10 august 2015, still living in the nuclear shadow

Savagery is sometimes in the eye of the beholder: a few beheadings make islamic state devils of barbarity while hundreds in saudi arabia don't quite have the same effect. 70 years after hiroshima and nagasaki, it is worth reflecting that war makes many do rather strange things: each american bomb incinerated about 70, 000 people, killing hundreds of thousands more in the years after. Japan's prime-minister thoughtfully called at the anniversary for nuclear disarmament, but once learned a thing cannot be unlearned and post-war history has shown the battle to be not for reduction but to slow proliferation. It is no co-incidence that the united nations' "permanent 5" members who can veto anything are the world's 5 nuclear states. Their absolute non-commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty's commitment to disarmament actually disarms the foundations of this important piece of international architecture upon which containment efforts are built. Whilst iran's march, for now, has been halted and efforts continue with north korea, india and israel's nuclear weapons are accepted and pakistan's are not far behind. Beheadings or not, saudi arabia along with turkey, japan, south africa, australia and others all have the wherewithal for a mass nuclear breakout within a decade should circumstances dictate the need. That would be a calamitously different world to the one we live in. Perhaps less so than a decade ago, but born of a western generation weaned on prosperity and smiling with the hopefulness of the baby boom rather than the millions of ww2 corpses, we remain a society rather complacent in believing this an era of manageable small wars in which global conflict is unthinkable.