The potential that Vladimir Putin could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine must be taken extremely seriously.
If things go wrong, we will look back upon this period as a parallel to early July 1914. At that time, European civilization seemed safe, prosperous, and on a path of improvement.
A few short weeks later, the convulsion of World War I began. In its aftermath, European civilization was shattered, and the Russian, Austria-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires were gone. The loss of life in World War I was so great that British and French societies never recovered their elan and confidence. The devastation was so great in Russia that the stage was set for the Bolshevik Revolution and the 74-year dictatorship of communism. It echoes to this day in Mr. Putin’s Russia.
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It is sometimes hard, almost impossible, in a peaceful, prosperous environment to imagine the savagery and pain of a catastrophic war. Every American who is in doubt about how serious the potential of nuclear war is should read “Tomorrow!” by Philip Wylie. First published in 1954, it is the story of the human cost of a nuclear weapon going off in a Midwestern American city. It is vivid and horrifying.
I first read Wylie’s extraordinary novel when my dad was stationed at Fort Riley. It was easy to imagine that Wylie was describing the death of Kansas City, 132 miles to our east. After all, Wylie describes two fictional Midwestern cities next to each other, and the combination of Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri would have fit the bill.