As a lucky guest on the recent NR cruise, I had two options for keeping up on events: pay for Internet, which at sea often seems to be handed down from the satellite one byte at a time, perhaps by gulls running a relay; or just ignore the world entirely. The latter seemed attractive. You don’t want to be walking on a pristine beach, waves caressing the sand like a TSA employee’s green-gloved hand, and find yourself bothered by Events in Nagorno-Karabakh, or troubled by the Situation in some faraway country where everything was fine the last time The Economist gave it seven inches. But there’s no escape. Every day the staff delivered an eight-page digest of the New York Times, and one sunny afternoon the entire ship was slapped with the news that the START treaty was in danger.
One might have also wondered if contract negotiations were holding up the next series of The Dukes of Hazzard, or if Skylab was due to fall soon. The revelation that START is still starting isn’t just a peculiar reminder of the bad old bipolar world, it makes you realize that they still haven’t gotten past START to MIDDLE. (Massive Intellectual Diplomatic Diversion Loved by Editorialists, if you’re curious.) There are no END talks because no one ever believes there will be an END treaty. The U.S. and the Russians will never get together and promise to forgo nukes forever, pinky swear. We’ll always have enough to make the rubble dance, so what’s the point of these treaties?