Inspired by the thread on torture in this forum and a debate I had with friends a few nights ago, which was itself inspired by an article on the BBC news website which asked several ex-MP’s who had nuclear-decision making responsibility during the Cold War if they could/would have ordered a nuclear strike in the event that it seemed necessary. Most said they would have but would have regretted it, one, Lord Healey, admitted that even if Soviet nuclear warheads were raining down on the UK he would not have ordered a retaliatory strike (if I read the article correctly). Which I thought was an extraordinary admission.
A related article spoke about how some submariners risked their careers because they knew they could not bring themselves to do it in the event.
I have an interest in the Cold War and of course a defining aspect of that was the arms race with a worrying amount of nuclear weapons pretty much armed and ready to go at a moments notice.
The debate was on what sort of person would be willing to participate in a strategic exchange of nuclear weapons, those specifically targeted on enemy cities.
My friends were surprised, given my inordinate fondness for The Button, that I said I would not be able to participate in such an exchange of nuclear weapons and would not place myself in such a situation where I could be ordered or expected to do so.
Do you believe you could do it and if not why not? As I said above I wonder what sort of person would be willing to do it, I’m not for a second suggesting that anyone who replies yes in the hypothetical or those who may have been or be called upon to do it for real are monsters or anything of the sort, I just struggle to understand how someone could be willing to actually do that.
On a related note I’ve read on more than one occasion of the possibly apocryphal story where the US ran a realistic test of their ICBM force in the late 70’s and that up to a third of the missileers refused to launch their missiles because they believed the alert was real (as was the intention) causing some concern on the authorities part. Did this actually happen or is it, as I suspect, a mere myth.
btw this post may be a bit incoherent and rambling, bear with me, its 04:30 Zulu and I’ve been up for 18 hours at this point…time for bed…