On Thermonuclear War

If you want an animated look at what one nuclear weapon will do to one major city, here’s a link to a nine-minute YouTube, which sounds like it’s being narrated by the guy who did Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only not as funny.

Back in 1973 I was assigned to the Military Airlift Command Indications and Warning Center at Scott AFB. Our job was to keep an eye on everything that went on around the world, if there was the possibility it could require some sort of MAC involvement: war in the Middle East, non-combatant evacuation from Congo, airlift of relief supplies to Bangladesh. Support the rest of the US military when fighting a nuclear war.

Shortly after I arrived, we had a visit from the newly-assigned USAF Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Major General George Keegan. He was traveling to every I&W Center in the AF, and he had one message, that he was delivering personally:

Your primary mission is to prevent a nuclear war.

He knew, and we knew, and anyone who has been associated with the things knew, that a nuclear war would be an unmitigated disaster, and that we needed to expend all our efforts, 24/7, to making sure that such a war didn’t occur.

As the animation says, a nuclear attack is like a wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, and nuclear reactor meltdown all at once, only worse. What it doesn’t say is, in a nuclear war this will happen everywhere at once. Don’t plan on any kind of outside help, because help isn’t coming.

I’ll talk more on this topic later, but for now, watch the video.

UPDATE: Here’s an article on our tactical nuclear weapons in Europe


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5 Responses to “On Thermonuclear War”

  1. terranceacrow Says:

    Chilling video.

    I mean, seriously.

    It put the horror in such an accessible way that even though I’ve read or watched stuff about the effects of a nuclear blast before, it never quite hit me as personally as this one did.

    Despite that, I have to say I found the video almost comically naive. Does the author really think that simply destroying all nuclear weapons and “vowing” never to use them again would mean anything?

    It’s not the weapons that are the problem.

    It’s human nature that demands the ability to harm other tribes that’s the problem.

    If all governments promises, with hands on their hearts, to never to nuclear weapons again, all it would take would be one nation to unleash devastation.

    If not a nuclear strike of the type mentioned in the video, they’d use a neutron bomb. Or neuro-toxins. Or other chemical weapons.

    The problem is human nature. And that’s what makes this so danged hard to root out.

    And with politics in the US going full bore tribal, things just aren’t looking good.

    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      Back in the day there was an extensive discussion of just that thing — how do you put the genie back in the bottle. It’s one of the things that drove the development of game theory as a discipline. The general consensus was that you can’t — the payoff for cheating (holding back at least a couple of weapons) was just too high. A more accessible goal is to drive the number of weapons down to the point where they are unlikely to be used except in an extreme situation.

      Part of what saved us then, paradoxically, was that the USSR and USA were existentialist threats to each other. Any use of weapons made total destruction likely. Now, we’re just opponents, so a limited use might be possible.

      • terranceacrow Says:

        That’s a really good point — and something that makes the currently administration, which was already horrifying, even more of a threat to our way of life.

        I think another aspect of the problem is that the theory and engineering difficulty used to put manufacture of these weapons out of the hands of anyone but an advanced State like the US or USSR. Now, not so much.

        So we’re back to the question of human nature.

        And every way I can think of forcing a change at that level puts power into the people I don’t want to have power.

        I wish I could figure a way out. It’d make a heck of an uplifting novel!

    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      You write it, I’ll buy it.

  2. Review: Fire Force Episode 13: The Good Idiot and Infernals, Infernals Everywhere Says:

    […] blame my mood on FoundOnWeb’s recent post about the effects of a thermonuclear war. I made the mistake of analyzing it and realizing that as bleak as it was, it was actually overly […]

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