The threat of accidental nuclear war

Essay by Don FerrarioCollege, UndergraduateA, December 1996

download word file, 3 pages 3.0

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...