On September 13, 1988, Carl Sagan delivered a speech titled “Thoughts on the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.” His main argument is that weapons have advanced to such an extreme that those involved in the conflict are no longer the only casualties. When leaders of countries point weapons at one another, the citizens will be the ones who truly suffer. And while we think we’re being careful, accidents can happen.
And then I read this passage:
This is the century of Hitler and Stalin, evidence–if any were needed–that madmen can seize the reins of power of modern industrial states. If we are content in a world with nearly sixty thousand nuclear weapons, we are betting our lives on the proposition that no present or future leaders, military or civilian–of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and whatever other nuclear powers there will be–will ever stray from the strictest standards of prudence. We are gambling on their sanity and sobriety even in times of great personal and national crisis, all of them, for times to come. I say this is asking too much of us. Because we make mistakes. We kill our own.
I wonder what Mr. Sagan would say today.