America has not faced up to the most terrible possibility of our age
— the possibility of nuclear war. The actual existence of thousands of
nuclear weapons is a fact that cannot be denied. And with a long future
stretching before us, who seriously believes that another great war is
ultimately avoidable? Today the best weapons, the most efficient
weapons, are nuclear and biological. Those who refuse to see this are
not grown-ups and are not living in reality.
But some people say that a nuclear war will never be fought because
its effects are much too terrible.
Every war is terrible. Death by machine gun is terrible. Death by
battle-axe is terrible. What makes nuclear war more terrible? Is it
because more people would die? Josef Stalin said that one death is a
tragedy, but 10-million deaths are a statistic. For the survivors and
winners of a nuclear war the casualty statistics are not comprehensible.
In the 1960s, when I was a boy making faces at the prospect of eating
cooked carrots or beans, my mother sometimes said, “Eat your vegetables,
there are starving children in China.”
It was true. During the Cultural Revolution, in the 1960s, there were
starving children in China. But it didn’t mean anything to me because I
couldn’t name any of those starving children. I didn’t know them
personally. Their suffering wasn’t real to a nine-year-old boy living in
Do you think the U.S. bomber crew, flying over Hiroshima with an
atomic bomb, had any idea of the reality they were about to unleash? Did
they know any of the children they were about to maim or kill?
If the American bomber crew over Hiroshima understood — on a human
level — what they were doing, I don’t believe they could have dropped
that bomb. Only incomprehension allows good men to commit such terrible
acts. Only human delusions and rationalizations, aided by distance and
altitude, allow us to do such things. When our men up there, above
Hiroshima, released the
atom bomb on an inhabited city, it killed approximately 100,000 people
— mostly women and children. Do you think they really understood what
they were doing?
I don’t think so.
Killing at a distance is so disconnected, so unreal, that normal
people with normal consciences can unleash mass destruction on whole
cities. This fact may seem untrue or impossible, but nonetheless it is
And then there is another kind of mass murder — committed by
abnormal people who lack conscience. Note Webster’s definition of
psychopathy: “… (a) mental disorder not amounting to insanity … but
characterized by defect of character or personality, eccentricity,
inadequacy or perversity of conduct, undue conceit and suspiciousness,
or lack of common sense, social feeling, self control, truthfulness,
energy, or persistence. Different psychopathic individuals show
different combinations of these traits.”
In the 20th century we can identify many psychopaths in political
office. Stalin had many of the above-listed traits. Leon Trotsky,
Stalin’s early associate in mass murder, once wrote, “Undoubtedly
characteristic of Stalin is personal, physical cruelty, what is usually
Using Trotsky’s description of Stalin, we might say that today’s
Kremlin bosses were trained by a bureaucracy founded on cruelty.
Stalin’s system cultivated and promoted abnormal human beings. Look at
Russia’s leaders today. They are spreading lies that are calculated to
enrage the Russian
people against America. Russia’s generals know perfectly well that
nuclear war could be the result of any confrontation between Russia and
the West. Even so, they are cultivating a confrontation. They even
appear to relish it.
Harry Wu, the brave and outspoken Chinese dissident, says that
China’s current leaders are “butchers.” This description bears
repeating. It should be shouted from the rooftops. Every American should
have this fact etched into his or her brain. Wu says that we should not
trade with China. We should not deal with murderers.
Maybe it is time we talked about the real meaning of Auschwitz and
the world’s labor camps. In China the camp system is called “laogai.” In
Russia the word is “gulag.” Some of these camps, operating today, are
death camps. The prisoners are worked until they collapse from
malnutrition. Millions have perished in such institutions — far more
than the numbers killed in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. And in these camps the
guards see the suffering at close range. They are not 60,000 feet above
The world outside America is full of atrocity and horror. Although we
are not perfect ourselves, the countries of the West stand as outposts
of sanity and freedom compared with the insanity that prevails in places
like China and Russia — not to mention Angola, Afghanistan, Congo,
North Korea, Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, etc.
