Being a divorce and child custody lawyer I hear lots of scary things from angry moms, crazy opposing counsels and wacko judges – but this past Thursday former Secretary of Defense William Perry, scared the beejeezus out of me. He served our country in various positions over the past 50 years advising both Presidents Kennedy and Clinton. He was brought to the Loews Hotel by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council to discuss the likelihood of nuclear war.
When a man who had a front row seat to the Cuban Missile Crisis sits in front of a room of 200 people and says that we have missed global thermonuclear war at least six times to his knowledge, all due to either mechanical or human error – it sends a chill through the room. On the other hand it provides hope because there was a human smart enough and leery enough of the machines to question if we should really be starting Armageddon.
Professor Perry teaches at Stanford, and he is the founder of the William J. Perry Project (http://www.wjperryproject.org/, a non-profit effort to educate the public on the current dangers of nuclear weapons. His latest book is My Journey At The Nuclear Brink.
His speech was on the current conditions that exist as risks for us to be aware of. I have often thought that Russia and China are our economic competitors, and no longer are they really likely to blow us to kingdom come, they have too much of an economic interest in us and the retaliation of our bombs would wreak havoc as well. No one is that crazy in the major powers. This is one of the great many reasons why we actually want to have more open borders and trading, the interdependency of countries is what creates a more secure world.
Not even North Korea is much of a concern according to Secretary Perry. The Korean leader is more concerned with dynasty building and legacy than he is in theoretically blowing up America. He knows that we would retaliate with utterly devastating power so it would be pointless. Additionally the Chinese are keeping Mr. Un in check, as evidenced by their recently shutting off the purchase of coal from N. Korea, which is one of the major factors that keeps their economy afloat.
We need to be concerned about the risk of an Indian/Pakistani conflict that escalates because the global effects of the soot and ash on the upper atmosphere could be devastating. A nuclear winter could cause a 3-5 degree drop in temperatures and wreak havoc on crops, which would lead to famine and then more conventional wars could break out. It’s the cascade effect that would be catastrophic to our world.
The concern of a terrorist group acquiring and using a nuclear bomb is certainly real, however Mr. Perry thinks their ability to build one on their own is limited. The likelihood that they could secure one is also limited thanks the procedural safeguards that occur when global superpowers work together to protect and secure their own nuclear inventory.
The cooperation of governments through nuclear security summits is crucial. These summits foster collaboration between the nuclear powers which makes it difficult for non-nuclear powers to acquire fissile material – the important part of a nuclear bomb.
I left the dinner with a renewed appreciation for the work that the Los Angeles World Affairs Council does. They bring leaders to our community to share their knowledge and experiences. As much as I was chilled to the bone by what Secretary Perry had to say, I was heartened to know that there are actually in place backstops and procedures that have saved us multiple times. Living in the age of President Trump, with an ever increasing concern for the dangers of the Islamic Terrorist is a scary time but if there’s one thing I have learned after 18 years in the courtrooms, it’s that knowing what the dangers are, makes it far easier to protect against them.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra