Last week the Doomsday Clock moved one minute closer to midnight. Time now, 11:55 PM. Five minutes to doomsday. This symbolic timepiece was conceived to reflect nuclear danger in 1947. Originally set at 11:53 PM, since then it has limped along through 20 changes. In the last few years, the original concept has fizzled into uselessness.
The most blatant limping began on the evening of October 22, 1962 when President Kennedy came on TV and announced that the Soviet Union had installed missile sites capable of delivering nuclear warheads on the United States. Construction of sites was also underway for delivery as far north as Hudson Bay and as far south as Peru. The U.S. proposed that 1) ‘All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back’ and 2) ‘It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.’
The height of the Cuban Crisis lasted until October 26 when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the nuclear missiles from Cuba. During that time, flights of U.S. bombers armed with nuclear weapons circled the island of Cuba 24 hours a day with more than enough firepower to obliterate the island. The Doomsday Clock prior to the crisis was set at 11:53 PM. On January 7th, 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union officially announced to the United Nations that the crisis was over. During those two and a half months, what movements did the hands of the Doomsday Clock make? Absolutely none at all. The hands remained locked on 11:53 PM.
Yet here we are today with the hands at 11:55 PM. On October 22 fifty years ago, the world was potentially minutes away in real time, not in measurement by a figurative clock, from nuclear destruction. Now, based on the Doomsday Clock, humanity is expected to believe that the danger is even greater? Adherents of the clock point out that it now includes other issues, too, i.e. global warming. Based on even dire predictions of global warming, Armageddon is decades away. Consequently, the clock has become not only useless, but misleading. Compared to what the world faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the addition of global warming to the mix should be adding hours of reprieve to the Doomsday Clock.