In all walks of life crises occur, the military ones cause extra concern because they have the potential to do immense damage. With the advent of the atomic weapon such crises have, understandably, caused increasing concern. That accidents, near accidents and errors have occurred has beeen known for many years. Flocks of geese, the moon, misreading signals all these and many more have been documented. Fail safe systems are now, contrary to what critics say, extremely rigorous and designed so as to override human error.
Eric Schlosser has written a very absorbing and well researched book about military nuclear mishaps. It reads like a novel telling the story of some of the 32 official 'broken arrows' thathave taken place since 1950. That is, incidents where nuclear weapons have been stolen, lost or unintentionally fired. Some 6,he says have actually been lost! The author relates a number of other serious incidents that have never been recorded. He argues, not altogether convincingly, that these could have been avoided if lessons had been learned from earlier incidents. Some of his cases are hair raising, for instance the 1961 incident when a B 52 bomber carrying two thermonuclear bombs each 200 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb had to eject the bombs by parachute because of a serious fuel leak. Three of the 4 safeguards failed. If the fourth had failed much of the NE of the USA would have been devastated.
Schlosser says we need a nuclear free world. I disagree. In any case you cannot disinvent the nuclear weapon. We certainly ought to reduce nuclear arsenals. Despite reductions in the past 20 years they still represent massive overkill. He appears to favour more missile defence systems. Again I disagree. These are prohibitively expensive and can easily be swamped.
Where I do share his concern is regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by states such as Pakistan, countries that is that are politically unstable, and where terrorists could seize these weapons and use them to blackmail others. At the moment perhaps a little fanciful, I fear not 20 years from now. Preventing proliferation is a very, very difficult task. We avoid asking the key question, namely, why is it permissible for the US, Russia, GB, Israel, France and others to have these terrible weapons but not Iran and N Korea? I know of nothing in International Law that prevents such proliferation.
A fascinating and important book that deserves widespread attention.