Our opinion: A good reductionPublished 10:55am Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Even though the days and times sometimes seem dark, especially during the long winter season, there was one spark of light amidst last week’s national news: A prospective secretary of defense’s belief that the United States needs to reduce its stockpiles of nuclear weapons barely made headlines.
Anyone who lived through the Cold War years — and that was a lot of Americans, because the Cold War stretched from the end of World War II until the Berlin Wall fell in 1991 — remembers what it was like to legitimately fear nuclear Armageddon. Even those who lived in rural Minnesota could not escape the shadow of Cold War fear; Soviet nuclear strikes at missile silos in the Dakotas would have surely have showered our state with fallout borne on prevailing northwesterly winds.
In those times, the slightest hint of a nuclear weapons reduction was major news. Some would greet such proposals with joy, others with skepticism and terror. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense would, then, have caused a furor. His belief nuclear weapons stockpiles represent more of a liability than an asset in today’s global political climate has certainly attracted attention and will get more as his nomination is debated. But the level of interest in scrutiny is a tiny fraction of what it once would have been. This, it seems to us, is good news because it is a demonstration of how far the world has come from a time when nuclear destruction was a legitimate fear.
Terrorism and climate change are major issues. But neither seems to have the capacity to end the world as we know it overnight. That is progress.