John McCain and Thinking the Unthinkable

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Americans must
consider the terrible possibility that electing John McCain as president,
and Sarah Palin as Vice-President, will result in a series of escalating
confrontations with Russia over oil supplies in central Asia that
will lead to a nuclear exchange.

In 1960, Herman
Kahn wrote On
Thermonuclear War
, and in 1962, a follow-up, Thinking
the Unthinkable
, grim books about fighting a nuclear war
with the Soviet Union. The dangers of a nuclear war have receded
from the public’s mind since the fall of Soviet communism in 1989.
But since the ill-advised invasion of South Ossetia by Georgian
troops, and the swift response of Russia, the bellicose talk by
American leaders means that the very real possibility of nuclear
war must again be considered by every adult American.

Last week,
in a clear warning to the United States, Russia flew nuclear-capable
bombers to Venezuela. The US, for its part, has sent naval vessels
to the Black Sea, and is striving to make Georgia and Ukraine part
of NATO. The Bush administration has been pushing to place missile
interceptor systems in Poland, on Russia’s border.

Conservatives
still shake their heads over the 1964 anti-Goldwater “Daisy” television
commercial, which showed a girl counting petals from a daisy as
a mushroom cloud appeared in the distance. That commercial frightened
Americans and helped elect Lyndon Johnson.

There is little
doubt that John McCain is a hot-tempered man, given to volcanic
bouts of profanity and anger. It seems possible that his long captivity
in Hanoi induced a form of “frontal lobe disorder,” a labile mood
disorder characterized by impaired executive functioning, as well
as disinhibition, emotional instability, aggression, irritability
or impulsiveness. He has made asinine jokes about bombing Iran,
and bizarrely declared that “we are all Georgians now.”

Such a man,
no matter his war service, is clearly unfit for the presidency.
Sarah Palin, an individual with no foreign policy expertise, has
recently said that war with Russia may be necessary. Such an idiotic
statement should immediately disqualify her for the Vice Presidency.

Could America
fight a nuclear war with Russia and survive? Consider the reality
of such a war. It would be nothing like the television show Jericho,
or even, given the changes in America that have occurred in 50 years,
like Pat Frank’s book Alas
Babylon
.

Even if your
town or city survived the immediate destruction, and the radioactive
fallout (dependent on prevailing wind conditions in the days and
weeks after a nuclear strike), ask yourself how long would your
community survive without electricity?

There would
be no food on the shelves at your stores after the first 24 hours
of looting.

There would
be no gasoline stations capable of operating pumps. Major port facilities
would be destroyed, or themselves without power. There would be
no oil or coal to run power plants, no trucks to deliver fuel.

There would
be no money, other than cash you happened to have on hand. It would
be worthless. Financial markets would be closed. Computer screens
would be dark. Wall Street would almost certainly be destroyed.
Insurance companies, as well as pension funds, would instantly become
matters of historical interest only.

There would
be no medicine after on-hand supplies ran out. Pharmacies would
be looted clean of their stocks within days, if not hours.

Do any of you
imagine that America as it is now wouldn’t degenerate into savagery,
as marauding armed gangs searched with increasing desperation for
horded canned goods? The police would be able to do little without
gasoline, and most would seek, rightly, to protect their own families.
James Kunstler’s recent book,
A World Made By Hand
, would be at best an idyllic fantasy.
Think Cormac McCarthy’s The
Road
. But worse.

Do you entertain
ideas about being able to grow your own food? Who among you, even
if you’ve stocked seed and can grow enough food to last an entire
year, would know how to harvest seed for the following year’s crop?
Do you know how to can and jar to last the winter? How much ammunition
do you have with which to hunt? And what would you be hunting?

For those who
live up north how long could you survive a winter without electricity
or heating fuel? Do you have abundant trees nearby to use as fuel?
What about the second year?

For those in
the south, how would life be without air-conditioning? How will
you water your food garden during hot summer months, and protect
it from pests, animal and otherwise?

Do you live
in a remote area? After your small supply of fuel runs out, you
will be cut off. How long will you and your family last in those
conditions? How long would your food stock really last?

Do you live
in a large city which wasn’t hit? You will find yourself living
through "Night of the Living Dead." Chaos will reign outside
your apartment, and you can trust your last Starbuck’s cup that
no farmer will be bringing you food; they’ll be too busy themselves
trying to survive. Live on a high floor, without power or water?
Good luck with that.

How many people
have available, potable water? How would you guard against giardiasis
and other contaminants? Even if you have water filters, how many
extra canisters do you own?

There would
be no antibiotics after the first year. No insulin for diabetics.
No medicines of any kind for the elderly. No protection other than
the most primitive against infections from cuts and other accidents.
No effective treatment for injuries. No x-rays. Glasses break? Tough.
How many shoes do you own? There won’t be any more coming.

