Political Science 2022

No one likes us
I don’t know why
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try
But all around
Even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one
And see what happens

Randy Newman’s 1972 song Political Science is a brilliant exercise in sarcasm and satire. The song’s narrator is an ignorant Vietnam-era hawk who sounds like a proto-Trumper. The second verse is even more OTT:

We give them money
But are they grateful
No, they’re spiteful
And they’re hateful
They don’t respect us
So let’s surprise them
We’ll drop the big one
And pulverize them

Fifty years later, there’s a lot of loose and ignorant talk about war with Russia. People are understandably angered by Russia’s revanchist attack on Ukraine.

Bombing the shit out of a given country is typically a right-wing response. Remember this ditty?

I usually brag about New Orleans musicians but not in this instance. Oy just oy.

In 2022, there are hawkish voices on the left demanding action. In part, it’s because of the Impeached Insult Comedian’s Putin love and his attempt to blackmail Zelensky during the “perfect” phone call that led to the first impeachment. I suppose I should call him the Impeached Impeached Insult Comedian, but that’s too much typing for my taste.

This hawkish response on the usually anti-war left is also driven by ignorance about a conflict between two nuclear powers. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 so people haven’t had to contemplate a nuclear holocaust since then

I’m not saying that everyone who favors a No-Fly Zone and other aggressive actions against Russian aggression thinks that MAD is only a magazine, but some seem to. MAD is, of course, an acronym for the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine. MAD was a menace, but it helped keep the peace in Europe.

Tom Nichols has written a glossary of nuclear terms for the Atlantic, which is as depressingly relevant in 2022 as it was in 1972:

When the Cold War ended, we collectively decided to stop thinking about things like nuclear strategy. So did governments; as Michael Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said in 2010: “We don’t have anybody in our military that does that anymore,” because we thought we no longer faced such Cold War dilemmas. “We were wrong,” Mullen lamented.

Now here we are again, trying to make our way around nuclear terms and concepts as war rages in the middle of Europe.

And so I’m offering a quick primer on a few key nuclear concepts. Please note that I am not predicting anything. Rather, I am hoping to reacquaint laypeople with things that I too, in my optimism, had hoped we could forget.

Nichols’ nuclear primer is a useful antidote to the instant experts online. I often complain about the amateur lawyers who pop up every time there’s a sensational legal case. We seem to be exiting the era of the amateur epidemiologists who plagued us during the COVID plague. We’re now dealing with amateur Putinologists and instant Eastern European experts. Oy just oy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a lot of talk about loose nukes and how to control them. Now we’re dealing with loose talk about war with a nuclear power. The first was constructive, the second unnerving. So much so that we need a daughter-father musical interlude:

Loose talk seems to be Polish President Andrzej Duda’s jam. He keeps chiming in with his pet strategies, which involve more aggressive action than the rest of NATO is willing to take. His loose talk about the neo-Lend Lease airplane deal led to its failure. A reminder: President Duda is a right-wing nationalist who is fixated on reducing the independence of the Polish judiciary. He’s an ally of the “enemy of my enemy” variety, not a Lech Walesa for the 21st Century.

I’m neither a pure hawk nor dove. I believe in looking before we leap into a conflict that could turn into a nuclear conflagration. War is always hell but sometimes it’s necessary. Nuclear war is hell on steroids, it should never be necessary.

The last word goes to Randy Newman:

One thought on “Political Science 2022

  1. So he’s the “I-I-I” president; I like the the double meaning for the abbreviation and pronoun. (Though he has usually expressed it as “Me-Me-Me”)

Comments are closed.