Pleasurable excitement ripples through the usual boredom of Washington, and the resident curiosities enjoy exquisite frissons, over the possibility of nuclear war over the Ukraine. Some official of the EU, or maybe it was the mediocrity in the White House with the truculence problem, but anyway one of the geniuses ruling the planet’s fate has said that if Russia used nukes, the Russian army would be destroyed, grrr, bowwow, woof. Exactly how it would be destroyed, the sayer didn’t say. Anyway, the threats and counterthreats swirl around the idea that a nuke war between Russia and the West might occur. Maybe, with tactical nukes in the Ukraine, about which nobody gives a rat’s nether region. The world is full of damned fools.

Parenthetically, in my days of walking the E-ring in the Pentagon, I read manuals on how to keep soldiers fighting after they had received lethal doses of radiation. They don’t die immediately and, depending on dosage, might be administered stimulants to keep them on their feet, or so the manuals said. These manuals also discussed whether these walking dead should be told that they were about to die. The authors used the evocative phrase “terrain alteration” to describe landscapes with all the trees lying on their sides, and we have all heard of “overkill.” After a nuclear war, millions would slowly die of radiation—read up on Nagasaki and Hiroshima—and burned corpses would rot in the streets, too numerous for burial by survivors with other things on their minds.

How would the next season’s crops be planted? Answer: they wouldn’t be. Where would fertilizer come from? Parts for tractors, trucks, harvesters? Making these requires functioning factories which require electricity, raw materials, and workers. If the attacker chose to hit agricultural lands with radiation-dirty cobalt bombs, these regions would be lethal for years. Nuclear planners think about these things.

Among “defense intellectuals,” there is, or was when I covered such things, insane talk of how America could “absorb” a Russian first strike and have enough missiles in reserve to destroy Russia. These people should be locked in sealed boxes and kept in abandoned coal mines.