How will Obama and McCain relate to the Doomsday problem in the US Presidential campaign of 2008? The gloom of Armageddon might well spring from the fields of Israel to strike down the intransigent A-bomb builders of Iran during the next administration. If this happens it will be the biggest event of modern history, and if it develops into a world war it would be the end of modern history.
This scenario could have vastly greater impact upon the world than whether or not the US builds a fence along its southern border, and it should be made into a publicly debated issue. There should be some proportional coverage given by the candidates, and by the media to issues based on their gravity. Therefore, this Doomsday issue should be given top priority during this campaign, but so far it has been totally ignored. It’s an unpleasant issue that no one wants to talk about it because it is like a crazy, homicidal offspring chained, and locked in the basement which everyone fears will escape some day and wreak havoc. We act as if not talking about it will prevent it from happening even though everyone knows that doesn’t do any good, and doesn’t solve the problem, and that not facing this problem will in the long run make it worse, and even more intractable.
Perhaps if we ignore it long enough something will change or someone else will get saddled with it. It is like President Johnson is reported to have said when he left office, that handing over the Presidential Football was the happiest moment of his life. That football is the one with the Doomsday button in it—an encoded and carefully guarded button that is never more than a few seconds away from the Presidential finger. When Johnson gave The Football to Nixon he shifted the horrible Doomsday problem onto his posterity, and that transfer of power has proceeded from one presidential finger to another for many years now, but the risk although mostly ignored is still there, and the weapons are even more formidable.
There is a lot of media coverage about the extreme precision of modern US weapons, but in a major war that won’t mean much when using megaton size weapons that can’t avoid unintended damage. The usual downside of the extreme precision is that an absolute responsibility ensues for all damages done, and what used to be called acceptable collateral damage is now interpreted as intentional viciousness. This same type of responsibility, and accountability will devolve upon whomever uses these super-weapons, and whoever deploys them will be held accountable forevermore. Thus a serious question becomes, who in their right mind would want to be President of the United States or of any other major power. It entails a mountain of problems most of which don’t have solutions acceptable to everyone, and no matter what the solution chosen there will be an ocean of clever criticism from the most talented, and nastiest people in the world. Taking on the job of President converts all of their previous even personal cordial social relationships into weird cartoons of their former selves because everyone is now suspect of currying favor.
No fully sane man would want to be President when he could be like Voltaire’s Candide, and just living peacefully at home enjoying himself, and cultivating a nice vegetable garden. The primary consideration for who is elected President should be who is most likely to bring the Earth through the term of office without precipitating a Doomsday. And, which candidate realizes that no matter how moral or clever he is there is still a real chance that an accident will precipitate a Doomsday, and therefore he should support The Lifehaven project.