Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good news isn't news.

Here's an example...

... here is wonderful news regarding the end of a military missile. Yesterday the Air Force deactivated the final Peacekeeper. Peacekeeper ICBMs, also known as the MX, carry 10 nuclear warheads. No object ever made by human hands is more horrible than a Peacekeeper, because it holds so many warheads (most ICBMs carry one to three) and because its extreme power created a risk the other side would "first-strike" in order to destroy these hellhounds in their silos. With treaties signed in Moscow by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both sides agreed to deactivate their most powerful missiles. In 2002 the United States began decommissioning Peacekeepers,while the Russian Federation began decommissioning its biggest ICBMs. Soon there will be no heavy, first-strike ICBMs left on our planet.

Meanwhile, the total number of strategic nuclear warheads continues to decline as the United States and Russia dissemble bombs and work toward a treaty requirement of no more than 2,200 per country by 2012. At the peak of the Cold War, each nation possessed about 25,000 strategic warheads. So the most dangerous piece of technology ever built just went out of existence, while in a few years, 90 percent of the world's doomsday arsenal will be gone. This is fabulous news, which is why you never hear about it...
... except in a column on NFL football.

I grew up back while the cold war was serious and during my early grammar school years the school had bomb shelter practice. We'd all go down to the cafeteria in the basement and do the drill: brace head between legs, kiss butt goodbye, etc. The thing was that the school was built into the side of a hill and one wall of the cafeteria was all glass windows, a great place to be during a nuclear attack.

Some years later as an older student I got to walk around the Kremlin and Red Square. I remember thinking: the nukes aimed at me at this very moment are American! Cool.

People are going to miss experiences like these growing up from now on.

A little while back I was at a business/social function where I got to hear a number of prominent expert types go on about how the clash of civilizations that is just beginning is fueling terrorism and inter-cultural social war into a threat more serious than the world has seen. But this is patent nonsense. No threat posed by terrorists and nothing coming out of the clash of civilizations even imaginably threatens us in any way anything like having 10,000 nukes aimed at us. The world has become a much safer place for my children than it was for me.

There is a real danger in the "only bad news is news ... only pessimism is taken as intellectually serious" phenomenon. When progress that's been made in reducing problems is disregarded, what's been done right to achieve that progress will be disregarded as well. Then we may stop doing it.