Fantastic post about a very dangerous time in World History.
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!
Netflix just came out with a really well made Historical Cold War Drama titled The Siege of Jadotville. Now this time period will not be familiar to most folks, but For those of you familiar with the Cold War History of Africa, you will definitely remember the Congo Crisis and the 1961 CIA sponsored Assassination of Patrice Lumumba (which the movie begins with).
One of the reasons why the superpowers were interested in the Congo, particularly the province of Katanga, is that this region had one of the largest seams of Uranium (which can be weaponized to make nuclear weapons) in the world and in addition provided half or more of the worlds supply of Copper and Cobalt, which interestingly enough, was needed to build the guidance systems for ICBM’s, which both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R were building at a break neck rate in 1961. The Geo-Political aspect of this conflict is extremely in-depth, which gives the movie a whole different feel than just “another war movie.”
Side note: For you Weapons junkies like me, this movie has some really nice period correct hardware in it as well, to include:
- FN FAL
- Swedish Carl Gustav M/45 SMG
- SMLE Lee-Enfield No.4 MK1 Rifle
- SMLE Lee- Enfield No.4 MK1 Sniper Rifle
- Vickers Machine Gun
- Bren Machine Gun
Interesting tidbit: The Swedish Garl Gustav M-45 was used by US Army SOG Forces in Vietnam throughout the sixties and into the early seventies. John L Plaster in his excellent book Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG discusses their use in detail.
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!
It’s 1988. World War Three has begun, with the armies of the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact pouring over the Inter-German Border. Their destination: the Rhine River and beyond, dealing NATO a knockout blow that will end the war.
Meanwhile at sea, an equally titanic battle is about to take place. A Soviet Kirov-class battlecruiser, attempting to intercept a U.S. Navy carrier battle group, is intercepted by the battleship USS Iowa. The biggest ship-against-ship battle since the World War Two is about to begin. Who wins?
Built in the late 1980s, the Kirov-class battlecruisers were designed—like much of the Soviet navy at the time—to neutralize American carrier battle groups during warfare. American aircraft carriers were a threat to not only the Soviet mainland but also Moscow’s nuclear missile submarines, and were to be taken out as quickly as possible. A secondary mission of the Kirov class was as commerce raider, designed to cut the flow of American and Canadian ground reinforcements to the battleground in Europe.
The Kirov class were the largest surface warships built since the end of World War II. Each displaced twenty-four thousand tons and measured 826 feet long—nearly as long as an aircraft carrier. Nuclear powered, they could cruise indefinitely at speeds of up to thirty-two knots.
The purpose of the battlecruisers was to attack, and they were well suited for the task. Each carried twenty enormous P-700 Granit antiship missiles. Each, a Granit missile weighed more than fifteen thousand pounds. This was enough to include 1,653-pound high explosive warhead, enough fuel to give it a range of three hundred miles at Mach 2.5, and a both inertial and active radar guidance. Initial targeting data would be provided by the space-based Legenda satellite targeting system, shore-based aircraft, shipboard helicopters or the battlecruiser itself.
Granit was unique among Cold War–era antiship missiles in having an early networking capability. One missile per salvo rises higher than the rest, providing radar targeting information to the rest of the missiles though a network. If that missile was shot down, another would rise to take its place.
The Kirov cruisers were also designed to be self sufficient in anti-air weapons, the overall armament forming a layered defense system. Each carried 96 S-300F long-range surface to air missiles, a naval adaptation of the land-based S-300 system. The ships also carried 192 3K95 short-range surface-to-air missiles based on the Tor, and forty 4K33 missiles based on the Osa. As a last resort, the ships had six AK-630 close-in weapon systems equipped with thirty-millimeter gatling guns.
Read the Remainder at National Interest
On Dec. 24, 1970, an odd airplane touched down at an air base in Thailand. Though it might not have looked like it, this was a top secret U.S. Air Force propaganda plane and the crew had just flown the last of a series of classified missions over neighboring Cambodia.
The Pentagon sent the pilots from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard to help the government in Phnom Penh spread propaganda in remote, rural areas. Though brief, the obscure operation — nicknamed Commando Buzz — paved the way for an all new kind of psychological warfare operation.
By 1970, Washington had been fighting a broad and bloody war in Southeast Asia for nearly five years. North Vietnamese troops funneled weapons, ammunition and other gear through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam.
