE

Ojai, Calif.

The writer is co-chairman of the Security Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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