Monday, September 29, 2008

"Mr. President, I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed"

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note quotes former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski on what the plan was for the President to handle a nuclear strike during the Cold War. I found this chilling, particularly because Brzezinski and everybody around him thought it would actually be possible to plan for something like this, and to assume everybody would be calm and rational and orderly:
. . . one of my jobs was to coordinate the president's response in the event of a nuclear attack. I'm not revealing any secrets, but it was something like this: We would have initial warning of an attack within one minute of a large-scale launch by the Soviet Union. Roughly by the second minute we'd have a pretty good notion of the scale and the likely targets. By the third minute, we would know more or less when to anticipate impact and so forth. By the third minute, the job of the national security advisor was to alert the president that this was ongoing, that we have this information. And the president then decides how to respond. It begins to get complicated immediately. If it's an all-out attack, the response is presumably easier. You just react in total. But suppose it's a more selective attack. There are choices to be made. The president is supposed to weigh the options. How will he react? There's an element of uncertainty here. In any case, the process is to be completed roughly by the seventh minute.. . . By the seventh minute, the order to execute had to be transmitted and whatever we decided had to be carried out. Roughly by the 28th minute, there's impact. That is to say, you and your family are dead. Washington's gone. A lot of our military assets are destroyed. But presumably, the president has calmly made the decision how to respond. We're already firing back. Six hours later, 150 million Americans and Soviets are dead. That is the reality we lived with. And we did everything we could to make it as stable, as subject to rational control, as possible.
Of course, nobody anticipated having the president who would just continue reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes...

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