A seemingly endless stream of ideas, from the practical to the absurd andsometimes terrifying, had all failed to cut the communist supply lines. In Laos, with the help of a friendly government, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency launched a covert bombing campaign and backed a secretive guerrilla army on the ground.
But Cambodia leader Norodom Sihanouk refused to break ties with the Soviet Union and Communist China. An avowed neutralist and supporter of the non-aligned movement, Sihanouk tried to play off all the sides of his advantage.
Ultimately, he found himself surrounded by enemies. Sihanouk coined the French term “Khmer Rouge” — Red Khmers — for his leftist opponents. He similarly derided right-leaning critics as the “Khmer Bleu.”
In March 1970, military officers led by Gen. Lon Nol seized control as Sihanouk was on a world tour of Europe, the Soviet Union and China. Lon and his compatriots believed he gave the North Vietnamese too much freedom and empowered Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.
The junta rushed to Washington for help. A month after the coup, American and South Vietnamese troops launched an attack into Cambodian territory. In July 1970, the campaign ended after delivering a major blow to Hanoi’s forces.
Unfortunately, Lon’s government couldn’t capitalize on the victory. The U.S.-led offensive drove the communists deeper into the Cambodian countryside, where they could count on popular support.
The Cambodian military, with its poorly-trained and underpaid soldiers, was also no match for the battle-hardened rebels without American aid.
During the Cold War, the United States supported selective nuclear proliferation as a means of deterring a Soviet invasion of Europe. The Russians might not believe that the United States would trade Berlin for New York, but they might find a British or French threat more credible.
Washington did not pursue the same strategy in Asia. Although Japan could easily match Britain or France in economic power and technological sophistication, the United States didn’t see fit to support Japanese nuclearization. Instead, the United States quashed Japanese nuclear ambitions whenever they appeared.
This decision was well considered, given the effect that Japanese nukes might have had on the course of global nuclear proliferation. But had the balance of power in East Asia shifted in a different direction, arming Japan with nukes might have made more sense. Such a development would have had huge implications for the spread of nuclear weapons across the world.
The legacy of World War II
Japan briefly pursued atomic weapons during World War II, although its efforts came nowhere near matching those of Germany, much less the United States. However, the United States destroyed the project’s infrastructure early in the occupation, making clear that Japan would not soon rejoin the community of nations, at least in terms of self-defense.
The precedent of Pearl Harbor rested heavily on American minds, and the idea that Japan might acquire weapons that would enable it to undertake a far more devastating sneak attack was deeply unpopular. While the United States supported British and tolerated French nuclear efforts, Japan was different. Britain and France were part of the victorious Allied coalition in World War II, while Japan was a defeated aggressor state.
As the only victim of a nuclear attack, Japan’s domestic politics made a nuclear turn difficult. However, during the 1960s, the Japanese government actively considered the development of a nuclear weapons program.
Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato argued that Japan needed nuclear weapons to match those of China; however, the United States demurred. Instead, the Johnson administration pressed for Japanese accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ending, for then, Japan’s nuclear ambitions.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring
While at Stanford last month, we had a long conversation with former Secretary of Defense William Perry about the nuclear dangers facing the world. We were struck by his provocative and frightening outlook: that the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War. North Korea’s recent bluster only underlines the dangers.
Perry knows whereof he speaks, since he has devoted most of his career to preventing nuclear conflict. (Full disclosure: One of us was his student and research assistant at Stanford.) His recent book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, explains why he focused so much on these issues, and why he concluded that nuclear weapons endanger U.S. national security far more than they preserve it.
After our conversation with Perry, we attended a lecture that he gave on today’s nuclear dangers. It is well worth watching in its entirety, for he offered a nuanced analysis of the nuclear policies and capabilities of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan. After this sweeping tour of the world, he concluded that there are three main nuclear dangers today that, taken together, make the current world even more dangerous than during most of the Cold War. He pointed out that the Doomsday Clock is currently set at three minutes to midnight — the closest to midnight it has been since the height of the Cold War in 1984, and only one minute ahead of its lowest setting ever, in 1953.
