“Two Minutes To Midnight”: World As Dangerous As It Has Ever Been Since World War II

The idea of “LAUNCH ON WARNING” is that, should a nuclear strike look imminent, a warning would be ensued, and missiles would be launched, without waiting for impact(s) of incoming apparent warheads. We are living in a seriously, Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD world: several countries, or, at least the USA and Russia, maintain “Launch On Warning” (LOW) systems of nuclear bombs having the potential for killing 600 million people, or more, in 24 hours. Or more. From accident, short-circuit, wrong training tape, etc. That is, those systems can kill the equivalent of one hundred times more people than the much bemoaned holocaust of the Jews in WWII (it took four years to kill six million Jew). The elite bemoans Auschwitz, while having 100 Auschwitzes at the push of a button, and the ostriches out there see nothing wrong, deep in the sand they scrutinize every day.  

Not considering that hair-trigger, “Launch On Warning”, nuclear bomb systems are worthy even of a conversation, is a global moral and intellectual failure of the highest order ever seen. Advocating slavery, racism, dictatorship, Inquisition, theocracy, torture, pale in comparison!

There is no reason for those LOW, except as first strike. Even then, a first strike would cause a devastating counter-strike, a second strike, so, at first sight, it’s not clear what would be achieved (if one goes deep into nuclear war planning, though, debatable advantages of a first strike can be construed). 

Epic failure. After the rocket carried by a plane, an F4 Phantom, exploded, nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise caught fire, off Hawai’i. Had the fire extended to the main hangar, the carrier, carrying more than one hundred nuclear bombs and eight nuclear reactors, could have exploded. In several accidents with nuclear bombs, many safety mechanisms failed. At least in one case, only the last trigger didn’t trigger.., And those bombs were huge (one hundred times Hiroshima, or more…) Such incidents happened even inside the USA.

The intellectual and moral failure of preceding leaders has brought this situation: the USA and Russia should have dismantled the LOW systems. LOW nearly caused nuclear apocalypses several times, for reasons such as short-circuits, or the wrong training tape. Each time, nuclear catastrophe was avoided simply because officers on watch didn’t believe nuclear war had been launched, and acted forcefully, accordingly. So accidental nuclear war was avoided only because of the fortitude of a few individuals, some American, some Soviet.

The French Republic dismantled its LOW system (founded on dozens of ballistic missiles). French deterrence is now ensured with 300 thermonuclear nuclear warheads on four very silent nuclear ballistic submarines equipped with jet propulsion (with another 300 “tetes nucleaires oceaniques” ready as backup, should more strikes be needed in a prolonged nuclear war). France has also nuclear tipped supersonic cruise missiles launched from supersonic planes, and potentially nuclear tipped cruise missiles on board one hundred meter long Barracuda attack nuclear submarines. That’s enough firepower to destroy all Russian and Chinese cities. Plus ground hits on nuclear submarines pens (which presumably would come first, if the US or UK didn’t hit them yet). 

Because it didn’t happen yet, doesn’t mean it never will. Prime targets in a serious nuclear exchange would be thermonuclear ground bursts on submarine pens. Recently released Pentagon files show Finland was supposed to be annihilated by the fallout. Call that collateral damage.

The U.S. has 14 Ohio-class submarines carrying 24 Trident II SLBMs missiles. Each Trident, like the French missiles, have up to ten independent targetable nuclear warheads. The UK has three nuclear warhead equipped Trident subs. That’s a total of 21 Armageddon subs, which, all together, could terminate Russia and China several times over.

The subs are undetectable. A few years back, in 2009, French strategic sub Le Triomphant and British Trident sub HMS Vanguard collided in the Atlantic, “at very low speed”, while at great depth: they had detected nothing. That’s not very surprising as they are not only silent, but have anti-sonar devices. As the subs are undetectable (especially as they go hide in parts of the ocean where detection is especially hard), there is no reason to keep them on hair-trigger, ready to fire at the first alert..

So why does the USA keep 430 Minutemen Launch On Warning rockets at ready to launch within seconds, 24/7, at the first alert, in other words, ready to cause accidental nuclear war?   

Counter-intuitively (they are supposed by the “left” to be right-wing bastards), the two US president Bushes (I despise W), reduced nuclear weapons of the LOW type, considerably. Clinton and Obama did very little, aside from using their mouth parts in a way the gullible found admirable…

Here is what the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists think about the situation:

Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains. A printable PDF of this statement, complete with the President and CEO’s statement and Science and Security Board biographies, is available here.

To: Leaders and citizens of the world Re: Two minutes to midnight. Date: January 25, 2018

In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.

The greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States.Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.

But the dangers brewing on the Korean Peninsula were not the only nuclear risks evident in 2017: The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of NATO, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), upgrading their nuclear arsenals, and eschewing arms control negotiations.

In the Asia-Pacific region, tensions over the South China Sea have increased, with relations between the United States and China insufficient to re-establish a stable security situation.

In South Asia, Pakistan and India have continued to build ever-larger arsenals of nuclear weapons.

And in the Middle East, uncertainty about continued US support for the landmark Iranian nuclear deal adds to a bleak overall picture.

To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger—and its immediacy.

After colliding with the deck of aircraft carrier USS Kennedy, during a storm, this US cruiser caught fire, off Sicily. The nuclear magazine would have probably exploded, had the fire got there.

