For those old enough to remember “duck and cover” drills at school, this article has you in mind. Back when the commies were the evil doers, the one thing we collectively feared above all else was nuclear war. I don't think huddling under our little desks gave anyone a sense of security but the ritual served an important purpose. It was a reminder of the horrors that awaited us if World War III ever started. Instead of fretting a temperature rise of a degree or two over a century, the kind of global warming that we dreaded involved instantaneous temperature spikes in the thousands of degrees. The 1965 hit song "Eve of Destruction" represented the fears of a generation with lyrics such as “If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away. There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave.”
Besides inspiration for songs and spy movies, the Cold War gave us the original acronym for MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction. The Soviet Union and the United States avoided direct military engagement since hostilities could escalate and nuclear war was viewed as suicidal by most. In the years following the Second World War, the USA and Russia became capable of destroying the world umpteen times over. Today, it may only be half of umpteen, but the danger is as real as it has ever been. The concept of communist domination of the world may be a relic, but the nuclear-armed ICBMs are not. A single American or Russian nuclear submarine has enough fire-power to replicate a thousand Hiroshimas.
Last year, it appeared that the US was going to intervene in the Syrian civil war with some type of bombing campaign. Russia has a naval installation in Syria as well as other military assets. It's good that we didn't go to war, but the best I can tell, it's not because the powers that be were worried what might happen if Russia got involved. In this generation, there's a blind spot when it comes to “the bomb.” Sure, it exists, but no one is going to use it, except maybe those crazy North Koreans.
“Made in China” may be a joke for some folks but there's nothing funny about the nukes and the missiles they manufacture. Nevertheless, the US and China continue to engage in brinkmanship in Asia and in particular the South China Sea. The notion that we risk war with a nuclear power over rock outcroppings in the Pacific is ludicrous. And, these aren't even our worthless rocks but miniscule islands disputed by China, Japan, the Philippines and others in the region. There is something very surreal about a global conflict igniting over a disputed area that is measured in acres.
Mutual Assured Destruction was understood and though we came close on a few occasions, the nukes were never fired, allowing for an entire generation to grow up without concern or awareness of the threat of WWIII. This current generation thinks more about a fictional zombie apocalypse than the very real potential of a thermonuclear one. Our kids should have the chance to experience “duck and cover” even if it is only done as a historical demonstration. Being aware of danger may still be our best way of avoiding it.