American Nobel Prize physicist Harold C. Urey "managed to phrase what so many Americans were feeling" at the news when he commented at the time: "There is only one thing worse than one nation having the atomic bomb--that's two nations having it" (Goldman, 1960, p. 100).
Urey might have added--though he hardly needed to--that what made the situation so bad was that the two nations in question, erstwhile allies against the Nazis, had since 1945 become increasingly bitter rivals for ideological and geopolitical influence. The rivalry had intensified by 1951, when in a speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, novelist William Faulkner articulated the view that the central fact of modern life was death and that the fact was now so commonplace that it had pushed out human-scale concerns as the subject for art:
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? (Faulkner, 1973, p. 7).
No one had to be a nuclear scientist to understand that kind of language. Scientific extermination of 6 million Jews and 6 million Gentiles, more or less, was on the historical record, which meant that the prospect of state-sponsored mass murder could not only be contemplated but also implemented. The science of atomic weaponry, which had obliterated two cities in two dark instants, now enabled contemplation of mass oblit