Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under Big Boards

The New Yorker on the Cold War’s nuclear standoff:

In 1960, the Soviet Union had just four confirmed intercontinental ballistic missiles. And although Air Force intelligence informed Kennedy, after he took office, that the Soviets might have a thousand ICBMs by the middle of 1961, by the end of that year they had sixteen. In 1962, the Soviet Union had about thirty-three hundred nuclear weapons in its arsenal, and the United States had more than twenty-seven thousand.

The Soviets had thirty-six ICBMs; the Americans had two hundred and three.

The threat was largely, although not completely, imaginary. The Soviets didn’t have the capability that nuclear-war scenarios assumed, and there was no good reason to believe that anyone’s nuclear weapons would work the way they were designed to. The Kennedy Administration estimated that seventy-five per cent of the warheads on Polaris missiles (the missiles carried in submarines) would not detonate.

Nuclear armageddon is apparently like the Obamacare web site: a faulty launch but eventually everyone gets covered. Tip your waiter, I’m here all week, etc.