Americans have experienced some scary moments beginning in the 1950s. Taking cover at school during mock nuclear attack by the Soviet Union is something none of us will ever forget. As young children we were told that the country was on the verge of nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis drove President Kennedy to the brink of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets a few years later.
Then came the Vietnam War, during which 50,000 American soldiers were killed and many more were wounded physically and mentally. I attended college in the late 60s during the height of military operations in Southeast Asia. The first draft lottery took place at that time. It was the only lottery I ever won. While at school we were given body counts of dead Americans and Vietnamese soldiers every day on TV.
In the late 70s and early 80s our attention turned to serious economy stress. New York City nearly went bankrupt and interest rates soared to staggering levels. Working as a financial officer at a large company, I borrowed money at interest rates approaching 20%, as compared to current rates close to 1%.
In more recent history the 9/11 attacks dominated our lives and concerns. Many Yew Yorkers lost family and friends and many more had close calls with collapsing buildings.
Things have not improved since those days. It seems like America is never really at peace. We are always fighting a war someplace in the world or threatening to attack an enemy. Our foes keep us on edge vowing to take away our freedom. Given that the US is the most prosperous and safest country in the world, I wonder how other nations deal with such anxiety on a continuous basis.
As a baby boomer my concerns often turn to my children and grandchildren. What will their lives be like during the next half-century? What problems will they encounter? Will they be fighting with radical religious elements in the Middle East decades from now? Will nuclear threats continue to mount? The short answer to these questions would not elate anyone. I predict that our survivors will be dealing with tragedies and evil forces equal to or greater than ours during their lives.
In this regard it is noteworthy to point out that the threat of human extinction no longer is confined to actions by super powers. Surely the US, Russia and China can go to war and, for all intents and purposes can either wipe out mankind or severely impact it for a century or more by employing nuclear weapons.
But these countries understand that launching missiles with nuclear warheads will result in a counter strike and everybody loses in that scenario. Mutual assured destruction is a concept that greatly affects the actions of Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping. So it is reasonable to take solace in the fact that a nuclear war is not anything a responsible and civilized society would initiate.
But what about the other countries that have nuclear capabilities and terrorists that may some day be able buy nuclear weapons? An optimist might say that only insane people would use a nuclear bomb, and there is no chance that India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea or any other nation would launch nuclear weapons. And, for the most part, a strike would be regional and would not draw in any of the super powers, so it would not be such a big deal. These are myths.
Does anyone trust the radical leaders of the countries mentioned above? Should Americans be comforted that North Korea or Iran, in particular, would never use a nuke because they are reasonable and righteous people and understand that they would be obliterated if they did? I, for one, am losing sleep over these frightening realities.
Further the rhetoric of counties like North Korea and Iran does nothing but make the international community of nations more edgy. Exacerbating the whole mess is the fact that North Korea is already launching practice missiles over Japan.
If one of these missiles inadvertently lands on Tokyo, what will be the consequences? What will be the US response if a rogue nation drops a missile close to or on Guam or Hawaii or California? Trump has already given us a preview of this contingency. He said he would wipe out the little rocket man and his whole country.
The impending US decisions about Iran’s nuclear program only fuel an already perilous state of affairs. Iran does not have the intercontinental capabilities of North Korea. What does that mean? It means that in a fit of rage or desperation, Iran could launch nukes at enemies close by including Israel or a Sunni country (most likely Saudi Arabia).
What would be the repercussions of such an event? No doubt Israel would nuke Tehran. Saudi Arabia, assuming it did not have a retaliatory capability, would likely be unable to sate the worldwide need for oil. A world economic crisis would ensue.
There are no easy answers to the nuclear threats in our world. Even though these weapons are never supposed to be used, if they are, they could dramatically change mankind. Moreover the trillions of dollars being spent on defense (and offense) are a colossal waste of money that could be used for more productive humanitarian needs.
I hasten to point out that nothing has been said herein about the scourge of terrorism (international and domestic) and the increasing frequency of tragedies like Las Vegas. These are not existential, but they create a cloud that directly or indirectly affects all Americans and the quality of their lives.