Thursday, October 01, 2015

11 instances where Nuclear Deterrence nearly led to Nuclear War

Trident - actual photo
The nuclear weapons debate is starting up again. We had it in the 1950s, in the 1970s and again now.
It will be confused, confusing, and deeply polarised.

In essence, though, the debate hinges on two questions:
1) Can the present human civilisation survive a nuclear war?
2) Is deterrence infallible?

The answers to these questions are No, and No.

For (1), go to Mills et al., summarised here.

For (2), this post is a summary of some of the nuclear near-misses that we have survived.
(Or, you can read this book  - Command and Control by Eric Schlosser)

He are the instances where we have come close to ending it all:

  1. 1960 5 October: attack readiness as computer mistakes rising moon for incoming missiles.
  2. 1961 24 November: High alert as communications are lost with 3 NORAD  stations. Found to be an electrical fault in a common pathway.
  3. Cuban Missile crisis. 1962: Soviets plan to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. After a very tense situation, during which Castro, the Cuban leader suggested that the Russians should launch a nuclear attack on the USA, negotiations managed to reach a peaceful conclusion.
  4. During (3), in 1962 Oct 27, a US U2 spy plane accidentally breaches Soviet airspace. US fighter planes carrying nuclear tipped missiles are sent to protect the U2.
  5. 1962 Oct 27, a Soviet B59 submarine was depth charged by a US ship. The sub captain ordered his nuclear missile to be fired, His second in command Vasily Arkhipov, dissuaded him.

    Either (4) or  (5) happening at the same time as (3) could have caused a war. Luckily the US President, Kennedy, was intelligent. If it had been Reagan, George W Bush of Donald Trump in charge, the outcome might have been different.
  6. 1979 during Arab-Israeli war, a technician accidentally sets off an alarm at Kinchloe, USA. Nuclear bombers are readied for take-off.
  7. 1979, 9 November, NORAD early warning computers signalled an incoming missile attack from the Soviets. Interceptor fighter jets, and the President's war plane, were scrambled. It was found to be a false alarm due to a technician running a practice program.
  8. 1980, 3 June, a failing computer chip warned of 2000 incoming Soviet missiles. US nuclear systems went on high alert until it was realised that radar gave no confirmation.
  9. 1983 Sept 26 Stanislav Petrov, duty officer in a nuclear war early warning centre found his system warning of five US missiles being launched. He judged that it was a false alarm, and it was later found that it was due to sunlight on clouds. Stanislav Petrov is a total hero.
  10. 1983 November a highly realistic war game exercise called  Able Archer 83 was carried out in Europe. The Soviets put their nuclear defences on high alert during the exercise, unsure if it was real or not.
  11. 1995 25 January, Soviet defences detected a rocket identical to a Trident missile coming from Norway. Boris Yeltsin called for his nuclear button to be made available. Watchers realised that it was not on course for the USSR. It turned out to be a NASA rocket to study the Aurora Borealis. Warning had been given to the Soviets, but it had not been passed up the chain of command quickly enough.

    Most of these events are to be found here.
There may well be others, but these 11 instances should be enough to convince any reasonable person that all it takes is a for another clusterfuck  of technological gremlins to occur at a time of intense political tension for the holocaust order to be given by one nuclear armed leader. All the rest will follow.

Deterrence is not infallible.
It follows that we must rid the Earth of these WMDs.

This is possible, given the political will, and it is up to us, the people, to create that will, working with wise politicians to overcome the denial and intellectual laziness that operates in so many politicians and commentators.

See also Prof Marianne Frankenhaeuser, Nuclear War by Mistake?

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