Saturday, April 17, 2010

NYTimes op-ed points out a paradox in nuclear threat today compared to Cold War era

Scott Shane has a lively op-ed in the April 15 New York Times, “Cold War Nuclear Fears Now Apply to Terrorists,” link here.

As far back as 1951, president Harry Truman was warned about the possibility of sleeper cells that could smuggle in a nuclear weapon or even radioactive material. Alfred Hitchcock made at least one film in 1946 about the threat, “Notorious”, although the enemy was neo-fascists, not communists. (The same director had made other movies like "Saboteur" and would make "Torn Curtain" and "Topaz".)  And one of my own unpublished novel drafts from 1988, called “Tribunal and Rapture”, speculated that communist sympathizers could contaminate cities and force people into a Maoist “cultural revolution” retreat to the countryside. (A 1972 version of this idea had been called “The Proles” and I was working on a handwritten manuscript of this idea as far back as 1969 in the barracks when I was in the Army. Other buddies thought it was a troubling idea, good for the movies, at least.)

Of course, now, the roles are switched. Al Qaeda brags what it would do if it had a suitcase nuke, but it doesn’t seem that close to getting one. Hopefully. It’s a lot easier to do a “good police call” on loose nuclear waste around the world than seal borders. That’s the point made by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and it’s 45 minute film “The Last Best Chance.”

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