December 23, 2016

"My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States..."

"...  the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The 'Titanic Effect' is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming."

Writes Eric Schlosser, author of "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety," in "WORLD WAR THREE, BY MISTAKE/Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever," in The New Yorker.

ADDED: See "Donald Trump on Nuclear Weapons: ‘Let It Be an Arms Race,'" by Ed Levitz in New York Magazine:
On Thursday, Donald Trump went nuclear. Specifically, the president-elect appeared to upend a decades-old bipartisan consensus that less is more when it comes to nuclear weapons.... 'The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.'...

If one squints very hard one can make out a scintilla of logic in this premise. Shortly before Trump’s nuclear tweet on Thursday, Vladimir Putin told the Russian people, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”

Thus, when Trump says he wants an arms race because America would win it, he really means, “Vlad, buddy, don’t do this. You’re not gonna like how it ends.”

Or, so Trumpworld would like us to believe

34 comments:

The Drill SGT said...
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The Drill SGT said...

Having been a part of that process, the "Nuclear Release Authentication System" (NRAS), I'll tell you that the command and control system is designed to "fail negative" at each level. Meaning, there are checks at each level of command and if all the codes and steps are not perfectly aligned, no further action is taken to forward on the unauthenticated order.

CarlF said...

Once Putin announce his desire to built up Russia's nuclear weapons, the Democrats saw two possible responses. The traditional liberal respond of condemnation, but no consequences, or an Obama-style response of offering that America fund Russia's program in the manner of Iran. Trump has followed the successful precedent of Reagan by proving negative consequences.

RightIsRight said...

Trump has made an issue of the F-35 price tag. The price of which is minuscule compared to thermo-nuclear weapons and the submarines that carry them around.

Already he's getting bad advice, and I haven't even put my Christmas stocking up.

mccullough said...

China has MIRVs and long range ballistic missiles, along with the US and Russia. The other 6 nuclear powers don't have the same ballistic missile range as the top three.

Unknown said...

Nukes are cheap, cheap, cheap. It's the delivery systems that are hard.

--Vance

Charlie Currie said...

I've learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

bagoh20 said...

My experience informs me that noisy attention is usually worse than quiet neglect, and especially in politics or other work by committee. Imagine, for example, The Congress of the U.S. managing a tax system.

Michael K said...

The price of which is minuscule compared to thermo-nuclear weapons and the submarines that carry them around.

The submarines are important unless you want to be a perpetual victim, like most of the left. The Ohio class is getting old. Needs updating. The nuclear devices are getting old. Nuclear engineering has atrophied because the global warming idiots are still in thrall to the KGB disinformation campaign of the 1950s about No Nukes !

The F 35 is another example of multiple cooks spoiling the soup as was the case with McNamara and the F 111.

JPS said...

The risk of global catastrophe is greater than ever?

This tells me more about the author than about the state of the world or of our nuclear arsenals.

It's not as small as I'd like. It is probably greater than most people think. It is probably greater than at any time since the Cold War ended.

But gee whiz, ever? More than 1962, or 1973, or any of the fairly convincing false alarms that have occurred on both sides?

Joe said...

A problem with the US nuclear arsenal is that it's getting old and the delivery missiles are getting old. I'd be surprised if more than half of them even worked.

The Drill SGT said...

mccullough said...
China has MIRVs and long range ballistic missiles, along with the US and Russia. The other 6 nuclear powers don't have the same ballistic missile range as the top three.


The Brits use the same Trident missile we do, on their 4 subs, 16 missiles, MIRV'd to 8 warheads.

I think the French have 4 boats, each with 16 missiles, MIRV'd to 10 warheads, range 10,000 KM

readering said...

Sounds like Trump has finally been told what the triad is and that all three legs need to be replaced soon. I hope serious thought is given to eliminating the ICBM leg. The contracted B21 and contemplated Ohio class replacement should suffice and be more stable.

sykes.1 said...

There is no going back. Nuclear weapons are here forever. The only serious questions are, what kind and how many. MAD is the only possible policy. Extermination of nascent nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran is an option if they are not detered by MAD.

If you think that is extreme, you are ignorant of WW II, when German and Japanese civilians were legitimate targets. Our model is Ghengis Khan.

Jeff Teal said...

The entirety of the nuclear deterrent could be upgraded for the cost of 100 F35s.Nukes and their delivery systems dont cost that much.What costs is people you know an army.or a marine corpsor a super duper doesn't work in the Panama Canal destroyer

Hagar said...

I do think Trump reminded Putin of how Reagan did it and how it ended for Russia. Not that Putin doesn't remember, but maybe some younger people don't
However, almost everything we have is getting old and needs updating.
And by "expanding" Trump may mean we need more and smaller, but more targetable nuclear weapons.

As for the F-35, I think I remember the same rodeo with the F-18's being loaded up with so many different capabilities on the several services' wishlists that it could do everything but fly. That eventual got solved, but it took like forever. I think Trump goosed the services as much or more than the manufacturers to quit screwing around and get the F-35's operational. There are real threats down here on earth that needs to be faced.

Hagar said...
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clint said...

