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The Threat Of Accidental Nuclear War

886 words - 4 pages

The threat of nuclear war puts enough stress on people that anaccidental nuclear war could be the result. With more and more of thesuperpowers defences being controlled by complex computers, the chanceof a malfunction increases as well. Add this to normal human error andgovernmental mistakes and you have a recipe for disaster. For this paper Iwill be describing examples and systems of the United States, as Canadahas no nuclear weapons, and the USA's information is more readilyavailable than the other nuclear equipped countries.'Accidental nuclear war' is a term for a very broad subject, withhard to define boundaries. Technical errors, miscalculations andunintended escalation can all lead to inadvertent nuclear war.In the 1950's a flock of geese was mistaken for a squadron ofRussian bombers, and in 1960 a radar beam reflecting off the moonduplicated a Soviet ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile)(BarbaraMarsh, p.65). Both of these false alarms were detected in time to halt acounter-strike mainly because it was peace time and no one's fingerpoised over the 'button'. During a crisis, peoples high levels of stresscreate suspicions where there shouldn't be, and as a result many safeguards are removed that are in place to prevent an accidental launch. It isfeared that under these circumstances it would be quite easy for a flock ofgeese to set off a nuclear war. Another fear is that a smaller nation, suchas recent Korea, could gain control of, and utilize nuclear weapons, andtrigger a war between the super powers. This type is called a catalyticnuclear war.There are two types of control over the operation of nuclearweapons: positive and negative. Plans implemented in order to preventunauthorized 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 fatherkeeping his rifle unloaded, with the safety catch on and locked securely ina gun cabinet so there is little chance that the rifle will be fired byaccident. Similarly there are numerous safeguards in place in order toprevent the nuclear weapons from being fired accidentally.Positive control means making sure that the nuclear missiles can belaunched quickly when the order to fire has been given. This involves thereduction of negative control, and can be the cause for problems. Ananalogy for positive control could be a father, knowing that there is anintruder in the house, having his rifle loaded and ready to fire. Under bothexceptional pressure and apprehension, the rifle could easily be fired byaccident. So when all the safeguards are removed, all it takes is a fewmoments of error to launch an accidental strike.From 1977 to 1984 there were approximately eleven-hundred falsealarms but only six ever escalated to the...

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