U.S. and Russian aircraft could literally be on a collision course in Syria, as the two countries have not agreed on flight safety rules in Syrian airspace. U.S. pilots are under orders to change their flight path if a Russian plane is within 20 nautical miles, according to a CNN report.
Americans who lived through the Cold War may recall the novel Alas, Babylon, in which a worldwide nuclear conflagration resulted from an accident caused by a low-level military officer. At that time, people were knowledgeable about nuclear weapons effects, and the U.S. had a civil defense program, notes Physicians for Civil Defense president Jane M. Orient, M.D. Today, there would be millions of avoidable casualties.
What will happen if there is an accident in Syria? During the decades of Mutual Assured Destruction, nuclear-armed states were cautious about provocations, confining their interference and bombing to nonnuclear states. But now, the U.S. and Russia are at odds in Syria. Both claim to be fighting ISIS; however, aggressive Russian air attacks, plus missile attacks from warships in the Caspian Sea, are also claimed to be directed against U.S. supported “moderates” who are trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia supports Assad.
Russia is apparently seeking to replace the U.S. as the dominant force in the Middle East. And tensions are also growing outside Syria. Russian president Putin states that Moscow may boost its western forces in response to NATO’s moving troops and storing heavy equipment along the Russian border. He announced that Russia will be deploying more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.
These are very dangerous times, Orient states. Yet the presidential candidates are mostly ignoring the strategic circumstances.
GOP candidate Ben Carson emphasized the importance of understanding the geopolitical situation. That is complex and obscure to most Americans. However, the state of the vulnerability of American civilians, Orient emphasizes, is simple and undeniable. As threats grow and proliferate, the only civil defense in today’s America is self-help.
Probably the most important measure is to drop to the ground and take the best available cover if you see a bright flash. This and other information on a 60-second training card could save millions.
Physicians for Civil Defense distributes information to help to save lives in the event of war or other disaster.