Iran appears to be acquiring nuclear weaponry. So far, or rather since Nagasaki, the leaders of the nuclear powers have been, just, rational enough not to use their weapons. If Middle Eastern nations acquire them, perhaps their leaders also will be so rational — indeed, I would expect so. But what if paramilitary forces get them?… the kind of people often called (and sometimes rightly) fanatics? Such people are not always deterrable in the same way as the leaders of nations, for their identities are not bound to actualities, but rather to potentialities that nuclear retaliation cannot so easily destroy.

The documented behavior of Pakistan is very alarming. No doubt the leaders of Pakistan would not like their weapons to fall, uncontrolled at any rate, into the hands of paramilitaries. The same can (probably) be said of the leaders of Iran. But both nations have diligently fostered paramilitary forces that, quite possibly, are not thoroughly under control by their masters. It is not nearly as unlikely as one would wish that nuclear weapons will never fall into the hands of people who will not and can not be deterred.

What is more, it is obvious that nuclear weapons are far from the last word in weapons of mass destruction. It is very probable that, with the continued development of science and technology, weapons of mass destruction will become easier and easier to make, to hide, and to use. At some point one imagines it possible to make them in a decently equipped university or even high school.

So, it seems that in the future paramilitary forces will be increasingly likely to acquire, and to use, true weapons of mass destruction. Each use will terrorize people into a hard reaction. Each hard reaction will embolden the terrorists and create more of them. A hard reaction that is hard enough to actually stop this cycle will first reduce to ashes nations hosting terrorists, and then set up a regime of universal spying and intimidation.

It seems we are headed for a time of harrowing, in which the paranoia that has created weapons of mass destruction either triumphs in a very repressive regime, or fanaticism has been selected out of people — either by nature, or by artifice.

I think the best we can hope for here is to deliberately breed fanaticism out of people, which will require creating a new basis for human identity that is not fixated on nation states or other such entities that have a duty to fight. I am not a pacifist. I could and would fight under some circumstances.

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