Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What if We Get Nuked?

A morbid question, to be sure. However, it is something every American should have asked himself at least once - especially since we live in an age where the possibility of a terrorist obtaining a nuclear weapon and using it in an American city is growing higher each year.

William Perry, former Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration has a few interesting things to say about this subject. How would we be affected? What decisions would we need to make? Those of us in the DC area need to be mindful of such things.

Perry says:

"Only the federal government could help the country deal rationally with the problem of radiation, which is unique to nuclear terrorism and uniquely frightening to most people. For those within a two-mile-wide circle around a Hiroshima-sized detonation (in Washington, that diameter is the length of the Mall; in New York, three-fourths the length of Central Park; in most cities, the downtown area) or just downwind, little could be done. People in this zone who were not killed by the blast itself, perhaps hundreds of thousands of them, would get radiation sickness, and many would die."
Most of the time, if not all of the time, I would argue for reduced federal involvement during a disaster. It's not the place of the federal government to take the role of first responder, and (depending on the scale and advance warning) it's unrealistic to expect them to respond to every tornado and hurricane. That's traditionally the responsibility of the state. However, I am inclined to argue in favor of a federal leadership role in the aftermath of a nuclear attack - for precisely the reasons listed in the above quote.

The fear of a nuclear attack is something I grew up with as a kid in the 80's. I was familiar with most Cold War doomsday scenarios. Fortunately, mutually assured destruction (MAD) made such "end of life as we know it" scenarios less likely. This new threat, on the other hand, scares me even worse.

Terrorists want to kill us. I know that's a huge surprise, but they do. Osama bin Laden himself has said he wants to kill 4 million Americans. What better way to accomplish this than to detonate a nuclear weapon (or two, or three) in an American city? What's worse, is that the timing of such an event is unpredictable. And when it happens, as Mr. Perry points out, the citizens in this country are going to go nuts with panic.

If we don't prepare for such an event - mentally, physically and spiritually - our way of life (as we know it) will change in its aftermath, and I can guarantee you it won't be for the better.

Something to think about...


Daniel said...

Wow, someone else who has been thinking what I have been thinking about (as I stare out the window of my Rosslyn highrise at the Mall). Its a scary thought that most people are more than happy to stick their head in the ground and try to ignore. Great article and a very useful link.

Dan said...

Tell me about it. I work at 14th & K - a mere 2 blocks from the White House. There's barely a day that goes by where I don't think of the giant target we all have painted on our backs working in this city.