Nuclear Insurance

A.J. Hackett poses with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark during the launch of Hackett's autobiography, "Jump Start," at the Whitcoulls store in Auckland on Oct. 20, 2006. GETTY IMAGES/Sandra Mu

When America built the atomic bomb, Soviet leaders decided they had to have one, too, to ensure the United States would never attack them. But when the Soviets got the bomb, it made the Chinese nervous, so they built a bomb, as insurance against a Soviet attack. That caused India, one of the poorest nations in the world, to build a bomb as insurance against a Chinese attack which, of course, made India's even poorer neighbor, Pakistan, feel threatened. So Pakistan, too, bought a nuclear insurance policy.

And that is how an argument over who owns some territory along the India and Pakistan border has again brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. War, if it comes, that may leave 12 million dead, 7 million injured -- numbers that roughly equal the combined population of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

And then there's the impact on the world climate, an environment no one knows what that would be. We ask ourselves how an argument over real estate could come to this. The answer is step by step and that's always been the problem with nuclear insurance. It reduces one threat, but always creates another. America beat the Soviets in the nuclear arms race, but this new crisis reminds us the possibility of a nuclear holocaust is as real as ever.

We pay a high price for nuclear insurance.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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