Even back in the 1960s there were Civil Defense debates on whether to give warning in case of an attack, based on studies that showed more people would be sheltered by where they happened to be than would benefit from a warning, since many people would immediately either try to flee, or to return to their homes, winding up in more exposed positions when the bomb went off.
Glen’s right, of course. It’s like a tornado or an earthquake — if you’re in or near a reasonably sound structure you’ll be a lot safer if you stay where you are and hunker down(.pdf) than you will be if you run screaming, or try to get home.
It’s a blast from the past, it is. I’m old enough to remember “duck and cover”, and for a while there fallout shelters were the “in” thing to have in a fancy new house. The Civil Defense trefoil could be found in all kinds of cellars and the lower floors of strong buildings, and people treated the situation alternately as being a remote risk and an inevitability.
But why now? Did Obama and his people get a burst of Lileksian nostalgia? There are a lot of features of the Fifties and Sixties I’d love to have back, but this is not one of them.
It’s an easy question to answer, of course. Pakistan has nukes, and sooner or later they’ll give some to the Taleban; the Iranians have missiles, and apparently they get to have nukes, too, on the ground that only letting Americans play with the cool toyz isn’t fair; Hugo Chavez is negotiating with the mullahs to have some missiles of his own; and, of course, doing anything substantive about any of that would be imperialistic (boo hiss!), and we aren’t allowed to have a missile defense because that would be destabilizing.
It’s all of a piece with “we could absorb a terrorist attack”. What they’re telling you is that you’re going to get nuked, there’s nothing they can do about it, they have no intention of trying to do anything substantive about it, and the best thing for you to do is to learn to be a contortionist — it’s hard to bend over far enough to kiss your ass goodbye.
The one ray of hope for most of us is that most of the world has precisely the attitude of our own “world citizen” wannabees: the United States consists of New York, Washington, D.C., and hinterlands of little importance. As a Bitter Clinger® of the Red-State Clingers, I am beginning to regard losing either or both as something of a positive; in fact, about ten megatons with Ground Zero at Pennsylvania and Seventh St NW would be downright cleansing just now. It’s not something I want, and I damn sure wouldn’t push the red button, but it might just be that we’d be better off after radical surgery to remove the tumor.
Unfortunately our enemies probably know that, too. It is a standard item of “wit” amongst headquarters troops of all sorts that no sane enemy would attack them, because it would reduce the confusion.
For many years now, things like WikiLeaks and “war crimes” trials have been put forward by the international Left and the general America-enviers, and the US, in general, didn’t react with much force. This is a symptom of strength, much like the Tough Guy in a bar offering the wimps a chance to “…take your best shot!”, and has long been a source of tooth-grinding frustration among the people trying those tactics. The United States, as a nation, simply shrugs and goes on to the next thing, and the message that sends is clear: That the best you can do, pipsqueak? C’mon, hit me again.
Now, though, we are across the board weaker than we have been in a long, long time, three-quarters of a century at least. When you are strong you have options — you can hit back at your enemies, but it may be more effective to forgive them or simply ignore them. When you are weak, hitting back with all force is the only option. A strong America might well absorb a terrorist hit with little damage, even a nuclear one. A weak America, especially an America with weaklings in its highest offices, might very well feel it had something to prove, and that could be very dangerous to miscalculators — and more so to their innocent bystanders.