When I was a child, I often had nightmares that ended in a blinding nuclear flash. I became an evangelist for building basement fallout shelters and actually convinced one neighbor to build and stock one.
We have been lulled back into a false-sense of security. Our aging minuteman missiles, which still run on floppy discs, are our biggest risk for an accidental annihilation of civilization, as we know it. The Russians have no early warning satellites left in orbit, so their paranoid that we could launch an ICBM leadership-decapitating sneak attack,has been to develop a six thousand-mile range remote-controlled thermonuclear torpedo, which could destroy a coastal city. Russia still openly discusses using tactical nuclear weapons in regional conflicts, without apparently appreciating the resulting inevitable escalation.
The mechanics of building a crude nuclear device are easily within the reach of well-educated and well-funded militants. The crate would arrive at Dulles International Airport, disguised as agricultural freight. The truck bomb that detonates on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol instantly kills the president, vice president, House speaker, and 80,000 others.Where exactly is your office? Your house? And then, as Perry spins it forward, how credible would you find the warnings, soon delivered to news networks, that five more bombs are set to explode in unnamed U.S. cities, once a week for the next month, unless all U.S. military personnel overseas are withdrawn immediately?If this particular scenario does not resonate with you, Perry can easily rattle off a long roster of others—a regional war that escalates into a nuclear exchange, a miscalculation between Moscow and Washington, a computer glitch at the exact wrong moment. They are all ilks of the same theme—the dimly understood threat that the science of the 20th century is set to collide with the destructive passions of the 21st.“We’re going back to the kind of dangers we had during the Cold War,” Perry said. “I really thought in 1990, 1991, 1992, that we left those behind us. We’re starting to re-invent them. We and the Russians and others don’t understand that what we’re doing is re-creating those dangers—or maybe they don’t remember the dangers. For younger people, they didn’t live through those dangers. But when you live through a Cuban Missile Crisis up close and you live through a false alarm up close, you do understand how dangerous it is, and you believe you should do everything you could possibly do to [avoid] going back.”
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