Let me start by saying that I enjoy reading Slate Magazine. It's filled with snarkiness, topical trendiness, and a sufficiently off-kilter view of the world that it's a refreshing change from most offline magazines.

They screwed up BIG on one part of this story on WW III.
World War III broke out. Not the thing itself, obviously, but the concept, the memory, the nightmare, which had been buried in the basement of our cultural consciousness since the end of the Cold War. The beast suddenly broke out of the basement and it's in our face again. The return of the repressed.

There was George Bush's Oct. 17 warning that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III," you ought to worry about the prospect of Iranian nukes. Many found the phrase jolting, coming out of the blue. First, because it had not been in widespread use, certainly not from a White House podium, and second because "World War III" generally connotes a global nuclear war, while Bush was speaking about regional scenarios involving Iran and Israel. Why the sudden rhetorical escalation?
The problem isn't the "rhetoric", the problem is that - in actuality - WW III is already here. It just isn't nuclear - yet.

That omission isn't for lack of trying. Ukranian wiseguys are peddling radioactive materials 'round the world. About every other month, a small story (which is buried DEEP in the MSM) surfaces about a plot to acquire fissionable material. Usually, the villains are Muslims that religion which CANNOT be named.

Other parts of the story are dead-on accurate.
I hate to say it this way, but if nuclear arms are outlawed, only outlaws will have nuclear arms. Even gun-control advocates, and I am one, don't believe that the abolition of all guns is possible or necessarily desirable. An outlaw with a gun can rob a gas station. If nukes are outlawed, an outlaw with nukes can rule or destroy the world, or blackmail it at the very least. Do we want a world where the only nondisarmed nuclear power is al-Qaida? What's to prevent such an outcome in the abolitionist scheme?
In other words, don't disarm the lamb because the lion expresses a desire to lay down with him.
But the real danger is not "unauthorized" launches but unwelcome "authorized" ones. The real worry is what happens when Musharraf falls, which seems at least a good possibility. What happens if the authority to authorize a launch falls into the hands of either al-Qaida-sympathizer elements in the military and intelligence service or, worst case, al-Qaida itself? After all, polls in Pakistan have consistently shown Bin Laden to be more popular than Musharraf. From a cave to a nuclear control room is not an utterly unforeseeable nightmare.

I think this is the urgent debate question that should be posed to both parties' candidates. What happens if Pakistan falls into the hands of al-Qaida-inclined elements? What happens if Musharraf hands over the launch authorization codes before he's beheaded?
Too many women have given a pass to Bhutto, because she's a woman. She has had no hesitation is allying herself with thugs before. Why should things be different now?

Look, I think Bush has mismanaged many things in foreign policy. Some of it, though, is a reasonable attempt to keep the situation from hitting the "flash point" - in chemistry, that's the point at which something bursts into flame. Below that point, the material just smolders. However, after that point, it's a full-fledged fire.

In some respects, Annapolis is a windy waste of time. OTOH, while the parties are at the table, there is an uneasy, temporary truce.

Sometimes, just keeping a lid on things for a while makes sense. You can't fight a war on every front, all at once.

And, make no mistake about it, we ARE in a war. A worldwide one.

We just haven't officially called it that.


Excellently well put, Linda. Thank you.

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