I am a child of the Cold War. Not only that, but as an Army brat, I spent almost all of the first 18 years of my life within a few miles of either a nuclear weapons depot or some other prime target of the Soviet Union. Do you know what that means? It means that I never worried about what it would be like to live in a world after a nuclear war. I knew that I would be vaporized within seconds. Once you come to terms with something like that, it's kind of comforting. You don't have to worry about the aftermath because you won't be around to see it.
The "theory" that kept the world safe during the Cold War was M.A.D., Mutually Assured Destruction. The idea was that only someone who was mad would risk such a thing. The problem with North Korea, or Iran for that matter, is that we don't know their objective.
I was reading one of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia books recently, The Silver Chair. To be more precise, I was listening to it on CD, as read by Jeremy Northam. In any case, there was a reference that the villain wouldn't mind being killed if she knew that the people who killed her would die too. What I'm hearing in the news is that this may be more of Kim Jong Un's perspective. In which case, M.A.D. doesn't really work.
We've been hearing for a couple of weeks now how all this sabre rattling is meaningless. The North Koreans always do it, yada, yada, yada. But, what if we have a young kid full of testosterone, who feels invincible? What if he doesn't know what's best for his country, his people, or most importantly himself? I'm not saying that what's best for him or even his country is what's best for the United States or any other country. But certainly, annihilation isn't best for anyone.
Another question is, would we be willing to do it? Does the United States have the political will? Would we be willing to live with the repercussions? How would China, Russia, or any other nuclear country feel about it? What would be their response(s)?
Guilt remains in the U.S. over the use of nuclear weapons on Japan to end World War II, despite the fact that the U.S. government was not fully aware of all of the long term effects of their use. Moreover, the U.S. government had every reason to expect that a defeat of Japan using conventional weapons would be long and bloody with an extremely high casualty count on both sides, based on the Japanese resistance in previous battles and on other island. This was even after the outcome of the war seemed inevitable.
Did President Truman make the right decision? An argument can be made for both sides, but the bottom line is that he made that hard decision. Does President Obama have the political will to back up the promise of retaliation should North Korea attack us or our allies with nuclear weapons? I don't know, but we better all hope that Kim Jong Un thinks he does. And, Kim better believe that the whole world will support Obama. Otherwise, we may all find out how accurate the simulations in WarGames were.
Is it strange that I find all this talk of nuclear war kind of comforting and familiar? In the more recent Casino Royale M states how much she misses the Cold War, and I have to agree. Even though you knew that at any moment you could be vaporized, you knew who your enemies were. They were the ones that had the nuclear missiles pointed at you. There were rules, and you could predict the limits of their conduct. Now, the gloves are off, and it's a much more dangerous world.
I have many South Korean friends. Some of them live in the United States, but they all have family in South Korea. Many of them have family in North Korea for that matter, even if they haven't had contact in over 60 years. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, please send some good vibes or say a prayer. The people there need all the help they can get.