During the height of the Cold War, nothing was more feared than the accidental nuclear war where *someone* somewhere misinterpreted a radio call, or misunderstood a communication emanating from the other side.
While this may seem implausible to some, miscommunication and misreading of the other side’s intentions did occur during the 40-year, tension-filled Cold War.
It happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and again when the Three Mile Island nuclear facility exploded, and again when President Reagan famously proclaimed during a speech rehearsal, “I have today signed legislation declaring the Soviet Union illegal… the bombing begins in five minutes,” on live radio. Little did the President know that *someone* had accidentally left the microphone switch in the ON position. (See how easy it happens?)
In less than a minute dozens of Soviet nuclear missile silo doors popped open ready to fire at the press of a button and annihilate the United States (just in case Reagan’s words were true and the U.S. was preparing to fire on the Soviets) fortunately, the Soviet ambassador in Washington phoned the White House to ask if it was a communication error. The problem was solved because somebody thought enough of the human race to pick up the phone and call the office. Phew!
It’s not inconceivable that something similar could happen in our 21st-century. U.S. President Donald Trump posts many times per day on Twitter and none of those tweets are invitations to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un for tea at the White House.
With U.S. warships and aircraft patrolling the South China Sea and tensions throughout the region set to ‘HIGH’ (permanently, it would seem) there is plenty of potential for negative interaction that could set off a sequence of events that couldn’t be stopped. Resulting in the extermination of all life on planet Earth in the worst-case scenario.
‘All life on Earth’ is too important to leave in the hands of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, we see how many times politicians fail (as normal humans do) and that failure could result in the end of humanity and all other life on the planet.
We’re living in a time where one wrong tweet or one wrong retort, could end all life on the planet.
Are we content to sleepwalk towards a nuclear confrontation between an old and trusted nuclear superpower on the one hand, and a brave, brash, and new, nuclear power on the other hand? Because that’s what’s happening. We’re sleepwalking towards nuclear war.
America might be lucky and lose only Guam, Honolulu, and the west coast cities of North America; Certainly, all of North Korea would be pounded into dust, and even if Seoul, South Korea wasn’t directly impacted by nuclear weapons it would likely sustain millions of casualties from the nuclear fallout caused by nuclear detonations in the north.
And Japan might face millions of casualties in the worst-case scenario as both North Korea and Japan have some terrible (ancient) history between them.
Shouldn’t Rex Tillerson, America’s excellent Secretary of State be speaking weekly to the UN General Assembly to convince them of the need for urgent, high level diplomatic talks between North Korea, other countries in the region, and America?
Hey, maybe it’s all handled, and we’re all concerned for nothing.
But how would we know, when all we read are angry tweets from one President (how can you blame him, when out of the blue his country was threatened with nuclear attack?) and even angrier retorts by North Korea’s leader.
Something is going on between North Korea and America and it isn’t good. And it isn’t public.
The Cold War was an immeasurably bigger problem than the present Korean crisis and it was completely solved by some of the brightest minds that ever lived, taking only months to handle once they had made up their minds to solve it.
On a much smaller scale than the North Korean situation, solving ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland took 30 months once both sides had fully committed to negotiating and end to that toxic conflict.
There is no reason that diplomacy couldn’t solve the North Korean crisis, it’s just that there isn’t any public pressure on politicians to do so. (Yawn) “Pass the milk, it’s just a potential nuclear war.”
Hot-headed rhetoric between nuclear powers isn’t going to solve anything, but failing to bring negotiators from both sides to the negotiating table only works to prolong the number of months that the world remains imperiled by the threat of accidental nuclear war.
The Sum of All Fears
If you haven’t watched that old but great movie lately, maybe now is a good time to review what could occur when a third party covertly attempts to trigger a nuclear conflict between two adversaries.
Once the missiles have left their silos, it’s too late to stop them — even if the main protagonists find out seconds after launch they’ve been duped by a third party.
“Oops, boom!” if you’re an English-speaker and “죄송합니다” if you speak Korean.
There are plenty of good causes out there in the world, but helping to prevent a nuclear war that could wipe out all life on Earth must rank as the very best of good causes.
If you care about life on Earth, please take a few moments to email or call your government representatives and tell them you’d rather not live in a post-nuclear-apocalypse.
Signed: All life on Earth