Sunday, September 17, 2006

Duck and cover

The nukes aren't flying yet, but words about them sure are. The venerable Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (clock currently at seven minutes to midnight) discusses the risks of a nuclear strike by terrorists.

In sum, my best judgment is that based on current trends, a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States is more likely than not in the decade ahead. Developments in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea leave Americans more vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 today than we were five years ago. Former Defense Secretary William Perry has said that he thinks that I underestimate the risk. In the judgment of most people in the national security community.. the risk of a terrorist detonating a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil is higher today than was the risk of nuclear war at the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. Reviewing the evidence, Warren Buffett, the world's most successful investor and a legendary oddsmaker in pricing insurance policies for unlikely but catastrophic events like earthquakes, has concluded: "It's inevitable. I don't see any way that it won't happen."

Meanwhile, there are signs that our increasingly unhinged government is itching to use its own nukes on the recalcitrant Middle East, since they are running out of options for conventional warefare, and there are so many countries there that need to be converted from Good to Evil by the application of force.

Who is more likely to unleash the nuclear option for the first time since WW II? The terrorists holed up in Northern Pakistan, or the terrorists occupying the West Wing? Keep in mind that the Bush administration has a record of always being worse than you expected, whatever you might have expected. The current efforts to get legal cover for torture may be a nadir, but there's no reason they can't sink lower still.

We really, really, really need to elect a Democratic congress. An opposition party may not be able to stop this administration, but at least it can make it clear to the world that we aren't all crazy. That may be the best we can hope for.

As for the threat of terrorist nukes, we could also hope to get an administration that actually takes homeland security seriously, for instance by inspecting cargo containers even if it inconveniences the shipping industry.

No comments: