Two thousand years ago, Seneca the Younger said: “We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?”
In 1948, U.S. Army General Omar Bradley, first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”
Unfortunately, these two quotes capture very well our current state of insanity and the nuclear age.
The first use of nuclear weapons was 73 years ago — the horrific U.S. war crimes that devastated two civilian targets, Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9. These two attacks clearly demonstrated the power of nuclear weapons, and those bombs were far less powerful compared to the weapons today. Given the enormous power for devastation of these newer weapons, isn’t it finally time to reconsider our approach to dealing with conflicts?
In 1947, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists first presented the “Doomsday Clock” that reflected its views on the risks of a possible global catastrophe by using a countdown clock. It was initially set at seven minutes until midnight and has varied between two minutes in 1953 and 17 minutes in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is alarmingly two minutes to midnight again, reflecting the concern of a possible nuclear confrontation as well as concern about emerging technologies and global climate change.
Knowing all of the above, the negative reactions to Donald Trump’s openness to positive relations with Russia are shocking. Have people forgotten that Russia and the U.S. are the two major nuclear powers? Any conflict between these nations could easily escalate to a nuclear war that would devastate most of the world. Thus it is almost beyond belief to see such vehement opposition among politicians and pundits, perhaps driven primarily by domestic political concerns, against an attempt to lower the potential for conflict.
If people aren’t killed or poisoned following a nuclear conflict between these two powers, they could face starvation due to the likely ensuing nuclear winter, which is the hypothesized severe and prolonged global cooling effect following widespread firestorms caused by the nuclear attacks.
To learn more about nuclear winter, please attend the Boulder Chapter of Veterans for Peace meeting this Sunday, Aug. 5, at the First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street in Boulder. Following a potluck at 6 p.m., Dr. Owen Brian Toon will present on this topic at 7. Dr. Toon is a professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at CU and a research associate in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.