The Threat Of Accidental Nuclear War Essay

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The Threat Of Accidental Nuclear War Essay, Research Paper The threat of nuclear war puts enough stress on people that an accidental nuclear war could be the result. With more and more of the superpowers defences being controlled by complex computers, the chance of a malfunction increases as well. Add this to normal human error and governmental mistakes and you have a recipe for disaster. For this paper I will be describing examples and systems of the United States, as Canada has no nuclear weapons, and the USA’s information is more readily available than the other nuclear equipped countries. “Accidental nuclear war” is a term for a very broad subject, with hard to define boundaries. Technical errors, miscalculations and unintended escalation can all lead to inadvertent

nuclear war. In the 1950’s a flock of geese was mistaken for a squadron of Russian bombers, and in 1960 a radar beam reflecting off the moon duplicated a Soviet ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile)(Barbara Marsh, p.65). Both of these false alarms were detected in time to halt a counter-strike mainly because it was peace time and no one’s finger poised over the “button”. During a crisis, peoples high levels of stress create suspicions where there shouldn’t be, and as a result many safe guards are removed that are in place to prevent an accidental launch. It is feared that under these circumstances it would be quite easy for a flock of geese to set off a nuclear war. Another fear is that a smaller nation, such as recent Korea, could gain control of, and utilize

nuclear weapons, and trigger a war between the super powers. This type is called a catalytic nuclear war. There are two types of control over the operation of nuclear weapons: positive and negative. Plans implemented in order to prevent unauthorized use of the nuclear weapons – mechanical obstacles, electronic locks, prohibitive operational procedures – are designated as ‘negative controls’. An analogy for negative control could be a father keeping his rifle unloaded, with the safety catch on and locked securely in a gun cabinet so there is little chance that the rifle will be fired by accident. Similarly there are numerous safeguards in place in order to prevent the nuclear weapons from being fired accidentally. Positive control means making sure that the nuclear

missiles can be launched quickly when the order to fire has been given. This involves the reduction of negative control, and can be the cause for problems. An analogy for positive control could be a father, knowing that there is an intruder in the house, having his rifle loaded and ready to fire. Under both exceptional pressure and apprehension, the rifle could easily be fired by accident. So when all the safeguards are removed, all it takes is a few moments of error to launch an accidental strike. From 1977 to 1984 there were approximately eleven-hundred false alarms but only six ever escalated to the point of a Threat Assessment Conference (TAC), in which it is called a serious false alarm. There is the possibility that a false alarm could take longer to confirm than the

decision time available, with the end result being the unintentional launch of missiles. There is a model that can show the percent possibility of an unresolved false alarm depending on decision time and duration of the crisis. For example if the decision time is 15 minutes and it takes 2 minutes to resolve, during a crisis that goes on for 30 days, then the percent possibility of accidental launching of ICBM’s is about 0.2%. But if decision time drops to only 6 minutes then the probability rises to over 50% (Wallace, Crissey, Sennot. pp.85-170 ). Another threat related to accidental nuclear war is escaltiative nuclear war, in which a minor situation becomes an all out nuclear war. One scenario could be the escalation of a conventional war in Europe, where the deployment of