During the so-called Cold War between the Evil Soviet Empire and the “Free World” (America and its allies, which included such bastions of liberty as Franco’s fascist Spain, the apartheid regime of South Africa and the military dictatorship of Greece), the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear conflagration was very real.

Anyone who experienced the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 can attest to that. Moreover, every school child at the time was familiar with the teacher’s order to take cover, as if hiding beneath a school desk could afford protection against a hydrogen bomb.

But now that the Soviet Union no longer exists, it is safe to assume that the nuclear threat is gone. Or is it? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has exponentially increased the likelihood of their use in the future. Most worrisome in that regard are two countries that possess such weapons of mass destruction: Pakistan and North Korea.

Since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, its political system has been under the control of its military, and it continues to have an autocratic form of government today in spite of the 1972 constitution adopted by a democratically elected assembly.

One reason for this is the willingness of Pakistan’s judiciary to regularly override the democratic provisions of that constitution in favor of the power elite. As powerful as the military is, however, it has been unable to stem the growing presence of the Taliban in the northwestern section of the country. It is also clear that Pakistani intelligence was well aware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in its country.All of this notwithstanding, a recent item in the news best illustrates why it is so dangerous for such an unstable nation having nuclear weapons. I refer to the arrest of Muhammad Mosa Khan and his family for conspiring to murder in that they threw stones at police officers when the latter attempted to break up a demonstration against the lack of electricity in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan.

Surely, no country in the world should allow an attack on its law enforcers to go unpunished, and therefore arresting and fingerprinting Muhammad Mosa Khan was correct police procedure. True, except for the fact that Muhammad is a nine-month-old baby! To the Pakistani court’s credit, the judge allowed him to sit on his grandfather’s lap and drink milk during the preliminary court proceedings.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but a country with a growing nuclear arsenal that arrests and fingerprints babies makes me nervous.

As ulcer-producing as a nuclear-armed Pakistan is, the land of Dennis Rodman’s friend, Kim Jong Un, is an even better advertisement for Prilosec.

North Korea, arguably the worst dictatorship in the world today, is a country in which more than 200,000 men, women and children are held in state prison camps where, according to a Huffington Post report, starvation forces desperate mothers to “cut open pregnant rats to harvest their fetuses as food for their children” and where torture and execution are the penalties for any infraction of the stringent rules.

According to an escapee of the camps, suicide would be commonplace were it not a crime for which the surviving family members are severely punished. North Korea is a country whose dictator had his uncle killed and, according to some reports, ordered that the latter’s body be fed to a pack of dogs. Still not satisfied, he then ordered seven members of his uncle’s family to be executed, including all the children and grandchildren. More recently, he had an official with previous ties to his uncle killed with a flame thrower.

But a recent decree issued by the puffy-cheeked tyrant is even better proof than all of those ghastly deeds that North Korea may one day ignite a nuclear conflagration. He ordered that every North Korean male must adopt his retro hair style.

Almost everyone will agree that Adolf Hitler was an evil monster, but while many Germans sported mustaches similar to his during his reign, they did so by choice, not edict. Fortunately, the Nazi regime did not have the bomb, so that was one less worry. That is not the case with Pakistan and North Korea. What, me worry? Hell, yes!

Don LoCicero of Allentown is an author and professor emeritus at Cedar Crest College. His blog can be found at http://www.savvymafkikker.com.