The nuclear arms race between America and the Soviet Union started with the Trinity nuclear test at Alamogordo New Mexico on July 16, 1945. America has gone through several phases of development since then. The invention of the hydrogen bomb under President Truman. Eisenhower's (New Look) in which our TRIAD system was developed consisting of strategic bombers. ICBM's or land based intercontinental ballistic missiles and SLBM's or submarine launched ballistic missiles. Eisenhower knew that it was cheaper to build up nuclear forces as opposed to conventional forces. This nuclear build-up was the muscle behind Eisenhower's policy of Massive Retaliation. During the 1960 presidential election Kennedy made the charge that there was a missile gap between America and the Soviet Union. There was a missile gap but America was not on the short end of the stick. We had a 17 to 1 nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union.This American superiority prompted Khrushchev to risk placing medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba in order establish parity between the two countries. From Cuba these missiles could reach most of the continental United States. What Khrushchev wasn't counting on was a firm stand by John Kennedy who demanded that the Soviet Union remove the missiles which nearly led to World War III in October 1962. It was also because of our nuclear superiority that Russia felt compelled to remove them.The Cuban Missile Crisis would lead to Khrushchev's downfall in 1964 and a firm commitment by Soviet leaders never to suffer this kind of humiliation again.
MAD or mutual assured destruction became our nuclear policy after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The policy was truly mad because it was based on the idea that since both the United States and Russia would potentially be destroyed in a nuclear exchange this in itself would be a deterrent to war. Kennedy employed a measurable response against the Soviets, which was a strategy used successfully during the Cuban Missile Crisis but unsuccessfully in Vietnam. All during the 1960's there was a massive build-up of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union. By 1968, the year I joined the Air Force, Russia was pulling ahead of the United States in sheer numbers of nuclear weapons and achieving nuclear parity. To counter this superiority America developed MIRV technology or Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle which allowed us to keep up with the Soviets at a cheaper price. Simply put this was multiple warheads on a single missile that could destroy multiple targets. Russia was always behind America in technology and could only keep in the game by it's spy network which stole much of that technology.
As a child of the 1950's and 60's I was terrified by the thought of nuclear war. It was much on our minds. My neighbors were building fallout shelters and we were doing duck and cover drills at school. Hollywood was making movies like On The Beach, Fail Safe, and Dr. Strangelove. In 1971 while stationed at NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain Colorado I was promoted to SSgt and was chosen to be a security escort for CINC NORAD who was an American Air Force four star general by the name of Seth McKee. I was also responsible for the security of a Canadian three star general whose name escapes me now. NORAD was a joint American and Canadian command. Being in this position I escorted not only the generals but many visiting foreign and domestic dignitaries who were their guests. In addition to this I escorted the public tours that came through NORAD. This gave me the opportunity to listen to many briefings on the state of America's nuclear offensive and defensive capabilities. On one particular occasion a tour I was escorting was chased out of Command Post because the Soviets were testing how quickly we were able to respond to a penetration of our airspace by their bombers. These briefings made me realize something very shocking. America could destroy the Soviet Union many times over but it could not defend American cities from a nuclear attack. What was even more disturbing was the fact that there were glaring vulnerabilities in our ability to detect an attack.
The briefing officer would explain that an attack coming from the north, or over the Eurasian land mass, would be detected by the DEW line or Distant Early Warning Line, which was tasked to protect all of North America. It was a string of radar sites that stretched from the Aleutian Islands through to Canada, Greenland and on to Diyarbikir Turkey. I traveled there four times to call my wife Debbie while I was stationed in Turkey. It was a dangerous trip that took hours from our base at Erhac through eastern Turkey and over some pretty bad roads and mountainous terrain. The airmen at Dyarbikir used to brag that they could hear the Russian pilots brushing their teeth in the morning. The DEW line could give us about a thirty minute warning if we were attacked by ICBM's and even longer if it was in the form of a bomber attack. In Command Post at NORAD there was a huge screen that was three stories tall and it displayed a radar image of the North American continent. The briefing officer would point out dots that represented Soviet nuclear subs that sat just off of America's coasts. Of course we had American subs sitting off of their coasts. If we were attacked from the east or west coast we might get a fifteen minute warning if we were lucky. From the Gulf there was even less radar protection and the chances for detection were even less. The political left has always believed that having an anti-ballistic missile defense system would make nuclear war more likely. If a country is able to defend it's population centers that would embolden that country to attempt a first strike. As a result the Democratic Party has always voted against an ABM system. I have always been of the opinion that not having an ABM system is immoral.
The Nixon administration was pursuing a policy of Detente. The definition of detente is the relaxation of strained relations or tensions (as between nations). This policy was a huge mistake in my opinion. As usual America was coming up on the short end of the stick. Detente worked to the Soviets advantage. The biggest headache for Soviet leaders was always feeding their people and providing the basic necessities of life to the average citizen. Detente led Nixon to arrange sweetheart grain deals for the Russians. The idea was to help American farmers while at the same it helped Soviet leader Brezhnev feed his people. The Soviets took advantage of the deal and bought up so much grain that it caused bread shortages in the United States which caused bread prices to rise. I began to realize during this time that Detente extended the life of a Soviet empire that was bound to fail otherwise. Ronald Reagan had realized this years earlier and was very much against Detente. Reagan was not interested in extending the life of the (Evil Empire) as he correctly called it. He did not want to contain it. He wanted to destroy it. In the late 1970's Reagan visited NORAD and listened to the same briefing that I had heard many times. He realized how vulnerable that American citizens were in the event of a nuclear attack and this was the origins of SDI or Strategic Defense Initiative in his mind. The left has derisively called it Star Wars ever since. However SDI would be a key factor in Reagan's negotiations with Gorbachev. The Soviet leader knew that Russia did not have the technological capability of building it's own SDI system. The liberals in this country derided SDI as folly but the Soviets were greatly concerned about it and looked upon it as a serious threat. Gorbachev was smart enough to seriously negotiate with Reagan and reduce his country's stockpile of nuclear weapons but it would not be enough to save the Soviet Empire in the end. The people were tired of shortages and the lack of freedom.
Although I know very little about the recent deal that Obama has negotiated with the Iranians, other than what I have heard in the news, I am inclined to believe that as in the case of Detente again we are making a huge mistake. The big difference is that this mistake can have consequences that could lead to World War III for sure, and the deaths of millions of people. MAD or Mutual Assured Destruction was an effective policy only because neither side was willing to risk a nuclear war and possible total destruction. Russia was an evil empire but it;s leaders were not stupid. The Iranian leadership is not only evil but they are fanatics who have expressed the desire to destroy both Israel and the United States many times since 1979. They are however similar to the Soviets in one respect. The Iranian people yearn for freedom and are tired of the Muslim hard line regime just like the Russian people were tired of the Communists. Obama brags that the sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. If that is true then why would you want to lift the sanctions that were working. Instead of enabling the Iranians to acquire nuclear weapons allow the sanctions to bring down the Iranian regime.This is what they fear more than anything else. Now they laugh at our naivete. Whenever I see Obama gloating over this so-called agreement I think of Neville Chamberlain's brag of "Peace in our time". The goal of the Iranians is like Hitler to bring about a Final Solution. Yet the Iranian solution is not just to bring about a Final Solution of the Jewish question but the Christian question as well.
|Tunnel entrance to NORAD|
|SSgt Greg Segroves checking a line badge at the blast doors|
|The 20 ton blast doors|
|CINC NORAD - General Seth McKee|
|Russian Bear Bomber|
|A Russian nuclear sub firing a SLBM or Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile|
|Satelite picture of an Iranian ballistic missile|