Paul Greenberg

This is the nature of the world in which we live. The phrase has been echoing in my mind since news came of Benazir Bhutto's assassination - news that shocked but did not surprise. It wasn't just that the news might have been expected, it was expected. All understood the danger. It was often cited. It just wasn't dealt with. The world just hoped for the best, and did not prepare for the worst. All acted as if nothing could be done, and sure enough nothing was.

This is the nature of the world in which we live: A country like Pakistan, which was once of little strategic consequence in the Great Game of Nations, has become a nuclear power - an increasingly unstable nuclear power. All recognize the gathering danger. It is regularly cited. But all act as if nothing can be done except hope for the best, and the worst awaits. As the fate of Benazir Bhutto so poignantly demonstrates.

This is the nature of the nuclearized world in which we live: It's not so much the number of countries who've managed to acquire their own Bomb that worries, but which ones. There are those leaders for whom a nuclear weapon is a deterrent, and others for whom it is something more, dangerously more.

Who's really worried about the British or French having the Bomb? Or the Chinese? Or even the Israelis? But a nuke in the hands of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or one that falls into the hands of a terrorist gang like al-Qaida as Pakistan falls apart; that's worrisome.

For once fanatics get their hands on a nuclear weapon, they'll use it, else they wouldn't be fanatics. To some a nuclear Armageddon isn't a calamity to be avoided but a consummation devoutly to be wished - and brought about. That's the nature of the ideologized world in which we live in.

Just worrying about such a danger won't help. It won't do to just wring our hands. Or deliver solemn speeches. That's not a solution; it may be the biggest part of the problem. For that, too, is the nature of the world in which we live: Procrastination always beckons, action is so much easier to delegate than to take - which means no one may ever take it. And one day we wake up to see flaming skyscrapers. Or a political figure who was a key to her country's hopes of stability struck down, and not just Pakistan but the world shakes.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.