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Nuclear War

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
Einstein, 1946, quoted in Lawrence Krauss, Deafness at Doomsday, NYT, Jan. 15, 2013


“Today the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”
- Former Defense Secretary William Perry, in A National Security Walk Around the World (at 44:53), Drell Lecture at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, Feb 10, 2016, described in William Perry Warns of Nuclear Dangers in Drell LectureSteve Fyffe by Steve Fyffe, Feb 12, 2016


Perry says it was by luck that we avoided a nuclear holocaust in the Cuban crisis. ...the Soviet ships approaching the blockade imposed by the US had submarine escorts that were armed with nuclear torpedoes. Because of the difficulty with communications, Moscow had authorized the submarine commanders to fire without further authorization. When an American destroyer tried to force a submarine to surface, both its captain and the political officer decided to fire a nuclear torpedo at the destroyer. A nuclear confrontation was avoided only because Vasili Arkhipov, the overall commander of the fleet, was also present on the submarine. He countermanded the order to launch, thereby preventing what might have started a nuclear war. ...

While many complain of the obvious dysfunction in Washington, few see the incomparably greater danger of “nuclear doom” because it is hidden and out of public consciousness. Despite an election year filled with commentary and debate, no one is discussing the major issues that trouble Perry. It is another example of the rigid conformity that often dominates public discourse. Long ago, I saw this in the Vietnam War and later in the invasion of Iraq: intelligent people were doing mindless—and catastrophic—things. “Sleepwalking” is the term historians now use for the stupidities that got European leaders into World War I and for the mess they unleashed at Versailles. And sleepwalking still continues as NATO and Russia trade epithets and build their armies and Moscow and Washington modernize their nuclear overkill.

- Jerry Brown, A Stark Nuclear Warning, New York Review of Books, July 14, 2016


It could be argued that the absence of any nuclear catastrophe since 1946 can be attributed to luck rather than anything else. More than once during the Cold War the decision for or against the use of nuclear weapons was in the hands of one man, and one misinterpretation could have started a nuclear war. ...
According to Palo Alto resident William J. Perry, who worked on nuclear weapons much of his life — as a defense contractor in Santa Clara County, as the Pentagon official in charge of weapons research during the Carter administration, and as secretary of defense (1994-97) under President Bill Clinton — we should be worrying about the world blundering into a nuclear war, which could happen through false alarms of incoming ICBMs, or errors in computer programs. We should also worry about terrorists accumulating enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb and setting it off in central Washington, D.C.
Perry's recent memoir, "My Journey at the Nuclear Brink," describes how he became terrified by the current situation with nuclear weapons. ...
- Cherrill Spencer, Guest Opinion: Concerned about nuclear weapons? Here's why you should be, Palo Alto Weekly, Jun 16, 2017


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