"Or, so Trumpworld would like us to believe..."

Um. Yes.

Is there an alternative theory that anyone would like to actually state, rather than nudge-nudge-wink-wink snidely insinuating in between oh-so-clever puns and insults?

Hagar said...

And Putin and his Russian Federation is just one of the factors to be considered in foreign policy and of possible military opponents.

David said...

The Schlosser article is interesting and thought provoking. The Levine article is half assed snark.

Schlosser says this:

“We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” The siop called for the destruction of twelve thousand targets within the Soviet Union. Moscow would be struck by four hundred nuclear weapons; Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, by about forty.

Perhaps our ability to summon such destructive power had more to do with avoiding nuclear war than luck? That was certainly true in the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the Soviets realized that they were in an overwhelming disadvantage if there was a nuclear exchange.

It is striking that the Obama administration did almost nothing to address the problems of the reliability of nuclear command and control or the deterioration of the weapons. Schlosser does not address the question of whether all of our weapons would reliably detonate, but I gather there is real concern about that.

Once again Trump has (somewhat inartfully?) raised an important question that has been ignored in public discussion and by the Federal government. Trump got everyone's immediate attention, so perhaps he's not so inartful after all.

David said...

Jeff Teal said...
The entirety of the nuclear deterrent could be upgraded for the cost of 100 F35s.Nukes and their delivery systems dont cost that much.


You better call the Pentagon. They don't realize how easy it is. They could hire you and you could set them straight.

Jon Burack said...

Is there nothing Trump tweets that the mediaworld will not go bananas over - and both over-interpret and mis-interpret to the point of sheer hysteria. What Trump called for is in fact hard to distinguish from what Obama has in fact been doing - as opposed to his incessant need to posture as a modern-day Gandhi. That is, he has been modernizing the nuclear deterrent. Is it too much to expect or fake-fact-checking paragons of the press to calm down and report the news? Apparently.

William said...

The closest we came to Armageddon was during the Cuban missile crisis. Fidel was quite enthusiastic about launching a preemptive strike on the United States. JFK used a Dr. Feelgood shot to stay focused during the crisis. We owe our existence to a Soviet commissar who didn't countersign the command of a submarine captain to launch a missile.......This crisis is usually presented as some kind of triumph for Kennedy. Maybe not. Nothing like that happened under Eisenhower or subsequent presidents........Eisenhower and later Reagan were portrayed as amiable doofuses (doofi?) who blundered and napped through life whilst Kennedy was sharp as a razor. We'll see how it goes, but my guess is that Trump is a lot shrewder than Obama. Not that he'll ever get credit for it.

n.n said...

Better a prophylactic than a double-edged scalpel. The Progressives will have to find another way to defeat Communists of Leftist past and redistribute their resources and people. The humanitarian excuse has worn thin with progressive wars and immigration "reform".

DanTheMan said...

>>"Or, so Trumpworld would like us to believe..."

In NonTrumpworld, they believe if the Russians modernize their nuclear weapons to penetrate our defenses, but we do nothing, the world will be safer.

Next up: Putin says "If you like your nukes, you can keep your nukes."

YoungHegelian said...

For the past eight years, the world has been awash in nuclear weapons every bit as much as now. The Obama administration had absolutely no foreign policy successes with either the Russians or the Chinese. Matter of fact, relations have gotten worse than they were under W.

But, now, now that Obama is about to leave the scene for President Trump, the media is discovering --- mirabile dictu! --- the world is, yes, chock-a-block full of nuclear weapons.

What a crock of shit! I've lain in bed at night listening to BBC World when they interview members of the Russian Duma casually talk about nuking Warsaw if they don't start leaning towards Moscow more than the West. There was no shortage of nuclear sabre-rattling under the Obama administration. It's just that reporting it made the feckless Boy Wonder look bad so it was glossed over.

Alex said...

As long as Israel has MIRVs and enough to blow up the entire Middle East and take a few EU countries with them I'm a happy man.

Alex said...

hell I want to revive the 15-20 Megaton warhead. Remember Castle Bravo and how great America used to be? Remember when we used to make neutron bombs? I think we need to revive the LGM-118 Peacekeeper, could carry 10 warheads.

Alex said...

City busters. MAGA.

geoffb said...

"China has MIRVs and long range ballistic missiles,"

Thank you WJC!

wwww said...
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Bill Peschel said...

You don't really need that many nukes.

You just need to make sure a couple of them are targeting their leaders.

This is what came when the Democrats, to score political points, outed the CIA assassination program in the 1970s.

The leaders are perfectly happy to sacrifice millions of people, so long as they and their relatives are still alive.

That's what Reagan did when he sent a few missiles into Quaddafi's homes. Message received.

mikee said...

A Republican in the White House means there will be giant puppets in the streets.
The anti-war, anti-nuke, anti-US crowd is just political theater by anti-Republicans.
They disappear when a Dem is in office, despite the Dem doing the same thing or worse than that for which they protest against Republicans.

Joe said...

In my 28 years as a professional software developer, I've never once heard or read the phrase "Titanic Effect." If the author is so willing to make up something like that, everything he says is suspect.