Friday, December 2, 2016

The Nuclear Codes

It was one of those things I kept wishing people wouldn't say.

"You can't let him near the nuclear codes," went the refrain.  "If you can't trust him with a Twitter account, how can you trust him with the nuclear button?"

My take was and is a little different.

Imagine, for a moment, that America had been foolish enough to give an erratic narcissist access to our nuclear arsenal.

What are the odds they'd get us into a civilization-ending nuclear exchange?

My thought:  the odds are marginal.  It ain't gonna happen.

Why?  Because nuclear war is a zero sum game. Both sides lose.  The goal of the con-man and the narcissist is to win and profit at your expense, not to die.  Unlike a zealot or an ideologue, their survival matters more to them than anything else.  If you're a kleptocrat, you realize that the Wasteland isn't quite as lush pickings as a semi-functioning, gullible, and non-irradiated society.  If you're into real estate in major urban areas, nukes have a tendency to reduce the value of your holdings.

And if you're all buddy-buddy with the Rooskies, and likely eager to plant a few branded casinos in gambling-addled Shanghai, going toe to toe the other nuclear powers doesn't serve any purpose.

Yet the case was made, over and over again, that he'd get us all nuked.  As a talking point, that felt...stale.  Old.  That was a cold war fear, existing now in the realm of the childhood nightmares of aging Gen-Xers, an abstraction for most Americans.

Mushroom clouds aren't my primary concern for America's near term future.

What seems far more probable is a good old fashioned shooting war.  Most likely with Iran, as I read it, particularly with folks like Flynn and Mad Dog at the helm.  As Mad Dog puts it, war is a thrill, after all.

Getting that going will be easy.  We come up with justification, provoke a Gulf-of-Tonkin-style "incident," wave flags and fill the right-wing media with good old fashioned jingo, and then in go the children of the poor, the sons and daughters of the Red States.

It's not ICBMs flying, sure.

But when it's your son or daughter coming back in a flag-draped coffin, it may as well be.   For those families, for those mothers and fathers and children, the loss of that soldier in a war that serves no meaningful long term national interest might as well be a nuclear exchange.

When our children's bodies are laid into the ground, our world comes to an end, just as surely as if the whole world had come to an end.

So strange, in a nation that is weary of the familiar bloody banality of endless war, that this never quite came up.