BOSTON (CBS) – Did you have trouble sleeping last night? Was it because you saw the news about the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moving their famous doomsday clock from three to two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the closest it’s been to the hour of nuclear annihilation since 1953?
The group says it made the move because of the growing threat of climate change and the inauguration of President Trump, who’s fond of saber-rattling comments like this tweet last month, saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”
I understand why all this might worry you, and history shows us you can’t go wrong underestimating the judgment of political leaders. But let me try to reassure you as best I can.
The global arsenal of nuclear weapons was about 70,000 in 1986. Since then, it has dropped sharply, to less than 15,000. Yes, it doesn’t take many of these awful weapons to do horrific damage, but the trend since the Cold War has been toward disarmament and a consensus among nations against ever using them.
What about some terrorist group without any self-restraint getting a hold of one? Scary, but it hasn’t happened yet, and most if not all governments have a stake in making sure they don’t.
And what about Trump? His critics can’t have it both ways. If he’s a self-serving narcissist intent on promoting his business interests and winning broad approval, initiating nuclear war doesn’t seem to be in his interests. And solid types like Defense Secretary Mattis are there to make sure.
So be happy, don’t worry – or at least, don’t worry too much.