The first danger is the possibility of a nuclear war with Russia, either by accident or miscalculation. Perry argued that today’s situation is “comparable to the dark days of the Cold War,” not only because Russia is modernizing its nuclear arsenal but also because Russian President Vladimir Putin might consider using nuclear weapons if the survival of his regime is at stake. Putin faces many domestic challenges, including the drastic decline of oil prices that is forcing the state to rapidly consume its capital reserves, and aggressive nationalist policies are one way to divert domestic attention from those problems. Russia is not deliberately seeking a military conflict with the United States or NATO, Perry said, but the key danger is that Putin “will take actions that will cause him to blunder into a conflict.” He argued that over time, Russia would inevitably lose any such conventional conflict, which might lead it to use its tactical nuclear weapons (which it refers to surreally as a “de-escalatory strike”). And if that were to happen, it would be impossible to predict or control the resulting escalation.
The second danger is a regional nuclear war — a danger that did not exist during the Cold War. Though he discussed possible future threats from North Korea, Perry rightly described a possible nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan as “the poster child” of this scenario. We’ve written about this danger before. Pakistan and India remain locked in a frozen conflict that is the legacy of nearly 70 years of unresolved issues — including Kashmir — and three bloody wars. Today, both nations possess more than 100 nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis have recently begun developing and fielding tactical nuclear weapons, ostensibly to offset India’s sizable conventional superiority. These short-range weapons are inherently less easy to secure and control, and clearly lower the threshold for actual use on the battlefield.
Perry noted that both Indians and Pakistanis expect and fear future attacks similar to the 2013 Mumbai terrorist massacre — and neither side expects New Delhi to exercise similar military restraint in response. Thus, the stage is set for a conventional military confrontation that could rapidly escalate into an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war — first at the tactical level, but one that could spiral unpredictably into a strategic exchange. In Perry’s words: “This is the nightmare of how a regional nuclear war would start — a nightmare that would involve tens of millions of deaths, along with the possibility of stimulating a nuclear winter that would cause widespread tragedies all over the planet.”
The third nuclear danger is the prospect of nuclear terrorism, which also did not exist during the Cold War — and which he argued is far more dangerous than most people understand. He showed a chilling video of what he called the Nightmare Scenario. It involves a rogue group of scientists operating on the fringes of a state’s nuclear weapons program smuggling out enough plutonium and bomb-making knowledge to create a single nuclear device, which they then transfer to a waiting terrorist group. This group then uses commercial air, sea, and land transport to infiltrate the bomb into the United States and detonate it in downtown Washington, D.C. — inflicting tens of thousands of casualties and effectively decapitating the U.S. government. The terrorists threaten further attacks on other major American cities if all U.S. troops deployed overseas are not immediately brought home. The resultant chaos plunges the nation into a paroxysm of civil disorder, mass roundups of thousands of suspects, and martial law.
This scenario may be unlikely, but it is both credible and chilling — and a little-discussed danger for the United States. Its dangers lie not just in tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties from such a devastating attack here at home, but in the potential for the United States to plunge into chaos and respond in ways that forever alter the essence of what it means to be an American. Both the catastrophic destruction and the breakdown of U.S. civil liberties depicted in the film suggest the imminent dangers associated with this nuclear threat today — one aimed within the United States itself, not just constrained to some distant region.
Perry suggested a series of steps to help reduce the growing risks of nuclear war in this century. Foremost among them was the very purpose of his book and lecture: to “educate the public on today’s nuclear dangers, and to promote policies that can reduce those dangers.” He is a tireless advocate of improving relations between the United States and Russia, because he believes that restoring cooperation in areas of mutual interest is the first step towards reducing the dependence on nuclear weapons. He also reinforced the need to raise global awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and remain focused here at home on the very real dangers of a terrorist group detonating a weapon in the United States.
Perry, who is 88 years old, ended his talk on a much-needed note of optimism. He continues to work tirelessly to reduce the threat of nuclear conflict and towards a world free of nuclear weapons. But he does not believe he is a “naïve idealist,” as he has been called, for promoting such unrealistic goals. Instead, he noted that the famous Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov spent his whole life working toward political reform in the Soviet Union, which also seemed to be a hopeless task. When told he was being too idealistic, Sakharov replied, “There is a need to create ideals, even when you cannot see a path to achieving them. Because when there are no ideals, then there is no hope.”
“We must pursue our ideals,” Perry concluded, “in order to keep alive our hope — hope for a safer world for our children and for our grandchildren.”
Read the Original Article at War on the Rocks