Decades ago, nuclear safety drills were common practice throughout the United States.  “Duck and cover” taught an entire generation of Americans to fear the possibility of a death by nuclear weapon, and potentially with good reason, as the United States and Soviet Union raced one another to produce ever larger stockpiles of the most powerful weapons ever created by man.  While the drills themselves likely wouldn’t have dramatically increased survival rates if a nuke were to detonate nearby, the experiences informed Americans who would one day grow up and take the reigns of their country – Americans who now find themselves in positions of authority in both the private and public sectors.

Perhaps it’s because of those years of fear that the United States now has a broad missile defense network composed of two primary schools of thought, and why today’s children don’t have to spend any of their day cowering beneath a desk.  Although the number of nuclear weapons in the world hasn’t decreased by much (if at all), and the number of nations that possess them has grown, we’ve come to expect our government and military to provide us with an invisible but capable shield, meant to deter a potential aggressor from ever pushing the button, then, god willing, we expect an inbound missile to be stopped before it reaches U.S. soil, were it ever to come to that.

Therein lies the two methodologies employed by the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent a nuke from ever reaching those American school children: the first is mutually assured destruction, the second is the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD.

Mutually assured destruction is nothing but a fancy way of saying that launching nuclear weapons at the United States will result in us raining hellfire back down on your nation as well.  The way the words roll off the tongue does little to betray the playground psychology employed in its design – but the logic holds none the less.  Mutually assured destruction has successfully held the world’s other superpowers at bay from using their own nuclear weapons since their inception, and likely will continue to serve as our primary means of nuclear defense against nations like Russia for some time to come.