Before we begin, I’d like to make it very very clear that none of us here at Republibot are mouth breathing doofuses who think Nuclear War would be fun and ‘mostly’ winnable (In a George C. Scott sense). Any way you slice it, Nuclear War comes up nuts, and it’s very very very bad for everyone involved. So for the benefit of any liberal types trolling this site, don’t go telling your friends that we’re advocating nuclear war because we’re not. We’re against it.
We’re also against mindlessly accepting any conclusion without examining the facts. Facts are interesting, and frequently surprising, and to paraphrase Philip K. Dick, they don’t go away when you stop looking at them, or because they’re politically inconvenient. So it seems a safe time, 19 years after the end of the Cold War, to re-examine the facts around Nuclear Weapons.
Now, in fact, Humanity *has* fought one Nuclear War already - World War II involved three atomic bombs, two used in anger. After the war, we were very proud of your brand new terror weapons, and deservedly so: they’re undeniably impressive. We even tried to find positive, constructive uses for them. Eventually, however, the other side got the bomb and we began to fear what it would be like to be on the Japanese end of a nuclear attack. It pretty much looked like it sucked.
Like people who’ve trained their guard dog a bit too well, we began to fear our own bombs, and in the counterculture of the 60s, this actually became a kind of phobic mania. “Nuclear Weapons” became synonymous with “The End of the World,” and a crappy, horrible, lingering death for those unlucky few who survived the first half hour. It got so bad that one merely had to invoke the magic words “Thermonuclear War” and people would turn the analytical parts of their brains off and accept any information you gave them as fact. This was still the case as late as 1983 when Carl Sagan was able to browbeat Congress in to accepting his wildly-fraudulent “Global Winter” paper.
To make matters worse, all sides lied extensively so it was hard to get a clear picture of things unless you were actually an engineer: The Left lied about the destructive potential of these weapons out of ignorance, and also to generate fear of them and thus increase opposition to them. The Military lied about them to keep Congressional support, obscure their capabilities, and engender fear in the enemy. Both governments involved lied about them to generate fear on the opposing side.
“Fear” being the commonality here.
Fear is a very useful in a cold war. If you can frighten your enemy enough, and then threaten to attack, there’s a very good chance they might surrender rather than face unquestioned annihilation. If you can convince them that resistance could lead to the end of life on earth, then the poor rubes might even believe it was their patriotic duty to surrender.
So fear is a great motivating tool, but it’s not good enough to base any kind of educated opinion on.
Our opinion of Nuclear Weapons in SF and the media roughly follows the course of the cold war. In 1940s/50s SF, Nukes are all over the place, cool and deadly, and thank God we’ve got ‘em! IN the ‘60s this mostly withered, and they begin to conspicuously disappear. The original Trek only makes one overt reference to Nuclear Weapons (Cobalt Bombs, actually). Most shows don’t even do that. By the 70s it was ubiquitous to substitute some hokey futuristic-sounding doubletalk technology for nuclear weapons. “Plasma Bombs” and “Fusors” and suchlike. By the ‘80s, they were even replacing references to Nukes in foreign shows with this kind of stuff. For instance, “Robotech” edited out all the very overt mentions of Nuclear Weapons (Used a *lot* in the show) and replaced them with the phrase “Reflex Weaponry.” They even took out mention of Nuclear Reactors, and replaced them with “Reflex Furnaces.”
So not only were we afraid of our guard dog, we weren’t even willing to say his name. (Yes, it’s a he. I mean, just look at an ICBM - it’s phallic as all hell)
Some of this continues even today. When the Galactica got hit with a nuke in the miniseries, a lot of people’s suspension of disbelief was overloaded “That would have been the end of the ship right there, nothing can survive a nuke.” When Nukes began to cautiously make