Monday, October 15, 2012

The Most Dangerous Moment in Recorded History

Hiroshima & Nagasaki Were Political Shows
It has happened already, will happen again, but there is no way to know if it will work out well the next time.

It wasn't the K-T Boundary extinction event that destroyed the dinosaurs along with about 90% of land species, and 50% of marine species some 65 million years ago, rather it was a time when all the nuclear weapons of The U.S.S.R. and The United States were locked, loaded and aimed at hundreds of millions of men, women, and children.

The release of papers from Robert F. Kennedy shed new light on a time when we came much, much closer to nuclear Armageddon than generally believed:
Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis, many people find it hard to believe that the confrontation could have pushed the US and Soviet Union to nuclear war. Robert F. Kennedy’s newly released papers remind us why this was the most dangerous moment in recorded history.

“My fellow Americans, with a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfillment of my oath of office, I have ordered – and the United States Air Force has now carried out – military operations with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba.”

These are the words President Kennedy almost delivered in October 1962 announcing what could have been World War III. This draft speech is among several thousand drafts, letters, and handwritten notes from Robert F. Kennedy’s personal files that have just last week been opened at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Robert Kennedy’s writings make vivid how close we came to the brink of war. Had President Kennedy been forced to choose a response in the first 48 hours after an American spy plane discovered the Soviets sneaking nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba, RFK had no doubt that his brother would have chosen an air strike against the missile sites, followed by an invasion. As he wrote in his notes while discussing this option, “if we go in, we go in hard.”

Had the United States launched an airstrike and invaded Cuba, the Soviet commander on the scene would almost certainly have responded with about 100 tactical nuclear weapons under his control – tactical nuclear weapons JFK did not even know were on the island. The US would have felt compelled to respond in kind triggering an escalation to nuclear Armageddon. As RFK later recalled, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council advising JFK during the crisis was full of “bright, able dedicated people, all of whom had the greatest affection for the US, [but] if six of them had been President ... the world might have been blown up”.
(Christian Science Monitor, emphasis added). The U.S. President did not even know all the facts and circumstances about the danger that was getting closer and closer to the people of the entire world, so he had to make ultimate decisions without ultimate information.

These papers of Robert F. Kennedy have been hidden from general public view, along with the truth of that time, for about fifty years.

That sort of information and secrecy is also true of WW II considerations that concerned ending the war with Japan:
Atomic Weapons Were Not Needed to End the War or Save Lives

Like all Americans, I was taught that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end WWII and save both American and Japanese lives.

But most of the top American military officials at the time said otherwise. [has many citations]
(Washington's Blog). Some officials like to imagine away some of the realities that were talked about during "The Cold War", and every other "reality" for that matter:
Government Reality Makers
''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
(When You Are Governed By Psychopaths, quoting Karl Rove). But the only reality that counts, in this context, is the reality that applies to all of us and still endangers us, with even more danger than it did those ~50 years ago:
An expert assessment of China's nuclear weapons strategy highlights the risk of escalation to nuclear war from a conflict beginning with conventional weapons, due to the unusual structure of the nation's military.

The possibility of combining or sequentially launching conventional and nuclear missiles is deemed a fundamental source of political and military strength – but also generates critical uncertainties:
"The basic dilemma for the war planners stems from the deployment of the two types of missiles on the same Second Artillery bases with fundamentally different capabilities and purposes," Lewis and Xue say.

The article notes that Beijing's nuclear missiles exist to deter a nuclear first strike on China, and are only to be used in extremis. At the same time, the conventional weapons on the formerly all-nuclear bases must be ready to strike first and hard. Targeted enemies and their allies will not immediately be able to distinguish whether any missiles fired are conventional or nuclear.

This means that those enemies may justifiably launch on warning and retaliate against all the command-and-control systems and missile assets of the Chinese missile launch base and even the overall command-and-control system of the central Second Artillery headquarters.
"It could happen ..."
In the worst case, a self-defensive first strike by Chinese conventional missiles could end in the retaliatory destruction of many Chinese nuclear missiles and their related command-and-control systems.

"That disastrous outcome would force the much smaller surviving and highly vulnerable Chinese nuclear missile units to fire their remaining missiles against the enemy's homeland," Lewis and Xue warn. "Escalation to nuclear war could become accelerated and unavoidable." Policies that have led to conventional and nuclear weapons doubling up at the same base could cause, rather than deter, a nuclear exchange.
Beijing's overall defence strategy has evolved significantly in recent decades. According to the authors, China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong directly shaped the policies for the Second Artillery, the nation's strategic missile forces.
Both US and Russian land-based missiles remain constantly on high-alert status, ready to be launched within minutes. Because of the 30-minute flight times of these missiles, the presidents of both the US and Russia would have only approximately 12 minutes to decide whether to launch their missiles when presented by their military leaders with information indicating an imminent attack (after lower-level threat assessment conferences).

That’s only 12 minutes or less for the president to decide whether to launch global nuclear war. While this scenario is unlikely, it is definitely possible: Presidents have repeatedly rehearsed it, and it cannot be ruled out due to the graveness of its potential consequences.
(The Teapot In A Tempest). The tempest is no longer inside the teapot, rather the delicate teapot is out in the open, exposed to the approaching Tempest.

Like JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis mentioned above, today's officials who will or who will not invoke the Armageddon sequence, don't truly know the dangers this civilization is facing.

All too often they are thinking mainly of "themselves and theirs" (New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage), which only further endangers "themselves and theirs."


  1. The NY Times ran an op-ed on this subject today:

    The “eyeball to eyeball” imagery of the Cuban missile crisis has contributed to some of our most disastrous foreign policy decisions — and it is a myth.


  2. Dredd,
    You should be a guest blogger at JT's. The one above would well motivate a place any weekend.

    To offer my conclusion, the same EFFing problem exists now, but worse with the addition of the Chinese "one base--two missile types" system. And the same idiots control the button in the NSC.

    How to extinguish half the earth "life"! It will maybe slow down climate warming. No cars today, no fun to play.

  3. Recent nuclear tests by Russia, one man at the helm - Putin, indicate that we are still stuck in the nuclear winter potential because the ideologies have not changed: Link

  4. Recently released papers indicate: "Chilling new evidence that Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack has emerged in former classified documents written at the height of the cold war.

    Cabinet memos and briefing papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a major war games exercise, Operation Able Art, conducted in November 1983 by the US and its Nato allies was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility.

    When intelligence filtered back to the Tory government on the Russians' reaction to the exercise, the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, ordered her officials to lobby the Americans to make sure that such a mistake could never happen again. Anti-nuclear proliferation campaigners have credited the move with changing how the UK and the US thought about their relationship with the Soviet Union and beginning a thaw in relations between east and west." Link

  5. Those who serve to push the buttons of a nuclear war have recently had some bad press about cheating (Nuclear Corps, Sidelined in Terror Fight, Produces a Culture of Cheating).