While it may be a perfectly human thing to wish to put such substantial threats out of mind from time to time, it is odd that, as Mark Steyn notes, we magnified the threat when nuclear weapons were in the hands of only relatively sane nations and ridiculously minimize it when they are about to be in the control of true lunatics.
Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute had a grim piece in The Wall Street Journal the other day positing an Iranian-directed freighter somewhere off America's shores capable of firing a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile that explodes in space over Chicago:
Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans. [snip]
If Brian Kennedy were to switch it from an Iranian freighter to an Iranian freighter secretly controlled by a Halliburton subsidiary, he might have a scenario he could pitch to Paramount . But he's got a tougher job pitching it to America . This is the Katrina nation: Our inclination is to ignore the warnings, wait for it to happen, and then blame the government for not doing more. That last part will prove a little more difficult after an EMP attack. I doubt there'll be a blue-ribbon EMP Commission for Lee Hamilton to serve on, or much of a mass media for him to be interviewed by Larry King and Diane Sawyer on. "An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor ," writes Mr Kennedy. "Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World."
Are there really people out there who want to do that? End the entire Free World? The very term sounds faintly cobwebbed. When nukes were confined to five reasonably sane great powers, the left couldn't get enough of Armageddon: There were movies, novels, plays, even children's books about the day after, and the long nuclear winter. When it was crazies like Reagan and Thatcher with their fingers on the buttons, the liberal imagination feasted on imminent nuclear immolation. Now it's Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il and who knows who else with their fingers on the buttons, and nobody cares: What's the big deal?