We Americans, with our economic culture based on rational
self-interest, incorrectly imagine that all human action is sensible.
That is why the mass executions, wars and atrocities of the 20th century
make no sense to us. In purely economic terms, war is more costly than
it is worth. As our best economists discovered decades ago, imperialism
does not pay.
Did the United States Marine Corps storm Japan’s strongholds in the
Pacific for cash? Did Patrick Henry call for revolution against England
because he thought it would make him rich? Did Abraham Lincoln or
Jefferson Davis fight the American Civil War because they were greedy?
In truth, money
is much easier to come by through peaceful activity.
It turns out that history is not a series of rational actions
performed in a purely market-oriented environment. No doubt history
includes its share of greedy individuals, but more often history is
decided by hatred, envy, misunderstanding and prejudice, as well as by
love and friendship, patriotism and self-sacrifice. Man is more than a
mere economic actor. Man is a spiritual and emotional being — which
means that men will fight and die for so-called “irrational” reasons.
And that is why nuclear war is far from impossible.
If the general public had any national feelings left, if our instinct
of self-preservation remained intact, we wouldn’t find ourselves heading
for a military crisis. This leads to a disturbing question. Has the
prevalence of our market economy deadened our instinct for national
survival? The short answer is — yes. The United States has disarmed
itself in recent years and no fact about Russia or China, however well
documented, is sufficient to correct our ongoing disarmament. We are
determined to make money and nothing else seems to matter.
Consider the following facts:
At the height of the Reagan military build-up we had 27 Army
divisions, and today we only have eight divisions that are combat ready.
Under Reagan we had 37 Air Force wings, and today we have only 13.
Meanwhile, the former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the
General Staff Col.-Gen. Fedor Ladygin, quoted by Rossiyskaya Gazeta on
Nov. 23, claims that America has continued to arm itself to the teeth,
and is aiming to colonize Russia. “The lessons of 1941 should not be
forgotten,” Ladygin warns.
As any Russian schoolboy knows, Russia was attacked by Hitler in
Ladygin’s way of talking should chill us to the bone. “There is no
place for Russia in America’s new world order,” says Ladygin. America’s
national security strategy, he warns, “conceals considerable dangers.”
Chechnya is casually cited by the Ladygin as a “classic” case of
America’s interference in Russia’s internal affairs. And then, the staff
writer from Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Sergey Ptichkin, adds a comment of his
own. He ends his feature on Ladygin by saying that in 1941 “almost
everyone was expecting the start of war, and hardly anyone believed in
Is this frightening? Should we lose hope?
Knowing the facts about Russia should empower us. The analysis
offered here should be used to promote discussion and debate. Such a
debate should teach us courage, not fear. Goethe once said, “I hate
everything that merely instructs me without augmenting or directly
invigorating my activity.”
My goal is to augment and invigorate the readers’ patriotic activity.
If we are responsible adults, citizens of a republic, mothers and
fathers determined to safeguard our children, then we must face the
problems of the day with courage and common sense. Despair and panic are
If we had faced the facts 30 years ago, the danger would be less
today. There would be blast shelters in our cities, and we would already
have a strategic missile defense. But our first taste of fear, at the
beginning of the thermonuclear age, did not result in a sober and
strengthened national resolve. Beginning in the 1960s we reacted to the
growing nuclear threat as children, not adults. And as children we came
to believe in the political equivalent of the Tooth Fairy. We came to
in arms control and disarmament, where you put a treaty under your
pillow at night, and all the nuclear weapons magically disappear in the
America needs to face the possibility of a future war. We need to
face this together, as a people. It does no good to resist a frightening
reality with words like “alarmist” or “doomsayer.” These words will not
make the reality go away.
Stonewall Jackson said we should not take counsel of our fear. That
is good advice. Let us recognize our fear, and thereby discover the
courage to enact a sensible national policy.