President Obama's new Nuclear Posture Review is being hailed as a commonsense acknowledgment that in the modern age, nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism are of greater concern than an apocalyptic battle between superpowers, and that no country, including our own, should use nuclear weapons except in the case of a threat to its very survival."Obama Goes Nuclear -- and We Should Be Glad" (David Corn):
But the review doesn't recommend any change in the alert status of our nuclear arsenal. That leaves over 2,000 American and Russian nuclear weapons ready to launch on a few minute's notice, a dangerous legacy of the Cold War that not only puts about 100 million of us potentially less than an hour away from annihilation at any moment, but also hugely increases the risk of a mistaken launch or a weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.
The survival of civilization simply isn't as compelling a topic of political conversation as what the polls say about health care reform or the 2010 elections. I don't mean to come across as snide. Nuclear weapons policy can be complicated. People trying to get by in tough economic times cannot be expected to spend hours absorbing the intricacies of Start. But I suspect that many of us would rather not think about something so damn overwhelming. Decades ago, I worked on a magazine devoted to arms control, and I found it rather daunting to have to ponder the possibilities of nuclear warfare on a daily basis. After two years of that, I quit and headed to Europe to backpack. Denial serves us too well in this regard.Howie P.S.: I had a hard time selecting just a paragraph or two from Corn's piece.
Yet as we get caught up in the daily political shout-fests and the significant developments of "American Idol," we should realize that Obama and others are indeed trying to figure out how best to make sure we homo sapiens don't destroy ourselves and our pleasant planet. It would be heartening to see more citizens involved in this existential effort -- or, at least, following it. But when nukes are up for discussion, most of us just want to duck and cover.