Apr
18
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US Foreign Policy should bear this kind of thing in mind.

Thinking through Trump’s Nuclear “strategy,” and his relationship with North Korea, it would be useful for him to understand some background.

Long before North Korea was a household name in America, the Nuclear genie was out of the box. At 05:29:45 on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, a new era in human history began. The Manhattan Project, the attempt to create an atom bomb, conducted a successful test. After the iconic mushroom cloud had blossomed above the desert, those watching remained largely silent. Kenneth Bainbridge, the manger of the test, apparently turned to J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was the head of Los Alamos Labs, and said: “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

We don’t know how Oppenheimer responded. Later, however,  he recalled thinking of the rather more profound line from the Baghdad Gita, uttered by Lord Krishna: “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”

From that point on, humans had the ability to destroy life on the planet. This nuclear test ranks among the most important events in human history. We have not had time to digest all its consequences, it’s only been a little over half a century. But even in that time we have decimated two large cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), brought the world the brink of a nuclear war (Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962), and endured half a century of Cold War.

the Cold War shaped much of the Twentieth Century, starting with the division of Europe, the Nuclear Arms Race, and the various proxy wars from Vietnam and Korea to the Suez Crisis. It also created various Central and South American conflicts, including the execution Che Guevara at hands of the Bolivian army/CIA in 1967. North Korea, long a troublesome issue, has added itself to this list.

The Harvard Psychologist Robert Jay Lifton once said that the magnitude of the nuclear threat was so enormous that it was difficult for us to actually appreciate it and therefore take it seriously.  The ideology of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD, geddit?), which emerged in the latter years of the Cold War could have presaged a major shift in perspective which might have saved humanity in the longer run. As the emergence of nuclear weapons eventually created international bodies to monitor them, is it possible that threats of this magnitude will foster the kind of global government that Albert Einstein argued was not only necessary but inevitable?

Not in an era of populism, in which the world is run by dynasties, dictators and resource-hungry oligarchs–Thus North Korea, Russia, Turkey, and now the United States. We need to return to the era of professional politicians–yes, its hard to say, but, hey…People in other words, democratically elected AND professionally trained in traditions  of civil society, all the better to keep the planet functioning for the benefit of the largest possible majority. Not for their own business empires.  And to boot, people with enough vision and imagination to know where the nuclear threat will lead.

We are not in that place and should be making a lot of noise about it.

Adrian
About the Author
Adrian Cole studied Arabic at Exeter University in the UK, Alexandria, Egypt and Harvard University. He is now a freelance writer, living on an island in Casco Bay, Maine, with his wife and children. His book The Thinking Past was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.
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