A Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg on ‘The Doomsday Machine’



Daniel Ellsberg, Author

Date and Time

May 8, 2018 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


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William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

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Abstract: Must we, should we, possess a Doomsday Machine?  For over half a century there have been two of these in the world: the U.S. and the Russian strategic nuclear systems, tightly coupled together with their respective warning systems, each poised to escalate armed conflict with the other or to preemptively launch a first strike based on strategic or tactical warning that may be a false alarm such as has occurred repeatedly.  Environmental scientists in the last decade have strongly confirmed what was first warned in 1983, that each of these alert systems, aimed as they are at hundreds of targets in or near cities, constitutes a Doomsday Machine.  Firestorms in the burning cities would loft hundreds of millions of tons of smoke and black soot into the global stratosphere--where it would not rain out and would remain for more than a decade--blocking 70% of sunlight, creating ice age conditions on earth and killing all harvest worldwide, starving nearly humans to death.  Neither the Defense Department nor the National Academy of Sciences has ever studied the actual effects, including smoke and resulting famine, to be expected from the existing plans of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for general nuclear war.  Such a study would almost surely show that China's "minimum deterrence" and no-first-use policy is dramatically less dangerous to the future of humanity, on the way to the more distant goal of universal abolition of nuclear weapons. 

Speaker bio: Daniel Ellsberg is the author of three books: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017), Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers(2002) Risk, Ambiguity and Decision (2001) and Papers on the War (1971). Ellsberg first specialized in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making in the 1950s. As a high-level defense analyst,Ellsberg participated in developing operational guidance for U.S. nuclear war planning during the Kennedy administration. Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has been a lecturer, writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era, wrongful U.S. interventions abroad and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing. In December 2006, Ellsberg was awarded the 2006 Right Livelihood Award, in Stockholm, Sweden, “. . .  for putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example.” He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 1962.

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