This morning, children went to school not thinking nuclear weapons would explode later today. Karen Marks Lemke did have such thoughts going to school on Oct. 23, 1962, as she told us in the Maine Voices column on Oct. 14 (“When everyone was fighting the Cold War”). She made a point of wearing her favorite dress to school that day, because she was wondering “if this would be our last day on Earth.”

She probably didn’t know of medical articles published the same year warning of the potential medical consequences of nuclear weapons. Those articles concluded there could not be an adequate medical response for survivors, and prevention not treatment was the best medical choice.

In 1962, there were only four countries with nuclear weapons, and now there are nine. Today, it is not the U.S. with Britain and France against the Russians, but China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea having the ability. That is further complicated by Iran’s nuclear efforts and the ongoing risk of Pakistan or North Korea helping a terrorist group acquire a bomb.  These changes happened despite our military having 80 times more nuclear weapons than Pakistan.

Those weapons did not prevent the death or severe disability of our troops since 2001.

Physicians for Social Responsibility believes national security requires reshaping our military strategy to face 21st-century challenges. Having more nuclear weapons than our nation’s security requires prevents spending on many other needs. Mainers should ask Sens. Snowe and Collins to vote for a reshaped military budget meeting those needs and not the Cold War.

Douglas Dransfield, M.D., is secretary of the Maine Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.