For the past sixty years, human beings have held in their own hands the power to annihilate the earth and everything on it. Frankly, I am amazed that we have possessed that power for so many years, and have managed not to unleash it, even accidentally. But, as I grow older, I realize how pitifully short is the human life span. What, after all, is sixty years, piled on top of thousands of years, tens of thousands of generations, of human history? We may yet, possibly in our own lifetimes, see the nuclear “balance of power” slide far enough out of kilter for one of those precariously balanced bombs to hit the ground and explode…to what end, no one can fathom.
And perhaps that is the crux of the matter…the unfathomability of the cost of a nuclear contest. The threat is so huge that we can’t really wrap our minds around it. We only understand that the danger to the entity who launches the first nuclear bomb is as great as it is to the target. And so we hold these things in our hands and we wave them threateningly at one another, certain in the back of our minds that to actually throw one would be suicide. Grimly sobering…and a tad ridiculous.
Judging by today’s news, our ability to totally annihilate one another no longer satisfies our hunger to slaughter large numbers of our own kind. Now, we have spawned terrorism. Obviously, there is something particularly satisfying about blowing unsuspecting non-combatants to smithereens, with minute attention paid to assuring that the deaths will be painful, ugly, and very, very public. We invent all sorts of political, religious, self-righteous grievances…to justify our lust to kill.
So as much as Iran, North Korea and any number of smaller nations lust after The Bomb, perhaps it isn’t the danger it once was. Apparently, our inherent human bloodlust cannot be sated with the “flash, bang, all-gone” nature of the nuclear war threat. We seem to so much prefer the blood, guts, gore and anguish of conventional weapons, which reduce our “enemies” to gratifying piles of dismembered, disemboweled, charred carnage.
Will we annihilate ourselves with nukes? Probably. Time will tell. But, right now, we seem happy enough to pursue that course of ultimate destruction a handful of bloody pulp at a time.