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Nuclear War Hilarity

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Yesterday in class I showed the following:

Which is the first of a three part propaganda film asserting that the United States was vulnerable to Soviet nuclear attack. Contained therein are a series of assertion by prominent military officers and civilian policymakers that are hilariously inaccurate; the most important of these assertions was that the Soviet Union had the capacity to destroy the US ICBM force on the ground. No evidence was offered for this assertion, but it helped conservatives argue for a number of things, including:

1. The MX missile, which was supposed to be invulnerable to Soviet first strike, but of which zero evidence to this fact was offered
2. The B-1 bomber, which under the scenario indicated would… well, be destroyed just like the B-52s in the video.
3. A host of other programs to increase the “survivability” of the land force, and of the SLBM force.
4. The discarding of any and all arms limitation agreements with the Soviet Union.

The important thing to note is this: IT. WAS. ALL. BUILT. ON. LIES. No one, whether in uniform or no, who was part of the project to make the documentary or who appeared on the video is stupid enough to believe any of the things that it argues. There’s a reason no evidence was offered for the “90% vulnerability”; there was no such evidence. There’s a reason no serious effort to think about the devastating counter-attack the US could launch even in the event of the worst imaginable attack; that response was clearly enough to deter the notional Soviet attack. There’s a reason that none of the assumptions discussed in the scenario are given any scrutiny; such scrutiny would have rendered abjectly transparent the absurdity of the entire project. To give just one example, the documentary assumes that a) Soviet submarines would be able to approach the east and west coasts of the United States either without detection or without alarming the United States, b) that Soviet SLBMs would have sufficient accuracy to destroy ICBM silos, and c) that US submarines would be unable to reply in kind. All three of these are flat out lies; Soviet boomers rarely left the Arctic and carried missiles less accurate than their American counterparts.

Rather, this documentary represented the collusion of Pentagon civilians, conservative defense intellectuals, and uniformed military officers to shamelessly lie to the American public. In itself this isn’t terribly surprising; this was the era of Team B, after all, and the Team B people were involved in this project. It worked because of the utter ignorance on defense issues of the bulk of the American public. As if there was still any doubt, this experience should have erased the impression that the folks associated with this scam (folks who later found themselves in Republican administrations) felt constrained in any way by the need to tell the truth. In short, there was nothing new or unusual about the body of deception associated with the Iraq War.

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