Maybe the idea of the United States would launch a nuclear first strike – albeit a "surgical" one – is too hard for most Americans, including most American journalists, to process. [. . .] It's even harder to square with our national self-image than the invasion of Iraq. We're the global sheriff, after all – Gary Cooper in a big white hat. And while Gary Cooper might shoot an outlaw down in a fair fight at High Noon, he wouldn't sneak into their camp in the middle of the night and incinerate them with nuclear weapons. That's not how the Code of the West is supposed to work.Billmon makes a reasonable case--a frighteningly, maddeningly reasonable case--that we may be on the verge of madness.
Even my own hyperactive imagination is having a hard time wrapping itself around the idea. I'm familiar enough with Cold War history to know the United States has at least considered the first use of nuclear weapons before – in Korea and even in Vietnam – and I know it was long-standing U.S. strategic doctrine never to rule out a nuclear response to a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe. But the current nuclear war gaming strikes me as much more likely to end in the real thing – partly because the neocons appear to have convinced themselves a "tactical" strike doesn't really count, partly because of what Hersh politely refers to as Bush's "messianic vision" (Cheney may have his finger on the bureaucracy, but Shrub is still the one with his finger on the button) but mostly because I think these guys really think they can get away with it. And they might be right. [. . .]
Why should anyone or anything change? When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don’t think it’s absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime – the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide – could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads. When everything is just a matter of opinion, anything – literally anything – can be justified. It’s only a matter of framing things so people can believe what they want to believe.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
What if we threw a nuclear war and no one noticed?
If I wasn't already having a rotten day (I learned today that my position at my school has been eliminated), this would scare me to death: