Saturday, November 15, 2014

(#45-1) November 15 2014. Terrorist attacks with conventional weapons are unlikely to cause this nation great harm. Nuclear weapons are another matter.




Where defense matters are concerned—a particular interest of mine—I have long been particularly concerned about the nuclear threat.

Some people argue that both chemical and biological threats may be even deadlier—and they may well be right—but chemical threats can be defended against, and are hard to scale to an existential level.

Biological threats—Ebola being a current example—suffer from some of the same limitations, and tend to give such alarming advance warnings that remedial action is immediately initiated. This isn’t to say that the chem-bio sectors won’t evolve to threaten our very existence—but they don’t appear to be there yet.

Doubtless, numerous people are working on the possibility—nominally in the interests of defending us against just such attacks, but I live in hopes that long may the effective weaponization of such hideous technologies—to the point where they constitute real existential threats—be thwarted.

Where the nuclear threat is concerned, not only have we arrived at a stage where it can destroy the world as we know it, but we arrived at this terrifying point well over half a century ago. In a way, that should be reassuring because there haven’t yet been major nuclear accident with disastrous consequences—though there have been numerous incidents where the consequences could have been severe (and the effects of both Chernobyl and Fukushima should give us pause) but so far so good (perhaps the not best choice of words under the circumstances).

Or perhaps we have just been extremely lucky. Certainly, the current news about the mismanagement of U.S. nuclear weapons is absolutely hair-raising—especially when put in the context of how the security of Soviet nuclear weapons was so neglected after the Society Union itself fell. For a considerable time, such weaponry—and its lethal raw materials, such as plutonium—were left substantially unguarded.

It now appears that both of the major nuclear powers have been grossly careless with the fate of mankind—a fairly chilling thought by any standards.

I have dealt with the nuclear threat in three of my four ‘Big Thrillers’ because I think the possibility of a nuclear attack is very real—and may not be delivered by way of an intercontinental ballistic missile (although that remains a very real possibility). Instead, I think it more likely that nuclear weapons will be infiltrated by our enemies—and we have no shortage of those—prepositioned in strategic locations, and then detonated simultaneously.

The U.S. is both physically large enough, and well endowed with cities, to withstand several simultaneous thermonuclear blasts—and continue to function more or less normally, albeit wounded, frightened, and outraged. But, the ignition of a quantity (think 20 or 30)—followed by nuclear fallout—would destroy this country irreparably, and damage the quality of life of the survivors to an extent that is grim to contemplate.

Impossible—certainly highly unlikely—I hear you say.

I would have categorized the Pentagon’s neglect of its nuclear trust in exactly the same way up until recently. Clearly, I was wrong.

We don’t seem to be much exercised about it—but then we don’t seem to be exercised about much these days. For instance, fewer that 35 percent of us voted in the Mid-Terms. No, that doesn’t give the winners a mandate—but it says a great deal about how we feel about our political system. We have largely lost faith in it.

All in all, a pity. All in all, extremely worrying in a deep-down visceral sense. We don’t seem to be a “can-do” society these days (we can’t even look after our nuclear weapons any more).

We seem lost.

VOR words 579





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