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Martin LeFevre: Is Nuclear War Inevitable?

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Is Nuclear War Inevitable?

Last week North Korea, defying even its only ally in the world, China, launched a series of missiles into the Sea of Japan, including a failed multi-stage rocket that burned for less than a minute. Beyond the games that governments play, how serious is this latest ‘crisis?’ Is the use of nuclear weapons, there or elsewhere, inevitable, and if so, how can world citizens individually and collectively prepare for the aftermath?

Shocked and saddened like millions of other people in America and abroad the day after the attacks of 9.11.2001, I went for my usual morning walk. It was a spectacularly clear day in northern California, pleasantly warm and without a cloud in the sky. From the reports of New Yorkers, it was much like the day before had been in Manhattan. A single question filled my mind and heart: where will this horror lead?

Under the azure California sky, I recall looking at a line of aspens just beginning to turn yellow along the footpath near home. I crossed the footbridge and walked along the creek, then doubled back and re-crossed the narrow, iron bridge. The question, ‘where will this lead?’ kept reverberating in my mind. It seemed to both come from deep within and from beyond me.

I glanced to my right after re-crossing the footbridge, gasped, and stopped in my tracks. There, to the west, in that formerly cloudless, intensely blue sky, was a single, perfectly formed mushroom cloud. It looked just like the pictures you see of the nuclear bomb tests over the Pacific in the ‘50’s.

Tending to distrust ‘signs,’ I felt skeptical that it was anything except a very odd-shaped cloud. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of deep foreboding, that it was an answer to the question my soul had been struggling with during the walk. Returning, I asked my friend, without comment, to go outside and look to the west.

She returned, looking blanched, and spoke of the “duck and cover” drills that had terrified her at school as a young child, and the flash of light as bright as the sun her parents had seen over the Nevada desert while watching the stars after midnight in the High Sierras on a family camping trip.

One part of the future is set, an inevitability; another part is an open question, depending on what people do or don’t do now to prepare for the unavoidability. Seeing this doesn’t imply some supernatural power, but simply recognizing that human actions produce a momentum, and looking down the track to see what’s coming. All we can really do is prepare an alternative for when the foreseeable thing happens. After all, that’s the definition of forecast, which simply means “foresight of consequences and provision against them.”

Does this really apply to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by stateless terrorists or state tyrants? Have events been set in motion that will lead, inexorably, toward their use?

The way things are going, it could well happen largely as a result of the presidency of George W. Bush. For example, Bush is talking about a “red line” against the unstable, cornered, and desperate regime in North Korea, and ‘our closest ally and friend,’ Japan, is spouting off about a ‘preemptive strike’ against North Korean missile sites. Bush and company appear to be giving China one last chance to negotiate a diplomatic settlement.

If nuclear weapons are used on the Korean peninsula, or anywhere else, it will certainly be the outcome of the convergence and collision of the twin evils to which the Bush Administration has added so much momentum-- the 'global war on terror,' and the death throes of an empire bent on global domination.

The prevalent response (or reaction) among people who see and foresee what is happening is to take poet Robinson Jeffers’ advice: “Keep distance from the thickening center; corruption never has been compulsory. When the cities lie at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains.”

But the mountains are not being left alone; nothing is being left alone. That leaves only one option— awaken within oneself where one is, and cooperatively prepare with others for the aftermath. The international/multilateral order is going to collapse. The use of nuclear weapons would certainly cut the last struts out from under its creaking, groaning, hollow superstructure.

To have an option after the fact, one must be prepared before it occurs. Here is the ultimate example of the necessity for ‘thinking outside the box,’ since if world citizens cannot imagine a true world order, we will all be condemned to live amongst the ashes of the old one.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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