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World War IIIPosted Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 1:41 AM
In the 1964 cold-war movie classic DR. STRANGELOVE, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) was a bit paranoid about the fluoridation of drinking water.
"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids," he declared, after ordering a squadron of B-52s on a surprise nuclear strike of the Soviet Union, triggering World War III.
In January of 1995, World War III broke out -- almost.
The country of Norway was planning to launch a communications satellite. Since the path of the rocket would violate Russian air space, the Norwegian authorities notified the Russian authorities of their intentions and obtained permission for the launch.
Unfortunately, the Russian authorities neglected to notify the Russian military.
When Russian radar technicians noticed an unidentified flying object, which looked exactly like an incoming Trident missile that had been launched from a US submarine off the coast of Norway, they got a bit excited.
Russia went into a full alert -- arming nuclear missiles, opening silo doors and started a ten-minute countdown.
Boris Yeltsin, the erratic leader of Russia, known for his fondness of vodka and propensity for dubious behavior, was handed the nuclear briefcase. He was apparently sober enough to unlock the container and enter launch codes.
All systems were go as the countdown continued.
With approximately two minutes to go, some enterprising Russian military officer made a couple of phone calls and figured out what was going on. World War III was shut back down, for the time being anyway.
It was an amazing moment in the history of the world, yet didn't get much press coverage at the time. Apparently, there were more interesting current events to be reported that day, such as the latest peccadilloes of our own erratic leader, William Jefferson Clinton, known for his fondness of anything wearing a skirt and his propensity for dubious behavior.
As incredible as it seems in hindsight, the survival of the planet Earth was in the hands of Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton.
Somehow, I would've been more comfortable if the Three Stooges were also involved. There's nothing like a swat over the top of your head with a frying pan to bring a moment of enlightenment to chaos.
At the time, Russia had about 5,000 inter-continental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and the United States had somewhere around 7,000 of them. This is not a situation meant to help us sleep well at night.
MAD is an acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction. This basically means that if Russia chooses to blow us back to the Stone Age, all they have to do is push a button. As we watch the incoming weapons of mass destruction heading our way, we will push our button and blow them back to the Stone Age in return.
MAD is the strategy cooked up by our respective governments to prevent war between us. The geniuses who came up with this brilliant scheme should be locked in a padded cell in the basement of the Mayo Clinic until their brains can be examined, removed, fumigated and replaced with Intel chips.
We live in a dangerous world these days. Russia appears to be as belligerent as ever and continues to bully its neighbors.
Many of those in other corners of the world who view our country as evil wouldn't hesitate to take their own lives, as well as the lives of millions of innocent people, in their zeal to destroy us. If they could find a way to trigger MAD, they would surely do so.
Plus, additional countries will eventually have nuclear capabilities. To have a Mutually Assured Destruction posture with certain radical countries would deem the launching of nuclear weapons an inevitability.
As long as we seem to be trapped into spending zillions of dollars on a military budget, perhaps we should put some of it toward a strategy of destroying incoming missiles rather than simply aiming thousands of missiles at others.
Blowing the other guy to smithereens doesn't do much good if the other guy gets off the first shot and there is no defense against it.
Of course, the ultimate solution is to have Peace on Earth, goodwill toward others and live happily ever after. But somehow that doesn't seem too likely in the near future as long as people kill others in the name of religion and there's a profit to be made by manufacturing the tools of war.
War is the byproduct of human fear and greed. There are those who yearn to fight and those who yearn to profit from conflict. And those who yearn for Peace on Earth are caught in the crossfire.
On the positive side, World Wars will probably end at III.
Quote for the Day -- "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.