Photo/IllutrationDamascus skies erupt with surface to air missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, Syria, on April 14. (AP Photo)

American singer-songwriter Barry McGuire’s apocalyptic anthem “Eve of Destruction,” written by P.F. Sloan (1945-2015), was a seminal Vietnam War-era protest song that became a big hit in 1965, when the U.S. military was plunging into direct, full-scale involvement in the war.

“The eastern world it is exploding/ Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’”

The words apparently refer to the war that was being fought far away from home in Asia, which sent many young Americans who hadn’t even reached voting age to battlefields. There would be no time to escape should the nuclear button be pressed.

“But you tell me/ Over and over and over again my friend/ Ah, you don’t believe/ We’re on the eve of destruction”

The song echoes the zeitgeist of the era of the Cold War confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, when the fear of nuclear warfare was real and palpable.

Warning about the situation in war-torn Syria, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres reportedly said, “The Cold War is back with a vengeance.”

This may sound like an exaggeration, but the acrimonious war of words raging between Washington and Moscow over Syria seems to back the U.N. chief’s observation.

The United States, along with Britain and France, launched air strikes against Syria, accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of a chemical attack.

The United States and its European allies have also pointed an accusing finger at Russia, which is backing the Assad regime.

If inhumane weapons that inflict excruciating suffering on victims were indeed used again in the country, it is an absolute outrage.

But the military action should have been held up at least until an international organization conducted an on-site investigation into the allegations.

Amid mounting tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump fired up his usual belligerent rhetoric, tweeting, “Get ready Russia, because they (missiles) will be coming.”

History is littered with examples of a supposedly limited attack escalating into a war of a far larger scale than expected.

A recent Asahi Shimbun report on people escaping from the civil war in Syria quoted a 12-year-old girl as saying she had been thinking, “I’m going to die soon” while taking refuge underground with a blanket over her head.

What major powers should do is to help people in Syria regain their lives, not to make their plight even more wretched.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 15

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.