cartoonish red turtle smiles near the words "duck and cover" in large print
The pamphlet "Duck and Cover," a Cold War nuclear safety guide for children, was produced by the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1951.

Duck-and-cover? Didn’t work then, won’t work now

The potential for nuclear war between North Korea and the United States is in the news this week, with inflammatory rhetoric on both sides.

On Aug. 8, President Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never known.” The next day, after a weekend of testing its intercontinental ballistic missiles, which experts say can be outfitted to carry nuclear devices, North Korea threatened to attack Guam, a U.S. territory that is home to Andersen Air Force Base.

It’s the Cold War all over again. But with North Korea run by a seemingly insane dictator, who routinely makes such threats against the U.S. and other Western nations, and with Trump’s reckless bellicosity, the situation has a new and sickening aspect.

Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un are not unalike. Both indulge in pathological self-infatuation and make over-the-top threats they don’t intend to carry out. A U.S. president making threats about nuclear annihilation, however, is different. It has the potential to upend life around the world.

That’s why we were appalled to read today in the San Francisco Chronicle an article titled, “Can SF plan for surviving a North Korean nuclear strike?” The article invokes long-buried terms such as “duck-and-cover” drills. It quotes city and federal officials, who recommend planning for a nuclear emergency and how to recover from it.

In sum, it treats the threat of nuclear war as a reasonable topic of discussion.

Forget it. There is no recovery. The bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were toys compared to today’s thermonuclear weapons.

History showed that the Cold War notion of mutually assured destruction proved effective in keeping the peace. That was because the United States and the Soviet Union established policies and procedures to ensure nukes would never be used.

This is Israel’s approach to its “secret” nuclear arsenal. It is meant as a deterrent, and nothing more.

Inevitably, bad actors have gotten the bomb. With Pakistan, North Korea and, potentially, Iran, in the nuclear club, the risks of nuclear conflict have risen steadily. And it doesn’t help matters when Trump decides to play cowboy.

The events of this week remind us of a fake poster that circulated in the 1970s. Mimicking a Civil Defense guide, it lists instructions for what to do in case of a nuclear attack: stay clear of windows, bend over, place your head between your legs. And finally: “Kiss your ass goodbye.”

This is not a rational guide to foreign policy.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.