Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MAD Math and the Zero Sum Nuclear Weapons Game


Today a political expert talking head on BBC said that President and Commander Donald Trump's attack on Bashar al-Assad's airfield in Syria was good because it shows any other opponents that Commander Trump is unpredictable.  In other words no one can tell where or when Commander Trump may attack next.  
This may be a good thing if a state of war existed between the United States of America and some other little nation like Syria or Iraq.  No such war is declared.  The really, really, really bad thing to consider for Commander Trump and his military is the effect of unpredictability on the mutually assured destruction strategy (MAD) still operative and current from the days of the Soviet Union.  
For those who chose to forget, here's an excerpt as refresher from Wiki, "The strategic balance between the United States and Russia is becoming less stable, and the objective, technical possibility of a first strike by the United States is increasing. At a time of crisis, this instability could lead to an accidental nuclear war. For example, if Russia feared a U.S. nuclear attack, Moscow might make rash moves (such as putting its forces on alert) that would provoke a U.S. preemptive strike."  Very smart scientists and mathematicians of the 1950's like RAND corporation’s Herman Kahn and MIT’s John Von Neumann engraved all the dogma of MAD.  The whimsical Von Neumann created the acronym.  
The whole thing is based on the zero sum game of nuclear weapons.  Say side one has two thousand fifty megaton missiles and side two has about the same.  If side one launches a first strike sending missiles at their side two opponent, side two will reply with more missiles and on and on until the missiles are all used, and thereby both sides are assured of destruction.  The entire planet would of course be put into a nuclear winter and billions would die, but side one would be declared the winner by the few hiding out in some bunker in the mountains.  Of course no sane human wants this scenario to happen… ever.  
First strike refers to the act of launching thermonuclear missiles first.  The dogma is math, and the math relies on perfection for a win.  Actual nuclear war must be imperfect and corrupt and messy and emotionally intolerable.  If a commander and the staff only consider the MAD math, the fog surrounding decision trees clear up.  Some things throw askew the whole MAD math calculation like the numbers and accuracy of the missiles deployed by both sides of warriors.  Notice the use of “game” for Tom Clancy who wrote about a “game changing” nuclear missile sub in his little scary book and movie called “The Hunt For Red October.”  The Red October had a new kind of engine that can’t be detected allowing for a first strike capability.  In the Wiki quote above note "instability.”  Instability can also throw the MAD math into a tizzy and commanders and staff are more prone to make a mistake.  
The new Trump doctrine of unpredictability is adding instability into the MAD math.  Do the MAD math.  Do we as a nation want an unstable warrior in the nuclear MAD math arena?  The Trump doctrine edges our nation closer into just such a MAD math nuclear conflict.  In the big game, the side two opponent, Russia considers a first strike as viable because of the instability of the side one commander, President Trump.  
The game needs to end now.  

Ground War in Vietnam as imagined by Francis Ford Coppola "Apocalypse Now" 1979
Sam Bottoms as Lance and Robert Duvall as Kilgore. 
Kilgore- Smell that? You smell that?  
Lance- What?  
Kilgore- Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. 

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

Thanks Martin, or rather no thanks. To think that this whole nuclear scenario is in people's minds again induces such a feeling of despair. It is somehow beyond rage or resentment. Is this really our America ?