Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Almost only counts in horseshoes and nuclear war

So Kip Haggis wants us to reduce our nuclear stockpile "one by one" so to speak.
Sure.  Why not?  In fact, why push the President to do it as a matter of policy?  Just sit back and let it happen on its own, purely on accident.  Here are but a few close calls with armageddon we've had over the years just off the top of my head:

-In the 1960s, a B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland.  The plane exploded.  Had its nuclear payload likewise detonated, the resultant explosion would have knocked out our Distant Early Warning radar.  At that time, the only possible interpretation the US military could have made would have been a Soviet first strike, thus requiring our total release.  Oops.

-During the Suez Canal crisis, radar depicted a flight of over 100 Soviet warplanes headed towards Turkey.  For the US Air Force, that meant "go time."  Turns out the 100 planes were really just a flock of geese.  Oops.  

-In 1979, screens at NORAD indicated that a full-force missile strike was inbound to the US from the Soviet Union.  Our missiles went to ready, the President was whisked out of the White House, and our bombers sat on the runway with engines running with one of said planes actually taking off and heading towards a target in the Soviet Union.  Turns out the NORAD screens were showing a training simulation that had yet to be deleted from the computer.  Oops.  WarGames, anyone? 

-A nearly identical scenario played out during the following summer of 1980.  The culprit this time?  A burned-out computer chip.  Oops.

-Memorize the name Stanislov Petrov for he saved the world in 1983.  Soviet early-warning detection indicated that five ICBMs had been launched from the US towards Soviet territory.  The Kremlin's doctrine was...and still is by all accounts...launch on warning.  Petrov, watch commander at the time, should by all rights have signaled for a massive retaliation against America.  But something about the idea of the US just launching a paltry five missiles didn't make sense to him, so he defied protocol and stood down.  Good thing.  Like those from the US, Soviet warning satellites are set off by recognizing the heat blasts of a missile launch.  What was seen on that day in 1983 was the glint of the sun off of reflective surfaces on the ground, such as snowbanks.  Petrov was smart...and for his efforts he was stripped of command.

But Jon, you say, the Soviet Union has collapsed and communism is deader than Pokemon.  These things couldn't possibly happen again.

Yeah.  You'd think  But in December of 1995, Norwegian and American researchers launched a rocket for atmospheric studies.  This launch took place just off the coast of Norway.  Russian radar mistook this as a missile launch from a NATO submarine.  Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia at that time, thought that with our relations being positive, an attack was unlikely and by the grace of God did not order retaliation.  The biggest contributor to the fiasco?  We kinda forgot to let the Russians know about the launch.  Oops.  Just think if Yeltsin had been drunk.

Kip is correct about one thing.  The US does have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over. Even after all of the arms reduction efforts, we still have thousands and the Russians have thousands more than we do.  Many of these weapons still sit on standby, waiting on hairtrigger alert.  And don't forget the multiple other nations in the world that have their own, even if significantly smaller stockpiles, plus countries that may be nuclear unarmed but have their own agendas and know how to manipulate situations.  Yeah, the most destructive weapon in human history is a great thing to have floating around in this paranoid mix.
You see, Kip, nuclear weapons are inherently messy things.  They are sledgehammers, not scalpels.  What people like you seem to forget is not only do they cause a nifty big bang, but they release considerable amounts of radiation that spread out far beyond the target area.  The rads combine with clouds and then waft and drift into places where people live, people who likely have nothing to do with whatever it is that you're so peeved about.  There's positive international image for you!  And here's the best part of all, the kicker of the gag: it would take hundreds of years for this radiation to go away!  That is to say, depending on the warhead's yield.  
I'll pick up tomorrow with an idea of the realities of nuclear destruction as viewed through the eyes of fiction.

"This is what you get, when you mess with us."
                                  --Radiohead, "Karma Police"

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets


  1. Nuclear weapons don't exist.
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  2. That is certainly a unique point of view. I will have to investigate. Thanks for the comment.