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Twitter-happy Trump – not a good omen for world safety from nuclear war

TrumpWhat a Twitter-Happy Trump Might Mean For Nuclear Diplomacy, The Wire, BY  ON 01/01/2017

Far from making America great again, Trump is more likely to make America grope again in the darkness of the post-nuclear age. Hillary Clinton lost the election, but a question she tweeted during the campaign remains critically important for the world. Can a man so easily baited by Twitter be trusted with the nuclear codes?

Donald Trump’s likely policies after assuming office later in January require triangulation of three known character traits. First, his twitchy thumbs can jump into action to spray his thought bubbles over the Twitter-sphere before his brain is engaged. Second, he possesses a unique capacity to deny outright something he said, even if digitally recorded. Third, he is a professional deal maker.

Trump’s nuclear Twitter spray

During the US election campaign, Trump thrice asked a foreign policy adviser: if we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?. In a New York Times interview, he seemed to suggest Japan and South Korea could obtain their own nuclear arsenals. On December 22, President-elect Trump tweeted: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” The same day President Vladimir Putin also spoke of the need to do the same with Russia’s deterrent………

The number of times that we have come frighteningly close to nuclear holocaust is simply staggering.

In January 1961, a 4MT bomb (that is, 260 times more powerful than Hiroshima) was just one ordinary switch away from detonating over North Carolina when a B-52 bomber on a routine flight went into an uncontrolled spin.

In the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the US strategy was based on intelligence that no nuclear warheads were present in Cuba. In fact there were 162 warheads already stationed there, the local Soviet commander had taken them out of storage to deployed positions for use and the top three commanders split on whether or not to launch them against US targets.

On October 28, 1962, a missile launch base in Okinawa received an authenticated order to launch missiles. The local commander used rare common sense and further clarifications confirmed the order was a mistake. Other veterans dispute this account.

On June 3, 1980, amidst the tension of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was awakened close to the proverbial 3 am by his military aide General William Odom with the news that the Soviets had launched 220 SLBMs at the US. Brzezinski asked for confirmation and Odom called him a second time with a correction: the number of missiles hurtling towards the US was 2,200. Brzezinski decided not to wake his wife, preferring she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call President Jimmy Carter to authorise US retaliatory strikes, Odom phoned for the third time: it was a false alarm triggered by a 46-cent defective computer chip.

In November 1983, in response to NATO war games exercise Able Archer, which Moscow mistook to be real, the Soviets came close to launching a full-scale nuclear attack against the West.

On January 25, 1995, Norway launched a scientific research rocket in its northern latitude whose stage three mimicked a Trident SLBM. Within seconds, the Russian early warning radar system tagged it as a possible US nuclear missile attack. Fortunately the rocket did not stray into Russian airspace owing to system malfunction and the alert subsided.

Following the Ukraine crisis, in the one year period March 2014 to 2015, one study documented 67 specific incidents between Russia and NATO – 13 of which were “serious” and five, “high risk.”

The nuclear equation is biased against peace

For nuclear peace to hold, deterrence and fail-safe mechanisms must work every single time. For nuclear armageddon, deterrence or fail safe mechanisms need to break down only once. This is not a comforting equation. Deterrence stability depends on rational decision-makers being always in office on all sides – a dubious precondition. From later this month, leaders with their fingers on the nuclear buttons will include Trump and Kim Jong-un. It depends equally critically on no rogue launch, human error or system malfunction. The above examples prove conclusively that this is an impossibly high bar.

The more the number of nuclear weapons in existence and the more countries that possess them – the more the risk of a nuclear war multiplying exponentially. If not by design and intent, this could result from an accident, a rogue launch, human error or system malfunction. When we combine this with the proliferation of fake news, the risks of a nuclear launch by mistake are magnified manifold under current conditions. Recently, for example, Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif threatened a nuclear attack on Israel – via a tweet, of course – in response to a fake news story that Israel had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons.

January 2, 2017 - Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war

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