Until now, the debate on nuclear warfare has been no debate at all, insofar as divergences of opinion have represented not a polarization of viewpoints but aspects of agreement. Some of our leading thinkers have argued for unilateral disarmament as the best means of achieving peace, in the belief that such a show of good faith could not but inspire a reciprocal fair-mindedness on the part of our adversaries. Others, less idealistic, have suggested bilateral disarmament as the policy most likely to reduce the chance of nuclear war. Still others, with a darker view of man's historic tendency to exploit the weaknesses of his fellow man, have advocated augmentation of the nuclear arsenal, thinking a "big stick" more conducive to peace than a big smile. The media would have us believe that the holders of these three positions are in fundamental disagreement; and, in fact, the parties concerned seem to believe as much themselves. In reality, however, they are unanimously agreed that nuclear warfare must somehow be avoided. Theirs is but the dissenting side of a debate in which, until now, there has been no assenting opinion.
With the intention of creating debate where there has in fact been none, I would like humbly to suggest that there are indeed a number of advantages to be gained from the conduct of a full-scale nuclear war, not the least of which would be the transformation of a fantastic notion into an observable phenomenon. No longer would nuclear warfare be a subject defined by the whimsical speculations of politicians and activists. With bombs dropping, cities crumbling, and people collapsing, we would have no difficulty determining the consequences of nuclear war without the intervention of experts. And surely there could be no more convincing argument against nuclear war than the actual event.
Assuming that we found this argument unconvincing and that the threat would remain for the descendants of survivors, consider what invaluable in-the-field experience our medical men would obtain and so prepare themselves for the better treatment of future victims. In addition to providing the raw materials for research leading to improvements in post-holocaust health care, the dramatic increase in patients would also restore a more profitable ratio between doctor and clients -- now fast approaching one-to-one -- without resort to exclusionary tactics on the part of medical school admissions officers. Once again there would be a seller's market in the health care industry.
Mortuary services would likewise receive a great shot in the arm from the immediate influx of corpses and the prospect of a steady supply to be delivered on a regular schedule by the medical middlemen, who would no doubt prescribe radiation treatments for survivors of fallout.
Besides creating a boom in the morbid professions, a sharp rise in the death rate -- accompanied by an equally steep decrease in the birth rate and increase in the incidence of stillbirths, prematurities, and deformed births -- would go a long way toward correcting the ruinous effects of overpopulation. Food, fuel, and other basic necessities -- if available at all -- would be in plentiful supply. Of course, there would be a certain amount of carping on the part of Malthusians, who would be obliged to recalculate the dates of their predicted cataclysms, and a certain amount of joblessness and depression within the family planning crowd, but these well-meaning prophets and good Samaritans would just have to accept the fact that their warnings have been heeded and their goals achieved.
Even as these prophets of one sort of doom would bemoan its avoidance, prophets of another fate would revel in the accuracy of their forebodings, for the hoarding of foodstuffs and stockpiling of small arsenals within underground shelters -- practiced by survivalists for years in derision -- would prove not to have been in vain. In fact, these hardy individualists might even have the satisfaction of withholding the canned fruits of their labors from their shorter-sighted brethren and of putting a frugal amount of that ammunition to use in defense of their stashes against the Aesopian grasshoppers.
The wreckage resulting from a nuclear war would be no less beneficial than the carnage. Obliterated residential areas, devastated business districts, and impassable roads and bridges would all have to be rebuilt. As in postwar Europe, long-depressed housing and construction industries would enjoy a resurgence comparable only to what is experienced when new frontiers are opened. Technologically up-to-date models would replace antiquated manufacturing and industrial plants that might have impeded progress for generations had they been allowed to continue deteriorating. Salvage dealers would reap a bountiful harvest of rubble and scrap metal.
