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Hardly anyone thinks logically about the risk of nuclear war

Hardly anyone thinks logically about the risk of nuclear war

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its symbolic doomsday clock to ninety seconds to midnight, the closest it has been since its founding after World War II. Chief among their reasons for doing so is the increasingly dangerous war in Ukraine.

A statement by the Bulletin’s editor, John Mecklin, is as biased against Russia as any Western expert today and fails to mention the role of the US empire in causing, prolonging and profiting from this conflict , but still gives a fairly reasonable estimate of the magnitude. of the threat we are staring down at this moment in history:

This year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board is moving forward the doomsday clock, largely (though not exclusively) because of the growing dangers of war in Ukraine. The clock is now 90 seconds to midnight, the closest global catastrophe has ever been.

The war in Ukraine may enter a horrific second year, with both sides convinced they can win. Ukraine’s sovereignty and broader European security arrangements that have largely remained in place since the end of World War II are at stake. In addition, Russia’s war against Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding the norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks.

And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalating conflict, whether by accident, intent or miscalculation, is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could get out of anyone’s control remains high.

Mecklin encourages dialogue between Russia, Ukraine and NATO powers to de-escalate tensions at “this moment of unprecedented global danger.” He quotes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned last August that the world has entered “a moment of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.

We came within a hair’s breadth of nuclear annihilation during the chaotic and unpredictable edge of the last cold war, and indeed had numerous close calls that could easily have ended the other way. As former Secretary of State Dean Acheson put it, humanity survived the Cuban Missile Crisis with “dumb luck.”

There is no logical basis to believe that we will get lucky again. Believing that nuclear war won’t happen because it didn’t happen last time is a type of fallacious reasoning known as the normality bias; it’s about as rational as believing that Russian roulette is safe because the guy who handed you the gun didn’t blow his head off when he pulled the trigger.

But that’s the kind of sloppy thinking you’ll find when you try to talk about this topic in public; I always run into arguments that say there is no risk of nuclear war because we have gone this long without disasters. One of the reasons I engage so much in social media is that I find it a great way to monitor the dominant propaganda narratives in our civilization and understand what people think and believe about things, and nowhere have I found comments more diffuse than the times I’ve written about the need to prevent an entirely preventable nuclear holocaust.

The most common response I get is something along the lines of “Well, if there’s a nuclear war, it’ll be Putin’s fault,” as if whose “fault” it is will matter to us as we watch the world end, along with the related “Well, Russia shouldn’t have invaded then” and “Well, Russia should have stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons then.” People really don’t seem to understand that in the event of a full-scale nuclear war, it really will be the end of everyone. They still imagine that everyone is still there and then shaking their fists at Russia, and themselves sitting there feeling righteous and vindicated for correctly saying what a bad, bad man Vladimir Putin is.

They don’t understand that there won’t be pundits discussing nuclear armageddon on Fox and MSNBC, arguing whose fault it was and which political party is to blame. They don’t understand that there will be no war crimes tribunals in radioactive ash as the biosphere starves in nuclear winter. They don’t understand that once the nukes start flying, your political views on Putin won’t matter. The only thing that will matter is that it has happened and cannot be recovered.

Another common response when I talk about the imminent threat of nuclear war is, “Oh, so you don’t care about Ukrainians and want them all dead.” The other day a lady responded to a twitter thread I made about the need to avoid nuclear armageddon by saying I must love rape and war crimes. People honestly believe that this is a valid response to a discussion about the need to prevent the worst that could happen. It doesn’t really occur to them that they aren’t actually engaging the issue at hand in any real way.

Somewhat more insightful interlocutors will argue that if we push back on tyrants just because they have nukes, everyone will try to get nukes, and those who have them will become more belligerent, ultimately making nuclear war more likely in the long run. This response is a straw man fallacy because it misrepresents the argument as “backwards only” rather than a call to engage in diplomacy and dialogue to de-escalate and begin honest negotiations towards détente, none of which is happening significantly in this regard. conflict More importantly, it pretends that Russia is merely invading its neighbor out of the blue rather than the well-documented reality that it is in fact responding to provocations by the US empire. The United States has a moral obligation to de-escalate a conflict it knowingly provoked to advance its own interests, especially when that conflict could kill everyone in the world.

The whole “We can’t back down from bullies like Putin” line of argument is further invalidated by the fact that it’s one thing to draw a line in the sand that should never be crossed, even in the face of armageddon, but it’s another thing to say that this line should be about something as small as who rules Crimea. This planet is populated by eight billion humans and countless sentient creatures, very few of whom care one way or the other who rules Crimea and hardly any of whom would be willing to see their loved ones die for that. Wanting to draw the line is hateful, arrogant and absurd.

And that’s just the shoddy intellectual work of the grassroots; The thinking of those who actually got us into this situation is surely just as shitty. As far as I can tell, on this side of the thick veils of government secrecy that separate us from the truth, it seems to arise primarily from a combination of immense arrogance and zealous groupthink; arrogance in thinking they can control every possible outcome in a game of brinkmanship with so many small and unpredictable moving parts, and zealous groupthink in unthinkingly adhering to the imperial doctrine that US unipolar planetary hegemony must ‘insure at any price. They are playing with the lives of every creature on this planet, and anyone who thinks this is smart or wise should stay as far away from these decisions as possible.

The logical aspects I am describing here seem to arise partly from the fact that our civilization is completely inundated with imperial propaganda about this conflict, and partly from the fact that people have not thought much about nuclear war and what it would mean. . . The latter is probably because the prospect of everyone dying horribly is such a big, heavy, uncomfortable subject to sit down and wrestle with as deeply as it demands. For most people it’s just this vague, fuzzy mass on the periphery of their consciousness, because they’ve been doing all these weird mental gymnastics to twist and detach from this thing instead of facing it there

But if there was ever a time to start doing independent, rigorous thinking and stop relying on authorities to sort things out, it would be now. They are showing us all the signs that they will keep escalating these games of nuclear chicken until they fill their bottomless need for more complete global control or kill us all trying. People need to start waking up to what is going on and start making things uncomfortable for the people who are driving our world to total destruction.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Peace talks are possible. Diplomacy, de-escalation and detente are possible. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. We need to start putting pressure on the public to end this madness, because if the mushroom clouds ever appear, there isn’t a person alive who at that point will think it was worth it.

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