Nuclear knowledge becomes an issue


Seventy-one years ago the United States of America set a terrible — but necessary in my view — precedent in the conduct of warfare.

A B-29 bomber crew on Aug. 6, 1945 dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The device killed tens of thousands of Japanese civilians in instant. Another crew took off three days later and did even greater damage to the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

World War II would come to an end just a few days later.

I raise the issue today because of some remarkable things that the Republican Party nominee for president — Donald J. Trump — has said about the use of nuclear weapons.

Trump has said several astonishing things along the way to his nomination.

* He said Japan and South Korea should be allowed to develop nuclear arsenals to defend themselves against North Korea.

* Trump has said he wouldn’t object if other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, developed nukes.

* He was unable to answer a question about the so-called “nuclear triad.”

* Trump told a TV interviewer that he wouldn’t take the use of nukes “off the table” in the Middle East or even in Europe.

The United States built its nuclear arsenal during the 1950s and 1960s to deter the other great nuclear power — the Soviet Union — from using the weapons against us or our allies. We didn’t build the weapons to use for offensive purposes. We built them to scare the daylights out of the Soviets.

Donald Trump is campaigning for the presidency with no apparent knowledge of our nuclear weapon policy or even any knowledge of why we have the weapons in the first place.

I’m old enough to remember the famous “Daisy” ad that President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign ran a single time on TV in 1964 against Barry Goldwater. It was meant to send the message that Sen. Goldwater could not be trusted with the nation’s vast nuclear arsenal.

I don’t expect another such ad to appear this time around.

However, Trump’s astonishing lack of understanding of nuclear weapons policy should give every American serious pause as they ponder who should become the next commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military machine.