The globe was now in the throes of an economy dependent on war. And theorists knew that war-making, diplomacy and economies are cooked in the same cauldron but, the cauldron cooks out oodles for the rich and rich states; and fleshless bone and rotten vegetables for the poor and poor states.
Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMD, in the form of chemical and biological warfare had been in existence and use, prior to WW 1. But, the addition of nuclear weapons created new dimensions to the problem. All concerned were conscious that a nuclear exchange could grow in magnitude and destroy the entire humanity. Therefore, nuclear weapons must not be used. But they existed; so how could one ensure they aren’t ever used?
MAD-ness; that’s it. If MAD-ness [Mutually Assured Destruction i.e. if both countries, or groups of countries, that could go nuclear] were assured that a nuclear exchange would ensure mutual destruction in its entirety to both, both sides would be deterred. Now the question arose as to how to ensure MAD-ness so as to deter? A complicated problem.
The first issue was Preemption. If either party decided to preempt the other and destroy the command structure which could retaliate and/or the entire cache of the other sides’ nuclear stockpile, it could get away scot free; no MAD-ness. To prevent preemption one first needs early warning.
This issue was more problematic for the Soviet group because, the US could deploy some of its nuclear arsenal in Western Europe, close to USSR and its allies but USSR had to deploy Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles, ICBM, to threaten US. Consequently, the Strategic Warning Time [time between the launch of a weapon and its detection by the target; so as to retaliate] was considerably more for the US than for the Soviets.
The best way to get early warning was to have satellite stations in space, which could warn of any missile launch that could carry a weapon. And so, the military-economic cauldron moved to space to make money. And the next step for preventing successful preemption is to ensure the survivability of your arsenal. Best to go underground; to silos. The two extremities prevented preemption.
Preventing successful preemption alone couldn’t ensure MAD-ness. Both sides needed to possess, and be known to possess, the ability to survive a first strike and yet retaliate; the second strike capability. And then a third strike capability and fourth etc. Unending problem and an unending stockpile of nuclear weapons; that would ensure MAD-ness prevailed. Something akin to “The Prisoners’ Dilemma”?
At its height, both sides possessed enough nuclear weapons to, independently, destroy the world many times over. And yet, the state of MAD-ness wasn’t always successful. Numerous incidents occurred wherein the world came to the brink of being destroyed are on record [excluding numerous accidents], none better known than the Cuban Missile crisis; which we will also advert to.
Another facet of the problem was that MAD-ness, even when it prevailed, couldn’t always deter.
Proponents of WMD frequently averred that mere possession of nukes would deter enemy(s). Some even went so far as to suggest, that possession of nukes would make it possible to reduce the quantity and quality of standing forces; economizing on their budget. They were soon proven to have erred seriously. The truth was quite the opposite.
The study of MAD-ness and deterrence led to the discovery of another term; Threshold of Nuclear Tolerance, TNT. This is the threshold, the crossing of which could result in the opponent being forced to resort to using his nukes.
This study has continued and may still be ongoing. It has resulted in numerous additional terms being coined e.g. Limited Wars [those that stay below TNT]. The concept of Limited Wars emphasized the need for a degree of flexibility in the aim of the war, else if a war is terminated without achieving its aim, it is a defeat. This resulted in the need for a Maximum Aim and a Minimum Aim. The study of which, in turn, resulted in emphasizing the need for a War Termination Strategy before initiating a war; lest we, unwittingly, initiate a nuclear exchange.
My Staunchest Critic also mentors me. After reading my last article, he reminded me of John Nash, the mathematician cum economist who is the only person to have received a Nobel Memorial Prize and the Abel Prize; all for a game theory. I know of Nash only through the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”; which is based on Nash’s life.
My critic, however, knows his work and pointed out to me that the strategic decision making process and its quandaries are what Nash had worked on. I find it amusing that (un)gifted minds like soldiers are reputed to be and, political leaders are known to be, are assiduously attempting to play at a game which took A Beautiful Mind to comprehend. Having covered the perspective of the Cold War era, we will, from next week, study what else transpired during the Cold War.