The wherewithal to salvage flagging careers would also be found in this wreckage by those consummate opportunists, our modern politicians. Whatever their public positions on nuclear war prior to the catastrophe, in its aftermath they would manage to be shown to have anticipated its dire consequences and warned against it. In the ensuing chaos they would manage also to be revealed as the sole possessors of a method of recovery, one which would absolve adherents of all blame for the present state of things and assure them of all credit, with a minimum of effort, for its resolution. A propitious moment for lawyers, soldiers, and intellectuals. And for these patriarchs of new lines of blueblooded philanthropists -- the profiteers and plunderers.
In the crippling of the world's two superpowers, our friends in the third world would be sure to see an opportunity to repay our kindness. Imagine with what pride in their own generosity the Latins, Africans, and Southeast Asians would extend foreign aid to the Soviet Union and the United States. With what concern for our safety would they despatch peace-keeping forces to prevent civil war between our rightists and our leftists and to protect us from the Canadian and Mexican Threats. How swiftly, upon the demonstration of our maturity, they would allow us to enjoy self-government, practiced within a framework designed by them and modeled upon their own shining examples back home. Our horizons would be immensely broadened as we learned to speak their languages, to wear their clothes, and to act and think as they do. Our youth would learn to enjoy loud monotonous music played by their teenagers and would come to accept as "the real thing" some sickly-sweet carbonated beverage of foreign concoction. In the interest of truth and freedom of the press, their foreign correspondents would descend upon us en masse to translate our experiences into ideologically sound reports to their news-hungry countrymen.
Journalists of all nationalities would be in their glory, "covering" the crisis to beat all crises. There'd be no need to resort to insinuated props, overdubbed audio tracks, and all those other little theatrical tricks conscientious newsmen are compelled to use to heighten the drama and simulate their own imperilment, thereby making our daily fare of information more exciting; for a nuclear explosion is guaranteed to be sufficiently arousing in its unenhanced state to ensure record viewership of the live newscast and of proportionately more repeat performances than were sustained by the Kennedy and Oswald assassinations and the attempt on Reagan. And surely the breakdown in negotiations precipitating the disaster could be engineered to coincide with a ratings period, so that high viewership figures could be turned to full advantage in the form of escalated prices for commercial airtime.
As engrossing as the telecasts are sure to be, actually living through the catastrophe should be even more absorbing. Conventional war, epidemics, race riots, and violent crime are all old hat. But a full-scale nuclear war -- that'd be something to tell your mutant grandchildren about. For our friends and relatives would be among the casualties, our own property might be lost or damaged, and contamination would more than likely affect all of us personally. Our offspring would not be obliged to perform exhaustive research to know that we, their forebears, "were there." Membership in the Daughters of the American Holocaust would be open to everyone.
Membership in religious congregations would be likely to increase and become more active as events compel backsliders and the uninitiated to reconsider or discover a spiritual alternative to material preoccupations deprived of their objects. The newly dispossessed, the newly powerless -- in short, the newly faithful -- might in consequence of their destitution and their impotence come to realize that strong ties to family, community, environment, and Maker are the next best thing to big cars, big houses, and a multitude of subordinates.
But perhaps the most significant effect of a nuclear war would be to bring debate on the subject, one-sided or not, to an end. For, just as the first world war began on horseback and ended in the air, so has every major military confrontation throughout history begun with weaponry and strategy substantially different from those which concluded it. A war begun with nuclear arms would no doubt be decided by lasers, chemicals, or that ultimate and most fearsome weapon, propaganda, which, in turn, would supersede nuclear arms as the subject of future debate.
In short, the effects of nuclear war are likely to be wholly beneficial, as have been the effects of all previous wars, if truth be told. Along with visits to the dentist, schooling, marriage, divorce, and tax payments, war must be ranked with those much maligned experiences in life that benefit us in direct proportion as they seem to hurt. Let us show some maturity, then; let us not wait to have what we mistakenly consider a doleful experience forced upon us; let us recognize nuclear war for what it is -- a marvelous opportunity -- and take the initiative. President Reagan, Senators and Congressmen, my fellow Americans, this is my humble suggestion: today, let's drop the bomb!