Many readers of the Blog probably haven’t seen the Stanley Kubrick movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”, which was released in 1964. That was a time when both the U. S. and the Soviet Union were building their respective Nuclear Arsenals. At that time, there had not been any negotiations with regard to Nuclear Arms reductions. When it was released, it was said to have been a spoof.
The film’s premise was that a mentally-deranged American General could order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, without consulting the President. The Pentagon, and especially the Air Force, claimed that such a scenario was impossible. As you can see in the attached article from the New Yorker, titled: ‘Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True’ , the Defense Establishments, in both countries, have been concerned that there might be some truth to the movie (and book) ever since, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/01/strangelove-for-real.html?utm_source=tny&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailyemail&mbid=nl_daily(102)_single&mbid=nl_Daily%20Single%20Column%20(2).
Near the very end of the movie, there is an interesting piece with Dr. Strangelove, played by Peter Sellers, in a wheelchair and with his one hand seemingly trying to be fight his other hand. I believe that it was, in fact, a subtle hint as to what bothered both countries thereafter: how to have a reliable weapon and yet insure that it would only be used when properly authorized. Perhaps that’s what eventually got the two sides to the Negotiating Table. That led to SALT, MADD and other Strategic Arms treaties.
Recently, two High-Level Officers have been relieved of duty: Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the second-highest-ranking officer at the U.S. Strategic Command, and Major General Michael Carey, the Air Force commander in charge of America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. There were various charges against them; but, in the end, it was cited as conduct “unbecoming an officer and a gentleman”. (The linked New Yorker article goes into more detail on the specific offenses.)
Recently, there have been reports that a number of officers in STRATCOM, which is tasked with launching the ICBMs, have also been relieved of duty for cheating on required readiness tests, drug usage and other charges. Let’s hope that the Human Reliability Program, which was designed to screen personnel with emotional, psychological, and substance-abuse problems from gaining access to nuclear weapons, works properly.
The codes, at least to me, show that the various safeguards are still not infallible–if that is even possible. Over the years, given the jockeying between the Military and Civilian Defense Leadership, the launch codes, at one point, were reduced to, get this,“0000”, only to be changed time and again. That launch code is not in keeping with how every computer user is advised about keeping their Passwords safeguarded. Oh, and for the Tridents that are carried on Nuclear Submarines, if the launch code transmissions are not received from Washington in a timely manner, the crew can just use a blow torch to open the safe. HMMM!
P. S. Oh well, maybe the next book that I read will be “The Codebreakers”.