We have seen shows in which terrorists are about to detonate a dirty bomb in a major US city, but in actuality, the possibility of nuclear war bringing about the apocalypse is more like the scenario in the 80’s classic, “War Games”, where the only way to win is not to play.
“So far deterrence has worked incredibly well on a global scale of preventing conventional war and nuclear war,” said Dr. Trevor Thrall, Biodefense Director and professor of Public & International Affairs. He explained the apocalyptic thoughts are just leftover nightmares from the Cold War.
“Back then, most of the tension and fear was around accidents and the thought that perhaps the enemy had already launched a missile,” Dr. Thrall said, “but in actuality they were never that likely and are even less so now.”
The main focus of nuclear war now is the tension between Iran seeking weapons and their nuclear armed neighbor, Israel. Dr Thrall can understand where the Iranians are coming from and their desire for such a weapon.
“No nation has with nuclear capabilities has ever been invaded since acquiring them and even the crazies understand what we are dealing with here: they know better than to irrationally use them,” Dr. Thrall said.
With the threat of international nuclear weapon use off the table, what about terrorist groups? Dr. Thrall dismissed this myth as well.
“First off, dirty bombs are not nukes. Second, terrorist organizations are really just too poor and small to build these weapons. They cannot afford the materials,” Dr. Thrall said.
“What we should be worried about are bio weapons: they are much more dangerous,” Dr. Thrall said. “You have people all over the world working in labs and either someone gets angry or accidently contaminates themselves and boom, you have a pandemic.” Dr Thrall says that these events are still highly unlikely, just much more likely than nuclear war.
Even if tomorrow someone were to push the button, it would not bring about the nuclear winter of science fiction. If such an event were to happen, it would most likely be only a single missile, and unless it were targeted at the D.C. area, Mason students would have nothing to fear.
If it did, Dr. Thrall suggests for you to stay in your basement with some water and wait a day or two for things to clear.
“I’ve thought about it before and there are just too many bottlenecks in the D.C. area, no one’s going to be getting anywhere,” Thrall said.