Time for a Remedial Global Nuclear War?


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Recognizing an Unconscious Collective Need for Disastrous Cathartic Experience


13 Mar 2023 – Global society is faced with a strange situation. Many warn frequently and authoritatively of the immediate dangers of nuclear war — with the possibility of its escalation to the destruction of all life on Earth as it is currently known. Many call frequently, if not vigorously, for the peaceful resolution of differences so as to achieve peace globally. Those associated in any way with the military are however especially focused on anticipation of future conflict and the use of nuclear weapons at their disposal — especially with the possibility of developing their destructive capacity even further.

Crisis of crises: In this context it is increasingly evident that global governance is stretched to an ever higher degree in its response to crises and the irreconcilable differences which exacerbate them. Various forms of collapse are foreseen with little capacity to reduce their probability. These include environmental collapse, food system collapse, health system collapse, infrastructure collapse, financial system collapse, collapse of law and order, and the like.

Problems critical to systemic collapse and a “crisis of crises” have long been recognized, most notably dating from the influential Club of Rome report on Limits to Growth (1972). Symptomatic of the evolving strategic disarray, are insights explicitly excluded from that articulation, as presented by Hasan Ozbekhan (The Predicament of Mankind, 1976), and later reviewed systemically as 24 “continuous critical problems” by Alexander Christakis (Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind Prospectus of the Club of Rome, 2004). Both authors resigned from the Club. The complex of issues has since been loosely reframed in terms of “wicked problems” (Keith Grint, Wicked problems in the Age of Uncertainty, Human Relations, 75, 2022, 8).

Far more controversial is the recognition of any root cause of the complex of problems, as by Paul Ehrlich: All of the interconnected problems are caused in part by overpopulation, in part by overconsumption by the already rich.  One would think that most educated people now understand that the larger the size of a human population, ceteris paribus, the more destructive its impact on the environment (Overpopulation and the Collapse of Civilization, Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere 5 November 2013).

Careful negligence: One response is to ignore the role of overpopulation, the increasing fragility of global society, and expert recognition of its vulnerabilities. Many are content to rely optimistically on hope and the voices of the hope-mongers — ignoring or deprecating the voices of doom-mongers. For example, the Club of Rome now optimistically frames the strategic possibility in terms of five “extraordinary turnarounds to save the world” (Sandrine Dixson-Declève, et al, Earth for All – A Survival Guide for Humanity, 2022). This naively ignores the continuing global strategic disarray and the improbability of effective consensus (The Consensus Delusion, 2011). Some focus optimistically on a technological “fix” — possibly enabled by artificial intelligence — on the assumption that human ingenuity will necessarily prevail. Many may cultivate prayer — and anticipation of a saviour prophesied for the “end times” in their preferred scriptures.

For those anticipating the possibility of nuclear war, there is a well-cultivated assumption that destruction will be primarily and “hygienically” inflicted on opposing forces. For those claiming a higher order of responsibility, the scope of such damage may be held to be limited through emphasis on “surgical strikes” by tactical nuclear weapons designed to that end — despite indications to the contrary (Ellen Ioanes and Dave Mosher, A terrifying animation shows how ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon could trigger a US-Russia war that kills 34 million people in 5 hours, Business Insider, 15 October 2022).

Experiential disconnect: There is however relatively limited recognition of how damage will be experienced and handled as a result of successful strikes by opposing parties. As the most heavily armed country, for example, the USA has no recent experience of damage caused by war on the home front. However many natural disasters there increasingly offer a personal taste for some.

Missing too is the recognition that the capacity of nuclear weapons of mass destruction may be unpredictably supplemented by use of other weapons — possibly by those with no access to the nuclear variety. The potential effects of biochemical warfare have however become clearer as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, The possibility of weaponisation of weather modification is acknowledged to some degree in relation to disasters attributed to climate change — with the role of HAARP cited by conspiracy theorists, extending to provocation of earthquakes. Relatively little is said of the effects on vital information networks of a nuclear electrical magnetic pulse (EMP).

Curiously it is the media and the infotainment industry which have cultivated a remarkable degree of popular comprehension of global disaster, its personal implications, and its wider social consequences. With respect to this argument, the point to be emphasized is that such presentations as entertainment can be understood as designed (consciously or unconsciously) to evoke widespread popular appeal — and are typically highly successful in doing so. The intimate relationship between Hollywood and the Pentagon has been recognized as the military-entertainment complex. Irrespective of the degree to which it is deprecated, the attractive power of interpersonal violence in the media and in esports is only too evident — echoing the violence of blood sports. It could be argued that society grooms itself to anticipate violence as a natural remedial process to be vicariously relished and glorified, notably through the suffering of others (Schadenfreude).

Remedial possibility: In this context it is then appropriate to ask the highly controversial question: would many welcome the cathartic experience of global nuclear war — again, whether consciously or unconsciously? Those doing so consciously may assume that it would resolve the challenges posed by their declared enemies — possibly framed as the embodiment of evil. This assumption includes the sense that it is the others who would suffer most — rightly and deservedly so. As in any fight, a degree of pain is deemed acceptable and honourable, if the other can be defeated — if not eliminated (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? 2014). For those doing so unconsciously, religious narratives suggest that such disastrous conflict — however tragically deplorable — would be remedial, enabling a “renaissance”, and that a fruitful peace would finally prevail thereafter. Ironically “nuclear” then invites pronunciation as “new clear”?

The question here is how best to come to grips with society’s seemingly fundamental desire for such archetypal “end times” conflict. Is there a case for a more radical reassessment of the seemingly ineffectual strategic optimism, pessimism and tokenism which now prevail? Psychotherapy benefitted to a degree from the controversial perspective of James Hillman and Michael Ventura (We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy — And the World’s Getting Worse, 1992). Is there a case for a strategic counterpart: We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Strategic Analysis — And the World’s Getting Worse ? A remedial global nuclear war might then be a paradoxical possibility meriting consideration — as the effective use of “weapons of mass destruction” in lieu of the ineffectual use of “weapons of mass distraction”.

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