Different school districts had different procedures to follow in the event of a nuclear attack. In one school, we were supposed to get under our desks, and hold our faces between our knees. Another school had us file into the hallway and sit down in alphabetical order, according to our last names. So they could identify our bodies, I suppose.
Reagan borrowed the name of the hit movie “Star Wars,” to garnish support for his nuclear defense program. We had a doctrine, MUD (Mutual Assured Destruction) which supposedly meant that neither side would launch the first strike, because any attack would result in the complete annihilation of the other side.
Oh. And probably the destruction of all life on earth as the fallout covers the planet.
Since 1947, a group of Atomic Scientists based at the University of Chicago have maintained what is known as the Doomsday Clock. The clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of a human-created global catastrophe. The closer the clock gets to midnight, the closer we are to impending doom. In recent years, failure to address climate change, along with failure to adequately dispose of nuclear waste have contributed to the clock’s movement towards midnight. When Obama took office, the clock’s hand had just moved from 7 minutes before midnight to 5 minutes, as a result of North Korea’s nuclear tests a month before his election. Since Trump’s election, the clock has moved to just 2 and a half minutes to midnight. And that was before the recent bravado with North Korea. Wikipedia says that this is the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953. But the famous book book, One Minute to Midnight, would indicate that 1962 was closer.
Millennials don’t have a memory of this insanity. When the Cold War ended, we forgot how terrifying the thought of nuclear war really was. Two world powers, each of whom thought that it’s economic policy was superior, really seriously considered slaughtering millions, billions, possibly destroying the entire planet and every human being an animal and plant and microbe, in order to ensure that the other economic policy did not become dominant.
This is our recent history. Even though I lived through it, I still don’t believe it. I still don’t understand.
In the post-cold war era, US presidents have had access to the nuclear codes, of course. Each has had the ability to launch a nuclear weapon. Other nations had access to nuclear weapons. There has been the lingering fear that some terrorist group could put together the ingredients to detonate a nuclear explosion, and render a city or region uninhabitable for generations. But they would certainly lack the capacity to launch multiple nuclear warheads from a distance. And we had assumed that no governmental leader would be insane enough to launch such an attack.
Trump’s resume now includes his authorization of the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the history of humanity.
I don’t think Trump is really crazy enough to launch a first strike.
But why is he baiting someone who might?
Vice President Pence stood along the border with North Korea the day before Easter, and said “the era of strategic patience is over.” He went on to say that “everything is on the table,” and quoted his boss’s statement that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “gotta behave”.
Pence’s provocative statements came the day after North Korea had a failed celebratory missile launch, which certainly would have been an embarrassment to the nation’s leader. Fox News has hinted that the failure might have been the result of some US hacking efforts which disabled the launching device. But I suspect that the Trump administration planted the rumor as a way to take credit for it’s advisory’s failure.
Just a month before Pence’s statement, Kim Jong Un proclaimed that he would “reduce the US to ashes” if a single shot was fired against North Korea.
Hours after Pence’s proclamation, Kim Jong Un stated “thermonuclear war could break out at any moment.”
Two insane leaders, each thumping his chest.
How did we get here?
Oh. In case you are interested, the US government offers some handy tips about surviving nuclear war here at their ready.gov website. And of course, wikihow can walk you through your survival plans too. Thanks to our president, nuclear war plans are not just for preppers anymore.