Think. We are
no longer a pioneer people. After three years, almost the entire
population of the United States would be dead, if not from the initial
effects of nuclear blasts, then from ensuing violence, disease,
and starvation.

There would
be a few survivors. I would estimate less than 5% of the population
would have any hope of surviving beyond three years. There would
be a few, perhaps, of our “leaders,” who made it into their Cheyenne
Mountain-type bunkers before the bombs hit. The world they would
emerge to “rule” would be a nightmare world.

The living
would envy the dead.

For 7 years
since the attacks of 9-11, Americans have been told by their government
to be afraid of “Moslem terrorists.” We were bombarded with absurd
color-coded “threat levels,” until we tired of the game. Most thinking
Americans have long realized that terrorists do not constitute a
material threat to our way of life. Possibly a bomb here, a plane
there, maybe someday a hazmat attack or a small dirty nuke, but
nothing that would seriously disrupt our nation’s ability to survive.

A nuclear war
with Russia is a very different matter. If we are to be afraid of
anything, that is what we need to be fear. Loss of preeminence as
an economic power, a Greater Depression, we can survive. But a nuclear
war we won’t.

The world is
a very different place than it was even 20 years ago. 80% of the
world’s petroleum is now controlled not by Anglo-American oil companies,
but by state-owned oil firms, such as Gazprom in Russia, Pemex in
Mexico, and Chavez’s Venezuela. Even these supplies are dwindling.
The fight in Georgia was not about nascent democracy, or even Saakashvili’s
ambition. It was about control of oil being piped out of central
Asia. Securing supplies of oil will be the critical determinant
of near-term foreign policy. Our bid to control Iraqi oil has turned
to dust, and any attempt to take over Iran’s fields will prove to
be madness. Russia announced last week that any military action
against Iran, whether by the United States, or Israel, will be “unacceptable.”
China also cannot be expected to stand by and have its oil supply,
much of which now comes from central Asia and Africa, compromised.

Compounding
the problem of peak oil and foreign control is the fact that the
United States is now a beggar nation. We have to borrow 2 billion
dollars a day, over 600 billion dollars a year, just to fund our
government. Federal taxes collected from Americans go to pay the
interest on the debt. The recent bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac will add untold hundreds of billions to our debt. It is by no
means clear that foreign governments will continue to purchase our
debt, particularly if the United States is using its military to
seize foreign oil supplies.

This election
is not about family values, or the color of Sarah Palin’s lipstick
or Barack Obama’s skin. It is about navigating our way through these
treacherous minefields without finding ourselves at war with Russia.
There will be no “renewed cold war.” This time around it won’t be
about ideologies, it will be about resources. Russia has lots of
oil, and we don’t. Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or ANWAR won’t
change that reality. War with nuclear-armed Russia is not something
we can entertain. Anyone who doubts Putin’s seriousness over the
oil issue can read his graduate thesis. That paper was not written
by a fool, and
can be read here
.

Do we really
want the hot-tempered McCain, whose campaign chair is a paid lobbyist
for Georgia, or the clueless Sarah Palin, sitting by the red phone,
and by the nuclear football?

The terrible
game of "prisoner’s dilemma" shown towards the end of
the recent Batman film could become quite real if a hot war in the
Caucasus or Black Sea breaks out. Just as in the film Dr.
Strangelove
, which seems to us a comic relic of the cold
war, both sides would find themselves pressured into a first strike,
“before the other guy does it.” With even a few ballistic submarines
at its disposal, Russia would be able to inflict catastrophic damage
to the United States. We should not pretend that in 2009 or 2010,
we would survive such an attack. Americans are no longer a self-sufficient
people. Without food and goods at the local Wal-Mart or minimart,
without gas at the local Racetrak, we would perish.

I, like many
readers of LRC, supported Ron Paul. I watched the videos, I donated
money to all his money bombs, I bought the
book
. I know he has recently called for his supporters to vote
for the third-party candidate of their choice. In normal times I
would agree.

But these are
not normal times.

I think it
imperative, and very possibly a matter of national survival, that
Barack Obama, and not John McCain, becomes president. Yes, it will
mean higher taxes and boondoggle social programs and yes, he has
called for more troops in Afghanistan and waffled on any number
of key issues.

But Obama,
or even Joe Biden, will be better able to act prudently in a time
of crisis and not plunge our country into a war with Putin’s Russia.
We should seek friendship with Russia, not war.

We need not
fear Moslem terrorists. But we should rightly fear an intemperate
man like John McCain, and the clueless Sarah Palin.

September
16, 2008

Charles
Davenport [send him
mail
] is a physician trapped, behind the lines, in New York.

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