Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Must Read: Sullivan plumbs the depths early this morning. I think he's right that we're in a Churchill moment (and Churchill had many of them). It's become a cliche to say that the world has changed, and it really doesn't even cover the range of danger we're waking up to. Is it fatalistic to say, as Sully does, that a major western city has to go before the world wakes up? It's only a matter of time before a terrorist organization gets its hands on the material to make a nuclear weapon. Think about the scope of atomic history, brief though it may be. One nuclear superpower, then two, then four, then eight. And dozens more have access to the fissile material and technology. In time, technology spreads, defiant of borders, restrictions on trade, or -- in this case -- non-proliferation treaties. And when that day arrives, when a terrorist organization has access to a suitcase nuke, what target will they choose? New York, again? Boston? DC? How about London, Paris, Brussels, or Berlin? If we don't take the threat seriously, it will happen. It's likely that it will happen even if we take it seriously. Terrorist networks are designed to be loose, nebulous, difficult to track. What's the upshot here? Saddam Hussein is building weapons. He's made it clear for 20 years that a nuclear arsenal is his fervent desire. Would he use it? Of course he would. At the very least he would use the implicit threat of using it nearly as effectively as the very bomb itself. Next: Would he share it, proliferate it, give it to terrorists? God knows; but the real answer is: Should we be willing to wait and see?

As for our Churchill moment, it seems unfair to have to suffer it without Churchill.

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