A Nuclear Catharsis

by Borislav Bankov

Controlled, universal disarmament is the imperative of our time”, professes the U.S. President Eisenhower, 14 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, 3 summers later, the Cuban crisis will testify oppositely. It will accredit that rational choice sometimes prevails despite its long history of failures. The following text, drawing war images, rushes the reader into adopting own assumptions on arms’ progress and its consequences.

331 BC, 1st of October, Guagamela, modern Iraq.  Alexander glimpses at the endless Persian formations. Ideas of power and dominance have conquered his mind. He will later be granted his “Great” title but now the vast mercenary units of Darius III are approaching to test its relevance. Alexander is calm, fondling his warhorse on the head. Bucephalus is his most massive comrade with a nighblack coat and a star on his nozzle. Seconds later a bloody chaos erupts. With zero equipment beyond swords, muscles count the most. Eventually, the young Macedonian proclaims himself victorious, but it is a Pyrrhic victory.  Death has struck both camps, leaving a handful of people alive, most of them wounded. Vultures are the only winners.

1815 AD, 18th of June, Waterloo, present-day Belgium. Napoleon expects an easy victory over breakfast against the armies of the Seventh Coalition. On a cloudless day his offensive campaign may have been victorious. But it has been raining that day. His genius and the weather betray him. 75 thousand lives are forever lost. In span of two thousand years the same mayhem scenario applies. The elegance of gunpowder has replaced the merciless cold steel of swords, but there is no hesitation in using it. Humans are still immature in solving conflicts.


1945 AD, August, Japan. Science now resides at the campus of atomic breakthroughs but only to supply the annihilation of 200 thousand innocent lives in the Land of the Rising Sun. Shock and confusion follow. The world finally asks when the passion for dominance shall be silenced by the victims’ cries. But no one knows that some years down the road this question might find its answer.

1962 AD, May, Moscow. Nikita has an idea. But it happens that his last name is Khrushchev and the idea will probably become reality. So, by October, Russian missile sites are already set and breathing fumes on Cuban territory, constructed to respond to any U.S. assail. This situation heartily irritates Kennedy’s administration. Running, the Cold war might decry every other conflict in history. In fact, on October 27th, captain Savitsky of the Soviet nuclear-armed Foxtrot-class submarine B-59, believing that the war has began, gives an actual torpedo-command. But along comes Vasili Arkhipov. He will be later known as the man who saved the world. The submariner refuses the authorized lunch targeting a U.S. navy destroyer, arguably preventing a mutual mass destruction. Vasili becomes the antithesis of human immaturity. The next day, the world welcomes a morning of nuclear catharsis. Leaders appreciate what a catastrophe could have been executed. True self-consciousness begins to dominate alongside peaceful signatures. Later, in 1987, Margaret Thatcher will address the Kremlin – “a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us”. Was the Iron Lady right or wrong?

With zero technology before ages, like a child playing a dangerous game, warlords did not foresee the cost of their demands – conflicts were a definition of inhuman butchery, ordaining everyone’s doom. Then with gunpowder, warfare was reframed – men would no longer be slaughtered like animals on the battleground. An extraordinary tendency followed – as the years were elapsing, human race, parallel to the advent of technology, developed rationality. Eventually, with people realizing there are no winners around the nuclear button, the child became an adult.

Now there is still room for advance of weapons’ technology and along with it – mentality, eventually making war practically unattainable. Put some thoughts into it – if you have a weapon that is powerful enough to zilch a nation and the enemy is equally equipped, there is no rational point in warfare anymore since you will virtually self-destroy. And this is the end of war as we know it. However, threat always streams from the destrudo – the destructive impulse, crafted deeply in men and wrong hands can break the consciousness-pattern. Let’s hope mature altruism will ultimately prevail. Still, the most plausible scenario is that humans will never completely discount their destrudo as it is simply innate in their DNA. However, they might focus their anger elsewhere?

2118 AD, 31st of July, Quadrant 417T. Alexander glimpses at the endless rival formations. Ideas of power and dominance have conquered his mind. The general commands a forward-strike and his rocket-spaceship rushes into the cosmic battle against an alien enemy. Meanwhile, tranquility reigns on planet Earth.

Borislav Bankov

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