Well, FWIW, when I was in the military it was before the end of the Cold War. I was a Navy Nuc, and thought long and hard about deterrence. And came to the conclusion that MAD was something that I could never condone in practice. And thus chose to avoid submarine service, because I’d never be able to serve on a boomer.
Mind you, I felt then, and feel now in retrospect, that the threat of MAD was the only means to counter the possibility of the Soviet overwhelming superiority in numbers. I just couldn’t see any point to actually destroying the rest of the world if by some mischance a first strike was launched against the US. Drop me into a room with the person, or persons, who gave that order, and I’d be willing to do everything possible to take out my despair and anger on their bodies - but sending the whole world up in flames?
And the really sad part is that for MAD to have been an effective deterrent you had to have people who WERE willing to do just that. So… :dubious: I don’t know if I am right, or not. Just that I drew the line of what I could and could not do.
To get back to your friend, and your reactions. I don’t know who’s right. From what I know of combat it’s terribly easy to fall into the idea that whatever is done to the enemy is just and proper. And, frankly, I have damned few qualms about coverting a resisting enemy into a ‘good’ enemy. Having said that, I feel more comfortable with the idea of you as a member of my military than with your friend. I may be doing him a disservice, or granting you too much benefit of the doubt - but I’d far rather have someone in the military who is willing to make a stand about what is and isn’t acceptable based on his or her personal decisions, than someone who will follow orders and back up his mates no matter what.
Nope. You just needed the ennemy to believe you had people willing to do it. For all we know, maybe all the soviet secretary generals and american presidents swore to themselves they would never issue such an order. After all, once your country has been nuked out of existence, there’s no point in destroying the rest of the world, except out of spite.
You could similarily have been the commanding officer on a sub, secretely decided that you would never obey an order to launch the missiles, and it wouldn’t have put a dent in the deterrence. In the worst case scenario, it would have saved the life of some millions people. Once again, the point of the MAD policy being to prevent a nuclear exchange, it would be pointless to actually launch the missiles if the detterence has failed.