Foreign Policy: Apocalypse Soon
I read this article and realize that Mr. McNamara must have a lot of ghosts haunting him. I think he's a man that's really learned a few life lessons and is going to try to tell as many people as possible.
I remember being a kid and having a very real fear that some night I would wake up and the civil defense sirens would be going off and we'd be minutes from a nuclear holocaust. I remember my dad talking about how we would have to stay in the basement for a long time if that ever happened. One instance that I vividly recall from my childhood is the time we'd been gone on vacation and suddenly, at 5:20PM on a bright, sunny day, the civil defense sirens started blaring. My dad said--"Turn on the news. Let's see if they're blowing up the world." So yeah, it was a really real fear for me as a youth.
When the Soviet Union fell, I felt like the chance of nuclear war was pretty much over. But in this new era of rather unconventional warfare, all that's old is new again.
But if you want scary, this part of the article really kind of freaked me out:
Indeed, according to former Soviet military leaders, at the height of the crisis, Soviet forces in Cuba possessed 162 nuclear warheads, including at least 90 tactical warheads. At about the same time, Cuban President Fidel Castro asked the Soviet ambassador to Cuba to send a cable to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev stating that Castro urged him to counter a U.S. attack with a nuclear response. Clearly, there was a high risk that in the face of a U.S. attack, which many in the U.S. government were prepared to recommend to President Kennedy, the Soviet forces in Cuba would have decided to use their nuclear weapons rather than lose them. Only a few years ago did we learn that the four Soviet submarines trailing the U.S. Naval vessels near Cuba each carried torpedoes with nuclear warheads. Each of the sub commanders had the authority to launch his torpedoes. The situation was even more frightening because, as the lead commander recounted to me, the subs were out of communication with their Soviet bases, and they continued their patrols for four days after Khrushchev announced the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba.
Scary stuff. Makes me want to go watch Thirteen Days again.