Asteroid Affirmative

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Miscalculation - Likely

US-Russia accidental war likely- anything that triggers the “LoW” system will trigger a catastrophic war

Phillips and Starr 8 (Alan, graduated in physics @ Cambridge and Steven, Senior Scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, and is the director and coordinator of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at the University of Missouri, “REPLACE LAUNCH ON WARNING POLICY with Retaliatory Launch Only After Detonation (RLOAD)”, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology,, 2008, CGW)

As long as the United States and Russia retain their arsenals of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, some on high alert, the danger remains of a purely accidental nuclear war between the two countries. Neither side wants this: if it should happen, it would be an utter disaster for both countries and for the entire world – no matter which adversary started it. One of the possible causes of an unintended nuclear war is "Launch on Warning" (LoW) – the policy of launching a retaliatory nuclear strike while the opponent's missiles or warheads are believed to be in flight, but before any detonation from the perceived attack has occurred. Each side is believed to have more than 1000 strategic nuclear warheads ready to launch before the incoming warheads have arrived. Once launched, they cannot be recalled or neutralized. LoW has exposed the world, for at least 30 years, to the danger of a nuclear war caused by nothing but a coincidence of radar, satellite sensor, or computer glitches, and a temporary failure of human alertness to appreciate that the message signaling attack is false. The danger inherent in LoW policy has been appreciated by all concerned since it was first considered in the early 1960's. 3 Priority has been given to reducing this risk, and other risks of unintended or hastily started war, in UN Resolutions and in recommendations from prestigious bodies including the Canberra Commission, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Defense Information, and a recent large conference of Nobel Laureates in Rome, all calling for “lowering the alert status” or similar phrases. These recommendations have not drawn attention to the possibility of simply changing the policy of "Launch on Warning", without lowering alert status or giving up the concept of prompt retaliation. The disaster of an accidental nuclear war has not happened yet, in spite of a large number of false warnings of which at least a few have had very dangerous features. This is a credit to the care and alertness of the military in both Russia and the U.S. It should not be taken as reassurance. A "retaliatory" launch of nuclear weapons on a false warning would result in nuclear war, and the most terrible destruction in both countries, just as surely as a nuclear war started by an actual attack. There would be no chance to review the system to make it safer after one failure of that kind. Although the Cold War is considered over, both Russia and the United States have chosen to retain their LoW capabilities, and they are widely believed to be continuing their LoW policies. If this is the case, it is inexcusably dangerous.

Miscalculation - Likely

The status quo’s warning system makes accidental war very likely

Podvig 5 (Pavel, Podvig received his degree in physics from MIPT and his PhD in political science from the Moscow Institute of World Economy and International Relations, “Reducing the Risk of Accidental Launch

Time for a New Approach?”, PONARS Policy Memo 328, Stanford University, November 2004,, CGW)

Since the early warning system is an essential element of a launch-on-warning posture, it is understandable that a number of proposals that aim at reducing the risks of accidental launch suggest helping Russia to repair or upgrade its early-warning system. These proposals included assistance in bringing into operation the radar in Irkutsk or helping Russia to complete deployment of its early-warning satellites. Neither of these projects were implemented, but if they were, they would most likely have increased the risk of an accident by introducing new elements into the already complex system and increasing confidence in its performance. Other projects that were discussed in the context of reducing risk of an accidental launch suggested providing Russia with independent early-warning information, which was supposed to complement the data received by the Russian system. The most advanced of these proposals called for establishment of a Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC), which would provide both sides with access to their counterpart’s early-warning information. The logic of the project was that in a case of conflicting information from early-warning satellites and radars, the United States and Russia could demonstrate to each other that no attack is underway. Cooperation like this would probably have helped to determine what happened during the January 1995 incident, but it is not certain if it would be of any help in a serious crisis, when each side would have reasons to doubt information provided by its counterpart. To sum it up, the goal of reducing the risks of launch-on-warning postures seems incompatible with the efforts to repair or augment the deteriorating Russian early warning system. Instead, the efforts should be directed at helping Russia change the command and control procedures to accommodate the loss of early-warning capability. These changes would almost certainly result in a shift away from the launch-o n-warning posture, reducing the risk of an accidental launch

Miscalculation – Timeframe

The timeframe for miscalc is less than an hour

Blair 2K8 [Bruce, President of the World Security Institute and former Minuteman launch officer, February 27, “Increasing Warning and Decision Time (‘De-Alerting’)”]

A high degree of vigilance suffuses the entire U.S. and Russian chains of nuclear command and warning, from the bottom all the way to the top. In the warning centers, such as the hub of the U.S. early warning network in Colorado, crews labor under the pressure of tight deadlines to assess and report whether a satellite or land radar sensor indicating a possible threat to North America is real or false. Events happen almost daily, sometimes more than once daily, which trigger this assessment drill that is supposed to yield a preliminary assessment within three minutes after the arrival of the initial sensor data.2 Analogous drills take place under comparable deadlines in Russia. A rush of adrenalin and rote processing of checklists, often accompanied by confusion, characterize the process.3 If their early warning assessment determines that a nuclear missile attack is possibly underway, the entire chain of nuclear command in the United States or Russia would immediately kick into high gear with thousands of duty crews and nuclear support personnel involved. The same rush of adrenalin and rote decision-making by checklist drive a process whose intensity and deadlines practically rule out any chance for careful deliberation. An emergency conference involving the presidents and their top nuclear advisors would be convened, whereupon on the U.S. side the commanding duty officer at Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha would brief the U.S. president on the nature of the apparent attack, the wide array of response options, and their anticipated consequences for Russian physical and human resources. The time allocated for this briefing is as little as 30 seconds depending on the nature of the attack. The U.S. president then would come under intense pressure to absorb this complex set of data, weigh the consequences of the various options, and choose a course of action. His decision window is typically twelve minutes, although under certain extreme conditions it can be much shorter. The extraordinarily brief time for such a momentous decision is driven by four factors: the 30 minute flight time for an intercontinental missile, and about one-half that for an submarine-launched missile; the time required to validate and characterize the attack, using two separate sources of warning data to ensure high confidence; the time required to convene a phone conference of the principals involved in the decision process, and the time required following presidential decision to encode and transmit that decision worldwide to the strategic nuclear forces. Any delay in transmitting the response order runs the risk of losing retaliatory forces to the other side’s attack, thus undermining the calculus of expected damage for the response option chosen by the national leadership. This risk is compounded in the event of a so-called “decapitation strike,” that is, an opening attack on the leadership. Under this circumstance, the integrity of a retaliatory response is greatly compromised, thus calling into question the very calculus upon which nuclear deterrence is based. Given these acute conditions, it is no wonder that as much of the response process as possible is designed to be quasi-automatic. It can reasonably be described as going to war by checklist, enacting a prepared script, with little margin for human error or technical malfunction. The nuclear war machinery on both sides has a hair-trigger quality. And that quality has been a constant in the nuclear equation for decades despite the Cold War’s end. Both of the traditional nuclear rivals still stand ready to inflict apocalyptic devastation on one another in a first or second strike whose essential course would be run in less than one hour.
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