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Absit Omen

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Atom Bomb Nuclear Explosion
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Absit Omen

"I liked history better when it was in the past."

There are several implications of this kind of statement. For people living in benign territories, ones that are not subject to corporate or military subjugation, history is the past, the written record of what has happened while life continues on its usual path. For others history is what is occurring at the moment - as it truly is everywhere - when certain events take on a significance beyond the usual military-political manipulations of events and their perception.

When it is taken in context with current events, it implies something even more difficult to perceive: if World War III does occur, it will truly be the end of history. There will be no one remaining to be able to write down the events that happened to their predecessors as all civilizational features allowing history - the recording of events - will be gone, regardless of whether a few indigenous people manage to survive in some remote parts of the world.

The normalization of nuclear war.

In our modern society war has been an ongoing and continuous event, advancing in technological finesse and increasingly deadly weaponry. It is the normalization of nuclear power, nuclear war, that continually hangs over the world, threatening its continued existence. Up until a week or so ago, discussion of nuclear war was mostly background noise - it has been discussed since the advent of the first atomic bombings of Japan, it has been close before but mostly undisclosed at the time by the powers that be.

The boomer generation in some countries remembers the "duck and cover" school drills that, when considered in the reality of the weapon, were more a propaganda infusion than a rational means to survive a nuclear attack. Others were tempted into building nuclear shelters, in the vain thought that somehow if they could survive for a week or a month then the survivors would pick up the pieces and the world would continue on its way. After those two aspects died out in following generations, while nuclear war could always happen, it faded into the background of everyday life and its triumphs and tribulations.

Religion has played its part in this normalization. The evangelical movement in the U.S. appears to look forward to a nuclear armageddon to satisfy their interpretation of biblical prophecy. Israel's nuclear weapons are an option in a first-strike perspective in particular against Iran, but would herald the end of times as well, creating a masada complex weirdly under the 'never again' philosophy of modern Judaism. In South Asia, Pakistan and India, Muslim versus Hindu, face off with each other - along their common border and in Kashmir - with nuclear weapons, created and aided and abetted by a host of other countries.

It may have faded into the background for the average citizen, but for the military the concept of nuclear war never faded but became increasingly stronger. The Cold War contest between the U.S. and Soviet Union produced huge increases in nuclear armaments, progressing from those delivered by plane to those delivered by ballistic missiles to those delivered by stealth bombers, drones, and guided missiles.

The worst aspect of a discussion of nuclear war is secular: the U.S.' official position of first-strike nuclear use, of using a nuclear attack to start a war and believe that the 'west' could survive it, could declare themselves victors, and history would continue. That perspective has been held by the U.S. military from the start.

The atomic bombing of Japan was unnecessary and is generally considered to have been done as a statement against the Soviet Union. Once the Soviets created their own weapon, U.S. propaganda went into full gear for the arms race, always arguing about a 'missile gap' that under historical review always favored the U.S. There have always been plans for the U.S. to initiate a first-strike nuclear war against both China and the Soviet Union and the world would be foolish to think similar plans do not still exist. With the likes of Paul Wolfowitz and his cadre of neocons and the warlike fantasies of John Bolton, the U.S. administration is not averse to the use of nuclear weapons.

No survivors

What prompted this essay were comments by an online commentator, "Beau of the Fifth Column'' [1], who for the most part has very well-considered presentations on diverse topics within U.S. politics, usually domestic, but increasingly and obviously now with foreign affairs. He had one presentation that discussed how to survive a nuclear attack prompted by questions received after Russia announced its nuclear alert - which for its limited range of discussion was good, but did not address the reality of a much larger context [2]. To his credit he started with a caveat saying at any given time in modern times, both nuclear forces have been at high alert for launch. His discussion centered on surviving one nuclear bomb, not in the usual metrics of measured distance from ground zero but by whether it was 'felt' or 'seen'.

Without going into the details of his argument, which within his limited scope were reasonable, the larger context was missing. In simple terms the larger context is that if one bomb is going off where you can feel and see it - and survive - there are several hundreds of others if not thousands going off around the world at the same time, give or take a half hour.

Within that context, yes, perhaps an individual, maybe hundreds in any given large urban area, might survive but long-term survivability has to consider other factors. As mentioned it would not just be one bomb: with thousands of warheads available most would be launched on first command. Several can be targeted at individual larger centers and larger military bases to ensure survivability of the attacking missiles and completeness of the attack. The ramifications should then be obvious.

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Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and analyst who examines the world through a syncretic lens. His analysis of international and domestic geopolitical ideas and actions incorporates a lifetime of interest in current events, a desire to (more...)
 

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