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The following comparison is admittedly outrageous. But I defy you to cite one single wrinkle of it that’s out of whack with reality.
You saunter up to the cockpit of the plane (remember those days?) and thank the pilot for such a smooth flight. You notice a mountain range ahead. “How high are those mountains?” you ask. “Thirty thousand feet,” replies the pilot. “And how high are we?” “Twenty-five thousand feet,” he says. “Can we gain the altitude we need in time?” you ask. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” he mumbles. “Good Lord, man! Are we going to try?” “Well,” he responds laconically. “It’s kind of complicated. I reckon we’ll just keep going and hope for the best.”
Expert opinion tells us America will probably – not possibly – probably be hit with a nuclear device detonated in one or more of our cities. And what are we doing in preparation? That one deserves a good, long, running start.
During World War II, when there was virtually no chance for enemy bombs to hit us, our preparations were impressive. (No German explosives touched us. A few bombs and shells from Japan did. Fascinating stories, well worth a column, but not today!) America’s Boy Scouts, un-badgered by lawsuits for their “stubborn” opposition to gay scoutmasters, served as messengers on their bicycles, helping adult air-raid wardens spot violations during test drills. Kits containing vials of fluids simulating the odors of various poison gases trained our teenage defenders to detect the presence of mustard gas, phosgene and other toxic agents. Boys and girls that age can be courageous and effective. Cuba was without a government for more than a week at the beginning of 1959. Batista had fled and Castro took his time victory-lapping across Cuba. Cuban boy scouts directed traffic and, in effect, succeeded in maintaining order.
The American “home front” in the 1940s was present, accounted for, trained and ready.
During the Cold War, with America and the Soviet Union living constantly within each other’s nuclear gun sights, there was “civil defense,” but not really up to the level of totality and enthusiasm of World War II. We had the words but not the melody of civil defense. There were buildings with ample basements designated as shelters and schoolkids were taught to crouch under their desks.
And today, with the danger to America at historic highs, there is no discernible hint of preparation for attack of any kind. Sure, there are exciting documentaries and feature stories speculating and dramatizing the astronomical number of casualties we might expect after a nuclear attack, but absolutely nothing that might make that number smaller.
The real danger to America’s survival is best understood by those familiar with psychology rather than nuclear weaponry. Total lack of forethought, training and preparation leads to a “One-Punch-and-You’re-Out” mentality. I haven’t worn a military uniform since 1953. Yet if, God forbid, America were hit, I would be more valuable on the streets of my city than those who’d had no military training at all. If we were hit, I’d want thousands of people, young and old, schooled in first aid, doctors and hospitals prepared for triage, cities and counties with plans for orderly evacuation, emergency food, medications and supplies of all kinds. Above all, I’d want leadership capable of implanting Winston Churchill’s style of resilience and “comeback” into America’s reaction, rather than dazed and terrified mobs fighting each other for looted salami. The experience of Hurricane Katrina does not reassure.
Countries have personalities, just like individuals. The examples I’d want to emulate include Finland (a population half that of Chicago holding off the Soviet Red Army for a very long time), Greece (whose defeat of Mussolini’s invaders forced Adolf Hitler to send German troops to subdue the unbelievably tough Greek resistance) and Israel (whose military exploits, being more recent, are well-known). I will not name the “One-Punch-and-You’re-Out” countries. They know with enduring shame who they are.
The unplugging of patriotism in the schools does little to rally a population to a Churchill-type stance. No two surrenders are identical. In the case of Germany – May 1945 – we had the schoolhouse in Reims, France, and Nazi Gen. Alfred Jodl. In the case of Japan we had Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the battleship “Missouri.”
We’ve heard many unkind things said about America’s current president. This, I believe, tops them all. If a nuclear bomb were to be detonated in an American city, I fear and believe the American government would say to the terrorist world, “Let us know what we must do to end this senseless slaughter.” And that’s pretty far from the stout Englishman with the cigar challenging the blitz-meister in Berlin, “You do your worst, and we shall do our best!”
Before you consign me to the heap of unforgiving Obama foes, please cite one deed, or even word, from this administration that should make me feel otherwise.
“Drill, Baby, Drill” may offer the best chance for American energy independence.
“Train, Baby, Train” may offer the best chance for American independence.