South Korea North Korea Nuclear (copy)

A TV screen shows a file footage of the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.

The Progressive magazine has been warning us ever since the advent of the Cold War some 70 years ago just how close we are to the precipice of a nuclear war.

You'd think that, knowing just what a nuclear war would mean to civilization — and the devastation it would cause to humanity and the planet itself  — the world's powers would have come up with a way to end this incredible threat.

Yet, the current issue of the Progressive (June/July) lets us know that we are closer to nuclear war than we have ever been.

That's what Ira Hefland, past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, writes in an issue that reminds us not to take our eye off the dangers that nuclear weapons possess.

Hefland quotes William Perry, President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense, who told a Washington, D.C., audience early in the Trump administration that "the likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War.

"Today, inexplicably to me, we are recreating the geopolitical hostility of the Cold War and we are rebuilding the nuclear dangers of the Cold War," Perry added. "We are doing this without any serious public discussion, or any real understanding of the consequences of these actions: We are sleepwalking into a new Cold War, and there is as very real danger we will blunder into a nuclear war."

Helfand's piece underscores what Perry warned, and goes on to list seven possible pathways to nuclear war, including the U.S. and Russia, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and North Korea, South Asia (particularly India and Pakistan), climate change, cyber terrorism and, lastly, what he describes as the "Trump factor."

"This is not a partisan comment," he says of President Donald Trump. "Concern about his control over a nuclear arsenal is shared by members of his own party."

The Progressive itself highlights seven incidents since November 1956 that nearly launched nukes, ranging from computer malfunctions to a misreading of radar images that seemed to signal an attack.

Helfand believes that countries need to articulate a clear strategy to eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us, starting with the U.S. making it clear through a "No First Use" policy that it will not initiate nuclear war.

We also need to end the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch an attack, and we need to take our nukes off "hair-trigger" alert, which, he insists, exposes them to cyber attack and accidents.

And, we need to cancel current plans to replace our already huge nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons, a move solidly endorsed by Trump.

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The simple truth is that we're no more safe from nuclear war than we were before the end of the Cold War, and adding countries like North Korea and Iran to the "nuclear family" makes it even worse.

Thanks to the Progressive for reminding us that we must work harder to eliminate this threat.

As Martin Fleck, program director for Physicians for Social Responsibility, also wrote in the magazine's issue:

"Here's the thing to remember: If the missiles take flight, we'll all become peace activists. But it will be too late."

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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