On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now. Global carbon dioxide emissions have not yet shown the beginnings of the sustained decline towards zero that must occur if ever-greater warming is to be avoided. The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate risks manageable, and so far, the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.

Beyond the nuclear and climate domains, technological change is disrupting democracies around the world as states seek and exploit opportunities to use information technologies as weapons, among them internet-based deception campaigns aimed at undermining elections and popular confidence in institutions essential to free thought and global security.

Did wars get started accidentally? Rarely so, but this was before. Now the technology has become faster, and immensely more powerful. A case in point is the explosion of the US battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor, in 1898. It was alleged at the time by the New York Journal and New York World, owned respectively by plutocrats William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, that Spain did it. They gave the Maine destruction intense press coverage, but employed tactics that would later be labeled “yellow journalism“… Fake news! That brought a mood which led to war of the US with Spain.

US Admiral Rickover, father of nuclear submarine deterrence,  launched an inquiry, seventy years later, in the Maine destruction (it is easy to construe a scenario with a nuclear sub exploding next to Saint Petersburg, with possible detonation of nuclear bombs). It was found to have been probably accidental, from methane built-up, most explosive at 10% CH4.

The much admired nuclear Nobel peace prize Obama didn’t do anything about reducing the danger of nuclear war happening by accident. No more than the lunatic Putin. That made them accomplices of the potential holocaust they managed. Trump? A bit too early to judge. Trump inherited a potentially disastrous military situation, especially with North Korea, but not only. Sometimes, there are no more nice exits.

Thanks to our amoral, imbecilic “leaders”, we are all in the situation of the crew of the Maine. When the battleship exploded, three quarter of the crew died. Many officers survived, as their quarters were far removed from the explosion. Similarly, crafty plutocrats buy land in New Zealand, a fully autonomous mini-continent, far removed from potential nuclear explosions.

In any case, those who value the most correct intellectual and moral positions, should exert pressure for an immediate worldwide dismantlement of “Launch On Warning” nuclear bomb systems.

Patrice Aymé  

P/S: The preceding essay, although full of data, is philosophical in nature. It may be a bit unfair to Obama, as it doesn’t mention the new START Treaty signed under that president. However, that treaty was way too timid, and didn’t eliminate LOW. Right now the USA has 399 Minutemen missiles deployed, ready to launch. 70% of existing nuclear warheads are deployed on the 14 strategic submarines of the USA, most of them deployed in Washington state. That gives an estimated 945 thermonuclear warheads deployed on US submarines (France has officially 300). All the details in:

https://fas.org/blogs/security/2018/01/new-start-full-data/

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3 Responses to ““Two Minutes To Midnight”: World As Dangerous As It Has Ever Been Since World War II”

  1. Gloucon X Says:

    It appears that the citizens of countries with nuke power plants have accepted that having enough energy to play World of Warcraft is worth the risk of creating radioactive dead zones. The same is true for nuclear weapons. A city or two will undoubtedly be accidentally nuked one day, but people obviously like the feeling of power more than they fear the accident. And of course, the nuke industry likes the endless gravy train of profits. It’s all part of the failure to evolve–risking everything (the climate) for the purpose of keeping the ancient deluded worship of plutocracy going. Thanks for the great posts, as always.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Gloucon, for the feedback. As usual, it is well appreciated. I agree with what you say. However, there is another angle: don’t fix what works.
      We have had no war between great powers, for 72 years.

      Why? Because of the overwhelming MILITARY advantage of the “West”. Had the “West” wanted it in 1945, the “West” armies would have been in Moscow by the end of summer. Soviet Marshall Zhukow had not even 200 functioning tanks for all his armies around Berlin. He would have been delighted to surrender to Patton’s Third Army at the first pretext (the allies could have replaced Stalin by Zhukov).

      But of course the “West” didn’t want this: Britain and France wanted to save their empires, their influences, and so did Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The US wanted to replace them all, and had to deal with France and Britain, the strong ones.

      Now the situation is more nuanced; the USA has finally understood that replacing Europe was beyond its means. Trump is trying to drive the message home. France gets it (has long got it), Merkel claims she gets it (how many Germans do is not klar), Britain is AWOL, in full Brexitomania, Italy and Spain are still second knives, and the Netherlands is run like a big tax haven (same story as a century ago, when the Netherlands was the kaiser’s lung, breathing in fresh US supplies so the US could become richer and the Kaiser fight another day…

      So the UN Security Council system works, as it is. I think one should insist to make it work more, no less. However, there are delicate situations, such as India and Pakistan. Why would China have nukes, not India? Well, one could say that historically Britain represented India… But then the British nuclear deterrent is increasingly getting weaker… And could one formalize a relationship… Just as, informally, France represents Germany and most of Western Europe, as far as nukes are concerned…

      In the Cold War, Soviet war planning stopped the Soviet army at the French border (that was not known at the time, secrets were revealed later…)… But the French official war planning was quite different, as it explicitly said that France would use nukes as soon as the Soviets entered West Germany…

      Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Another thing is that now nuke power plants are NOT necessary to make bombs. NOT ANYMORE. That’s how North Korea got itself 60 nuclear bombs. One of many North Korean plants had thousands of ultra modern ultra centrifuges.. Now they have more. At the present rate, North Korea will have more nukes than anybody in ten years…
      There is an even more modern method: laser separation… That can be done in basements…

      Like

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