Two military professors have written an interesting piece in the NY Times. They have come up with a plausible answer to the question “how many nuclear weapons do we need to assure our national security”. They come up with a number, 311, and provide evidence that this number would be more than sufficient. After all, as they point out, in 1965 the Secretary of Defense argued that around 20 megatons of nuclear explosive power would be enough to destroy more than one-quarter of the population and two-thirds of the industrial capacity of the (then) Soviet Union. And 311 of our current nuclear weapons is equal to 1,900 megatons, or enough to wipe out 5 times the population of the former Soviet Union.
What ironic about this is that recently, the Pentagon told the public (for the first time ever) that we have 5,113 nuclear weapons. In other words, we have 4,802 more such weapons than we could ever possibly use. Even the recent (historic) treaty, signed by Obama and the Russian president, only gets us down to 1,550 weapons, which is still almost 5 times as many as we need.