How War Has Shaped Our Lives

Steven Gambardella
5 min readNov 5, 2020
A second sun rises in the desert of Nevada: the Redwing Apache nuclear test in July 1956. (Public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Hidden around the world are weapons that can end civilization.

These weapons are in deep sea submarines, remote airbases, desert silos and even driven around vast forests to prevent potential enemies from knowing their whereabouts.

A single ICBM — “inter-continental ballistic missile”— can rain down several nuclear warheads whose destructive power dwarfs that of the bomb that annihilated the city of Hiroshima in 1945. There are hundreds of these missiles, ready for the trigger, waiting to go.

In the western world, we have been living in what Steven Pinker called “the long peace” — the cessation of violence between the major powers since 1945. This is probably down to the apocalyptic capabilities of these hidden nuclear arsenals.

The long peace is less an embrace of harmony than a delicate balance of destructive potential. It’s with this in mind that the United States’ most potent missile was christened the “Peacekeeper”.

The nuclear powers have fixed previously elastic borders with an understanding that both parties would be annihilated in a nuclear exchange. This doctrine is known as “mutually assured destruction”, with the appropriate acronym M.A.D. The reason nuclear weapons are hidden is precisely to enable retaliation against a first strike.