Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nuclear madness

One of the agenda items that may be acted on during the lame duck session of Congress is the new START (STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty). The Constitution makes treaties the law of the land, but only if they can muster 67 Senate votes.

What is it?

The modest agreement -- signed in April by President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev -- would reinstate ground inspections and reduce each country's deployed nuclear arsenal by 30 percent. The treaty has wide support from the national-security community as well as support from two former secretaries of state and a number of former lawmakers. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its approval in September -- with three Republican votes -- but it remains unclear whether Democrats can attract enough GOP senators to reach the 67 votes needed for ratification...

Jamelle Bouie, TAPPED

Since we are apparently condemned to be ruled for the foreseeable future by the whims of unserious and often ignorant people, it looks like trouble ahead for the treaty.

It's interesting to contrast the lack of urgency even the more sympathetic among our rulers seem to feel about averting nuclear war with how the threat of it looked to a thoughtful observer writing only a decade after the only use of these weapons. William L. Shirer, the premier journalistic chronicler of Hitler's Germany, was certain in 1959 that nukes changed everything. This is from the introduction to his epic Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon.

In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited planet.

Our leaders have lost touch with that urgency. We can only hope their complacency is justified.

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