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Bullies and nuclear warheads

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

In various forums (Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn and so forth), I have been reading divergent views on what to do about Putin and his nuclear arsenal. Most are deathly afraid of Putin and his bombs, and rightfully so.

Unfortunately, bullies and madmen usually don’t react to reasonable discussions. They require a punch in the nose. I believe Putin will use nuclear weapons if he cannot be satisfied any other way.

There is no open discussion in Russia. The last independent radio station has been shut down, and approximately 10,000 protesters have been arrested. Makes Cancel Culture look like a Sunday school picnic.

All the sanctions are great, at least that is a better response than Neville Chamberlain took to Hitler, but I suspect all they are doing is further agitating Putin. I can’t read his mind, but I will suggest that Putin losing face puts him in the frame of mind of the pouting bully on the schoolyard. If he can’t get his way, no one will get their way.

How did we get here? Years of being soft and kicking the can down the road. This at least started with George H.W. Bush and the fall of the Iron Curtain. He did not address the nuclear issue, and no one else has done so since. So, we are at the point that a madman is holding the world hostage. We may temporarily pass this point, but Putin won’t forget our reaction.

Which leaves him at a place down the road where he will still have his finger on the button, so to speak. He will be able to get anything he wants from anywhere he wants to get it as long as we let this incident pass as cowards.

What to do?

Well, a first strike is possible, but I doubt we have the will to do that. We don’t have the will to close the sky over Ukraine, let alone conduct a first strike. A first strike would no doubt require a long and drawn-out discussion in Congress, completely eliminating any element of surprise. Moralists, including me, would be opposed to a nuclear first strike unless we can be convinced that is the only way to save humankind on the earth.

Christians, such as me, may see this as the manifestation of the second coming (for me, this is a pretty easy conclusion to reach). So, let 'er rip.

We could start an immediate emergency plan to burrow into the ground or open up old coal mines and caves for protection and food storage. Seems like too little, too late. I also have a hard time seeing the modern world move toward such a desperate solution en masse. It would need to be started right now if we were going to be serious about it.

Plenty of people are worried. There are reports of a run on potassium iodide tablets, which can aid in keeping radiation from being absorbed into the thyroid (this does not solve the radiation problem entirely, but can help mitigate a portion of it).

Collectively, we have ourselves in a pickle. I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis as a 12-year-old. My sense of conditions now say that this is already worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Where did we fail? I think we got too comfortable, too soft, and decided we would just kick the nuclear problem down the road. It is just that the road has come to a dead end.

I think I will go watch “Dr. Strangelove” one more time while I still can.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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