Recently, I read an article where a college professor asked his students if they knew what the strategy of Mutually-Assured-Destruction was. Now please note his class is mostly under forty (Millennials and Generation Z) and they had been inadvertently downplaying the threat of nuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter because they thought there were missile-defense systems and also because they had no idea of the MAD strategy. They were shocked when their professor told them there were no real missile-defense systems because the funding for them got cut back in the 1980’s, and that MAD was still in effect. And I have a feeling they couldn’t list all the countries with nuclear weapons either (the United States, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel).
I think this lack of knowledge is yet another failure of the American educational system, and the fact that these two generations did not live with the saber-rattling like my generation (Generation X) and the generations before did. But it doesn’t excuse the Millennials for downplaying shit like this and that a significant number of them don’t believe the Holocaust was as bad it was (see next week’s blog entry for my take on that). This is why I think there has been a huge rise in support of right-wing bullshit like the Russians aren’t bad guys and Nazis weren’t that bad. No, they’re worse. Ask the people in Ukraine how bad the Russians truly are, and what the rest of the world has known for over seventy years.
In the 1950’s, the Cold War began. In school, we were taught it was a war of ideas, communism versus democracy (with the Russians being the Communist bad guys). From the beginning of the 1950’s, there was a massive development of nuclear arsenals, thousands of ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles: missiles that are launched from across continents and oceans). Then there was the development of MIRVS (Multiple Independent Re-Entry Vehicle Systems): nuclear missiles with multiple warheads (aka nuclear bombs) on top of a single missile. Now multiply that by hundreds if not thousands of these types of missiles around the world possessed by the nine nuclear nations and by the 1970’s the world began to realize that might not be a good thing. This led the first arms-control and arms-reduction treaties between the United States and Russia and older weapons were supposedly decommissioned and no new ones were built though I’m just cynical enough not to totally believe that. This is why my blood boiled pretty damn hard when the previous US Presidential administration talked about increasing nuclear stockpiles instead of reducing them.
We don’t need to blow ourselves to Kingdom Come. We don’t need to kill billions of people and kill the survivors slowly and painfully and destroy our planet in what is called a nuclear winter (that’s the theory that if enough nuclear weapons are set off there will be so much radioactive dust it would choke out the sun and freeze our planet to death).
So in the light of this insane rush to kill everyone a strategy was developed: mutually-assured-destruction. The idea being that if one side launched their missiles then the other side would launch theirs with the goal to try and knock out the enemy from launching more missiles after the initial strike before they could take out the retaliating side.
And if you don’t believe this shit watch the old 80’s movie, WarGames. It was a movie based on this MAD strategy. And as the computer says in the movie at the end of the simulation of the MAD strategy: “The only way to win is not to play”. But back then, the powers-that-be wanted you to think nuclear war was a game and that everyone wouldn’t die and there would be enough survivors to carry on.
In 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over two-hundred thousand people (estimates). These were civilians, men, women, and children. I was taught it was done to force Japan to surrender unconditionally to end World War II, and to prevent a long and drawn-out invasion of Japan. Today that would be considered a war crime, a crime against humanity and I agree with that. There had been enough death and destruction and the world didn’t need that. And most of all, nuclear weapons are not what has prevented World War III.
I grew up on that bullshit-idea, too, that nuclear weapons kept the world relatively free of war, that the ‘little’ wars that have happened since (Korea, Vietnam, the Balkan Wars, etc.) didn’t mean jack-shit in the face of what happened in World War II. Tell that to the people of the world who survived those wars, and especially try telling that to the people of Ukraine right now. Also, nuclear war hasn’t happened because cooler heads have prevailed in countless crises (like President Kennedy keeping General Curtis LeMay from running wild in 1962 – watch the film ‘Thirteen Days’ to see that), and also people brave enough not to follow orders (such Russian colonel Stanislov Petrov who in 1983 refused to call the Kremlin to order a nuclear missile launch because he knew his equipment was malfunctioning and the United States would not just launch five missiles to start nuclear Armageddon).
So young ones, and Millennials, this is why your elders and not-so-elders get freaked out when there is talk of nuclear war. We know how close we’ve come, but we also know there are people on this planet who honestly don’t care whether they live or die (because they’re under the totally-fucked up and misguided belief that if they commit mass murder they’ll be welcomed into Heaven and not Hell) and who wouldn’t hesitate to hit the big red button and end it all. And for what? To not live in a world beside people who are different from them, who don’t want to live their lives in hatred and anger, and who don’t want to destroy but to create and heal?
It was said Albert Einstein called the development of nuclear weapons akin to opening Pandora’s Box and unleashing pain and suffering on the world. He was right. He also said, “I don’t know what World War III will be fought with, but I do know what World War IV will be fought with: sticks and stones.”