Alan Chartock | I Publius: Nuclear strike a threat we should take seriously

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> The world, of course, is a very dangerous place. The threat of nuclear holocaust has been with us since World War II. Children in the 1950s learned to recognize the yellow and black "Fallout Shelter" signs and were taught to "duck and cover" when the sirens sounded.

During the Cuban missile crisis, Americans went to bed thinking that this might be their last night on earth. Then everything seemed to change. Neither the Russians, the Chinese nor the United States wanted mass annihilation and everyone seemed to relax.

That was all good until relatively recently. Now everyone seems to have the bomb and not only the bomb but, in many cases, super nuclear bombs. Still, we all seem to just shrug and figure, "It's not my problem." Maybe not. But on the other hand, maybe.

Let's examine a hypothetical situation with the crazy North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. This guy is so wacko that no one is safe. He has had close relatives and advisers executed, probably out of Stalin-like paranoia.

Despite worldwide sanctions that are literally starving his countrymen to death, he has exploded nuclear devices and tested long range missiles. Is there anyone who is willing to bet that he would not send one our way, something that he has been threatening to do for years?

You ask, doesn't he know that there would be instant retaliation? Remember, China is right on his border. So it isn't impossible that this nut case would launch a strike against the United States. If he did, where he would aim? My bet would be New York City, where all of the other terrorist nut cases have tried to strike.

Unfortunately, Kim is hardly the only one who might have New York in mind. Let's not forget all the jihadists who have seen the big city as targets. We all remember the World Trade Center. The Bin Ladens of the world subscribe to a philosophy of honorable death that promises an afterlife, including the services of 17-year-old virgins. To many, the possibility of death is not a threat but a promise of immortality.

Let there be no mistake about it — many countries, including Pakistan, have nuclear weapons that could be captured. From there, missiles could be launched directly at places like New York. What about all those Russian (nee Soviet) sites that have hardly been accounted for?

There are suicidal people in this world. We see them all the time as they do despicable things, surely knowing that they will end up dead as a result of the carnage they have caused.

So are we prepared for a nuclear strike at New York? Can you imagine the devastation? The roads out of the city, if there were any roads and bridges left, would be clogged beyond anything ever experienced.

Anyone who did get out would have to find shelters in places like Great Barrington in the Berkshires, where I live. The financial markets would collapse. Money would have little or no meaning.

The military would have to run the country. Anything resembling civil liberties would be out the window. Looting and mobs would rule the day. Those with guns would certainly use them to protect their families or rob those who do not have weapons. Democracy would be a thing of the past.

So will this come to pass? I certainly hope not. It hasn't so far but there is no certainty that it won't. What's worse is that there really is no doomsday plan in place to address the problems posed in the scenario pictured above.

We know there are provisions to take care of our president and our unpopular Congress, which already has more benefits than the rest of us. We are having enough trouble dealing with extraordinary weather conditions. A nuclear war would be beyond anything this world could handle. If you think it couldn't happen, think again.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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