99 Red Balloons: A Possibility Today

What do Gilmore Girls, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Wedding Crashers have in common? Besides clichè romantic tropes, 90’s humor, and iconic hair, all these films feature the song 99 Red Balloons by the artist Nena about an impending, accidental nuclear strike. Apart from a catchy tune, what makes the song unique is its disturbing subject. It describes in detail 99 red balloons being released into the air by friends, and appearing on a radar system as unidentified objects. Meanwhile, both sides of a war scramble over what to do over what they perceive as a nuclear attack.  

Though not based upon a true story, the overarching idea of the song provides insightful commentary on the dangers of nuclear weapons. The most childlike of items, in this case red balloons, could have triggered a nuclear strike and, eventually, the end of life as we know it. Though weapons radars have certainly improved since 1983, the ability to launch a nuclear strike on an improperly informed whim hasn’t. Under current laws, the President of the United States can launch nuclear weapons anytime, without anyone else’s approval. 

A false alarm could still happen today, and because of it our President could launch nuclear weapons and decimate the planet. What can we do to change this? Implement a No First Use policy! 

Under No First Use, which was reintroduced to Congress this year, a law would be established to prevent the United States (the President), from using nuclear weapons first. This would make Americans and the whole world safer. Risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding would be reduced, risk of malicious intent or an unstable President would be reduced, and the United States’ ability to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack would be preserved. 

Though the threat of balloons instigating a nuclear war may be far off and nearly impossible, the ability of our President to make a split-second decision that changes the course of all lives on earth is frighteningly prominent. There is little predictability to our future, and simply too much is at stake to leave such absolute, virtually unconditional power to one individual. 

It’s time for the world to progress past the world of the 1983 “99 Red Balloons” panic and into a stable, safe era. Call on your representatives to pass No First Use!