The View From Here – Current response to the peril of nuclear war differs greatly to cold war era

Tom Henihan

During the cold war in the 1950s and 1960s, with the threat of the atom bomb, the world was in a constant state of readiness with national defence strategies and civilian booklets outlining the best course of action in the event that Russia did the unthinkable and dropped the bomb.

The United States and the rest of the so-called “free world,” saw the bomb as a real threat, an imminent apocalyptic disaster that everyone, military and civilian had a role to play in minimizing the casualties and maintaining order.

The vestige of impending military conflict and the use of atomic weapons were ingrained in the collective psyche and the Doomsday Clock graphically demonstrated how close the world was to midnight, with midnight representing global catastrophe.

There was the feverish building of fallout shelters, the stockpiling of canned food, water and other supplies necessary to riding out a nuclear disaster.

While there is little reference to the Doomsday Clock today, it is still in use to measure how close the world is to disaster.

In a recent announcement, the Science and Security Board (SASB) set the Clock at two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest it has been in three decades.

The SASB is an elite group of internationally renowned leaders in their fields, concerned with nuclear risk, climate change and emerging technologies.

The SASB has alerted political leaders to take the initiative to guide the world away from imminent annihilation.

During the cold war, with its vehement, defensive mindset, the leadership of the United States included presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and on the Russia side,Khrushchev and Brezhnev, none of whom is remembered for their impulsiveness.

Yet today, with a delusional moron in the White House and in North Korea, an equally unhinged and petulant leader with nuclear weapons capable of reaching the US, there seems to be a remarkable complacency, almost indifference to the very real threat of nuclear war.

What has changed in the past fifty or so years that makes the ordinary citizen and world leaders so blasé, as to appear almost impervious to the threat of nuclear war?

Considering the two key adversaries driving our present dilemma are Donald Trump who wishes to act as though he possessed absolute authority and absolute power, and Kim Jong-un who, within his own isolated domain does possess absolute authority and power.

This shapes the showdown between those two countries as both grave and absurd.

That an imminent threat of nuclear war is largely in the hands of two men, who, while threatening each other’s countries with nuclear devastation also engage in name calling like adolescents, is a matter that should inspire extreme alarm and call for immediate intervention.

Instead, our relative indifference appears like some perverse form of gallows humour.

Why are we not as troubled by the threat of nuclear war as we were in the 1950’s and 1960s.

Why are we not mobilizing to be prepared as we were back then?

Perhaps, since 9/11, and with the countless ongoing acts of terrorism around the world, the un-resolvable inferno that is the Middle East and the almost daily mass shootings, that now our collective psyche is so wearied, that we are unable to grasp the true gravity of our predicament and feel truly alarmed.

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