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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nuclear War - The Defining Issue of Our Time

by tristero

The defining issue of our time is imminent nuclear war. Everything seems to be pointing towards the deployment sometime soon by the United States of so-called tactical nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Although there is some awareness (Digby links to the Times editorial this morning), I don't think people fully understand how serious this is. This is not to minimize the myriad existential dangers we face from the international rise of the extreme right to power, especially in the US. But as I see it, imminent nuclear war trumps them all. Meanwhile the media seem to be focused more on incessantly repeating a racist, scatalogical term that Trump used rather than sounding unequivocal alarm bells about how close to we are to a nuclear war. The snickering is making us oblivious to Armageddon.

But in truth, I don't think it will happen with apocalyptic bangs and mammoth mushroom clouds. As I see it, if Trump and his military start using nuclear weapons, they won't drop them - at least initially - on cities. They'll be used in remote areas of North Korea where the Internet is non-existent or spotty. They used a similar tactic - and got away with it, there was hardly any global outcry - with the MOAB in Afghanistan, the world's largest conventional weapon.

At least for the first few days after a so-called tactical nuclear strike, there won't be too many horrible pictures or videos of victims. That will give the Trump administration some time to set the agenda and pooh-pooh the horror. Trump will do his usual tweetery distraction thingie, making it all about his personality rather than the ghastly suffering of his victims. Meanwhile, the generals will tout the surgical purity of the strike against some military target, "proving" that nuclear weapons can be deployed successfully without risking annihilation.

But the annihilation will come. Because once one of these nuclear bombs goes off, countries - especially the US - will find plenty of reasons to use them more often.  No matter how small they are, the effect will add up. There will be global fallout. And nuclear arsenals will expand worldwide, increasing the risk of accident, sabotage, and theft by neo-Nazi nationalists and political extremists from every religion. As a result, the global fallout will increase.

In short, if Trump drops a single nuclear bomb, annihilation is extremely likely, but not all at once. It will come with increased cancer rates worldwide over the following decades and the poisoning of our environment from the expanded usage of these so-called small nuclear weapons. And once again Republican leaders and other right wingers will pull out a variation of the obfuscating defense they've used so successfully to deflect the banning of tobacco and to scuttle climate change initiatives.

I've been studying nuclear war history and policy during the 1960's for a project I'm working on. It makes for terrifying reading, not the least because of the sheer stupidity and wooly thinking by some of the finest minds on the planet, the men  (they were almost exclusively men)   who crafted nuclear strategy. When you consider the spectacular mistakes and accidents that occurred back then (not to mention the Missile Crisis), it is simply mind-boggling that we haven't yet been blown up.

It looks like our luck's about to run out. Those 60's nuclear planners are all gone from power. And as poor as their thinking was - and it was remarkably bad, with very rare exceptions - the level of thinking today in the Trump administration is an order of magnitude worse.

I am extremely worried. You should be, too. And alarms should be sounding loudly, clearly, and constantly.