Nuclear Holocaust—How Real the Threat?
I WANT TO GROW UP, NOT BLOW UP
THESE are the poignant and thought-provoking words that an unknown author has scribbled on a wall in downtown Frankfurt, Germany. Do you blame this young man—or woman—for feeling that way?
Probably not, particularly if you are among the millions of persons throughout the world whose fear goes beyond the fear of a limited atomic war—however terrible even this would be. The threat, as they see it, is that of an all-out nuclear war that would annihilate all mankind. It would leave the earth uninhabitable.
A word often used to describe such a nuclear holocaust, particularly in English-speaking countries, is one borrowed from the Bible. It is “Armageddon.” For example, in 1961 former U.S. President Eisenhower said that the growing nuclear threat put Chicago “but thirty minutes from Armageddon.” And of the early 1970’s, Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state, wrote: “No previous generation of statesmen has had to conduct policy in so unknown an environment at the border line of Armageddon.”
In the meantime we have reached the 1980’s. Years of political discussions and negotiations have not yet succeeded in defusing the nuclear bomb upon which the world seems to have been sitting for almost four decades. Despite increased pressure from their citizens for a nuclear freeze, the superpowers continue to stockpile nuclear weapons.
Threat Still Growing
Giving yet another reason for the increasing threat of a nuclear holocaust, scientist Joseph Weizenbaum of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: “The danger has become greater, because many more countries now have atomic weapons.” Since their number will no doubt continue to grow, the outlook for the future is not bright. “In most likelihood we will not survive the next 20 years,” warns Weizenbaum. “We are moving ever more rapidly toward the abyss. And I am afraid there is no one to stop us. Perhaps we are already hopelessly lost.”
Meanwhile, modern technology continues to perfect missile guidance systems. Long-range missiles can already travel thousands of kilometers and strike within less than 180 meters (197 yd) of their target. That is like throwing a ball at a target a mile away—if a person could throw that far—and missing the bull’s-eye by less than one inch!
How Do You React?
Perhaps you are trying to prevent a nuclear holocaust. True, you are probably not a politician or a disarmament negotiator. But by engaging in peace movements or anti-nuclear demonstrations of one kind or another, you may feel that you are doing your part. There are hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who share that view.
On the other hand, you may feel little motivation for getting involved. You may be simply trying to ignore the threat, blotting it out of your mind by filling your life with other interests. Subconsciously you are hoping for the best.
Or do you consider a nuclear war inevitable? If so, you are perhaps seeking means for personal survival. You may have made certain survival plans already. Possibly, you have even joined a “survival group”—any number of which have sprung up recently in all parts of the world.
Whether a person fits into one of these three categories or not, none of us can sidestep the fact that the threat of a nuclear war is real. Like it or not, we must face up to questions with far-reaching consequences. Will mankind’s worst fears be realized? Is an “Armageddon” nuclear war inevitable? Are our young people doomed to blow up before they grow up?