Hey, Iran! Did you see this? How 'bout you, North Korea?
The rules of atomic bombs in the U.S. have changed. We are changing the rules we've imposed for ourselves pretty much since we last used atomic bombs. (Just the two of them. Little ones.)
For years, back when we and the U.S.S.R were rattling sabers in their scabbards and pounding shoes on the podium, it was U.S. policy never to initiate a first strike with atomic weaponry, but to retaliate massively in response to an atomic strike at us by anybody else.
Probably the Kremlin had its doubts about whether we could be trusted, so I think they had a similar policy. Thus we two superpowers controlled nuclear exchanges by a policy of mutual assured destruction. In short, our governments held our civilian populations in hostage to a promise that neither country would survive should any country initiate a nuclear strike.
They were grim times. I remember the "duck and cover" drills in school, and I knew at the time that no elementary school desk was going to protect me from the flash burns, the concussion, and the sucking up of all the oxygen in the flames of an atomic strike. We had ICBMs aimed at strategic targets. We had submarines on station with atomic strike capability. And we kept at least one plane high in the air at all times with air force generals on board with the ability to survive a strike on SAC in Omaha, and to give the command to sterilize Russian cities. And we kept everything in readiness for year after year, to blast antagonistic powers back to the stone age if they launched nuclear strike at us. For years, we were ready to counterstrike.
As repulsive as this policy was, it worked. We Americans and Russians are still here, and there's room for both our populations on the earth. We are doing fine.
The reason why it worked is that while we believed that Kruschev was serious about his intentions when he said, "We will bury you," we also knew that the leaders of the U.S.S.R. were fundamentally rational. Once convinced that the other side really does possess the capability of mutual assured destruction, only a supremely stupid or dangerously crazy person would initiate an atomic exchange. And our opponents in the government of the U.S.S.R. were certainly not stupid or crazy. Neither were we -- except we did idealize smelly hippies but that is another story.
Now, consider Iran and North Korea. When was the last time their leadership did something that struck you as rational?
When it is certain that your butt will fry if you launch a nuke, and you have accepted the necessity of crispiness as a consequence of striking the U.S. with a nuke, well, we might as well take out the danger to ourselves with a pre-emptive strike. No sense in all of us getting fried when only some of us are crazy. So, we are changing our rules to accommodate the stupid and crazy governments of the world.
Watch what happens. Iran or North Korea is going to announce that our change in policy is proof that they really, really need atomic bombs, because we are getting ready to lauch against them.
As if we've never had any good opportunities to launch a nuclear strike since about 1950.