"A Nuclear Explosion Would Cripple the U.S. Economy."
Only if Americans let it.Although former CIA chief George Tenet insists in his memoirs that one "mushroom cloud" would "destroy our economy," he never bothers to explain how the instant and tragic destruction of three square miles somewhere in the United States would lead inexorably to national economic annihilation. A nuclear explosion in, say, New York City -- as Obama so darkly invoked -- would obviously be a tremendous calamity that would roil markets and cause great economic hardship, but would it extinguish the rest of the country? Would farmers cease plowing? Would manufacturers close their assembly lines? Would all businesses, governmental structures, and community groups evaporate?
Americans are highly unlikely to react to an atomic explosion, however disastrous, by immolating themselves and their economy. In 1945, Japan weathered not only two nuclear attacks but intense nationwide conventional bombing; the horrific experience did not destroy Japan as a society or even as an economy. Nor has persistent, albeit nonnuclear, terrorism in Israel caused that state to disappear -- or to abandon democracy.
Even the notion that an act of nuclear terrorism would cause the American people to lose confidence in the government is belied by the traumatic experience of Sept. 11, 2001, when expressed confidence in America's leaders paradoxically soared. And it contradicts decades of disaster research that documents how socially responsible behavior increases under such conditions -- seen yet again in the response of those evacuating the World Trade Center on 9/11.