For decades I was convinced the degree I received in international relations at Cambridge was basically useless. After all, the Soviet Union had fallen and relations with nations such as China seemed to have stability, if nothing else, out of mutual interests in commerce and trade. I never thought that my grandchildren might have to learn a more advanced version of the civil defense training I received in elementary school. Does anyone recall the "duck and cover" drills of the 1960s?
And while I'll still likely never make a dime directly from my time studying what I later thought to be out-of-date issues, such as tactical or strategic nuclear theory, I can certainly attest that we are swiftly returning to the days where such training will once again be quite relevant.
As a result of our nation's current foreign policy, which to be kind I call naive but which could more accurately be labeled idiotic, we are again swiftly approaching days when the threat of nuclear warfare will not only exist; it will be far more likely.
During the Cold War it was not a secret that the force that most likely kept us all from a nuclear apocalypse was the concept of mutually assured destruction. That meant, for example, that if we attacked the Soviet Union they would retaliate at an equal or greater level and the ensuing retaliations would surely destroy a great deal of civilization. That concept worked because, for all of the bad aspects of what Ronald Reagan called "the Evil Empire," there remained a desire among its leaders and their countrymen to preserve whatever life they had.
Now we enter into an era in which leaders of nations that have, or easily could have, nuclear capabilities are seemingly less focused on what former President George H. W. Bush might have termed "that preservation thing."
What brings this all home is the combination of the rise of radical Islamic terror, the Iran nuclear agreement and the recent alleged testing of ballistic missiles by Iran. What ups the ante even more is Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments that basically boil down to saying, "I'd rather not have to use nuclear weapons to put down ISIS, but they are on the table."
Putin's sobering "musings" may one day be remembered as the moment that nukes were officially put back on the table as viable weapons of war.
I wrote in my new book, "Newsvesting," that I purchased numerous defense stocks in 2014 and 2015 as I continued to dig deep into the reaction of various nations to the leaderless U.S. response to the so-called "Arab Spring" and to the Obama administration's childlike insistence on a nuclear agreement with Iran (I'm still buying defense stocks, by the way). It's been a great way to see my portfolio grow in an otherwise sideways trading stock market. The problem is, of course, what good do profits do if the whole world is marching toward doomsday?
Putin still seems the less threatening of the potential nuclear players. He comes from the old school Soviet line: Bluster, but don't press the "red button."
But Iran is a different matter altogether. The U.S. agreement, which seems riddled with holes and exceptions, and which in great part is weak and unverifiable for enforcement, has terrified other nations, Israel the most obvious among them. And with news of two alleged Iranian tests of potentially nuclear-carrying missiles, which violates at least the spirit of an 11-year-long U.N. ban on such tests, confidence in the agreement is at an all-time low.
If one needed any additional evidence of the administration's naivety, look no further than to the statements of a State Department spokesman, John Kirby, on alleged missile tests. As reported by the Associated Press, he "stressed that ballistic missile activity was not a violation of the July deal," and that the "U.S. would monitor Tehran for 'destabilizing' behavior.' "
Not too comforting from a crew that dubbed ISIS the JV team, botched Benghazi, claimed ISIS was contained and still can't spot radical Islamic terror or utter the phrase.
With world powers muttering about the use of nuclear weapons, and with the U.S. policy so profoundly out of touch, it regretfully might be time to bring those duck-and-cover drill films back into the classroom.