06.12.17 | Nuclear Roulette

There's a decidedly non-PC scene in that satirical slapstick Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles in which the witless lily-white citizens of Rock Ridge get the first glimpse of its new sheriff -- make that its new black sheriff -- whom the good white folks embrace with a call for his immediate lynching; thereupon said wiley sheriff (Cleavon Little) grabs self by throat and, pointing gun to his own head, drags self away declaring he's a hostage and warning the crowd to "stop! . . . or the (sheriff) gets it" whereupon the would-be lynch mob backs off exclaiming, "whoa, he really means it!"

The existential threat posed by nuclear warfare is just that absurd. Some fourteen thousand superpower nuclear weapons, many of which are hundreds of times more powerful than what we dropped on Japan, are poised to make my day." The old doctrine of stability through Mutually Assured Destruction (SAD) has long become almost quaint, replaced by Self-Assured Destruction (SAD) meaning even an unanswered  all-out first strike by one major superpower would kick up enough dust to essentially strangle the world.

If even we, as citizens of a so-called nuclear member state feel powerless in the face of such an existential threat, think about the consternation among the world's non-nuclear nations. For what it's worth, 123 of them launched an initiative in the United Nations General Assembly to at least raise the prospect of a weapons ban treaty. However, given the way the big boys failed to follow through on the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, we can probably expect from them (us) little more than a condescending eye-roll.

Yet the truth is we all remain equally hostage, especially hostage to sheer luck. Not generally known is the number of close calls we've faced in the nuclear arena, not just those involving the well-known showdown incident(s) but many more due to nothing more beyond simple accidents.

A recent Radiolab broadcast (link: Nukes) will jolt you awake. Listen first to the broadcast for context and then read last week's (26th May 2017) Scientific American article, Nuclear Arsenals Make Us Less Safe by Max Tegmark.

Steve SmithComment