From Nuclear Military Strategy to a World without War: A History and a Proposal

By Roger Hilsman | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
Armageddon: Six Scenarios of Nuclear War

Earlier chapters suggested again and again that nuclear war would be a horror beyond imagining. But it still might be instructive to look in more detail at how a nuclear war might come about and what the consequences might be.

One possibility is nuclear terrorism. A terrorist organization, for example, might smuggle a small, suitcase nuclear bomb into the United States, Russia, or some other major power, and set it off to dramatize whatever its demands might be.

A second possibility is nuclear terrorism by a state, as opposed to an organization. Suppose an outlaw state acquires or manufactures a few nuclear weapons. Suppose that it then tries to provoke a war between the United States and Russia or the United States and China by sending agents on a suicidal mission to plant suitcase nuclear weapons in, say, Washington and New York on the one hand, and Moscow and Leningrad or Peking and Shanghai on the other.

A third possibility is nuclear war between third and fourth countries, such as between India and Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan have tested nuclear weapons, and in case of war are very likely to use them.

A fourth possibility would be a war between Israel and one of the Muslim states of the Middle East. Israel has built a stockpile of nuclear weapons, but no one knows for certain just how large it is. 1 In the aftermath of the Gulf War, it became clear that Iraq had a very large program to develop nuclear weapons, and suspicion was widespread that Iran was also engaged in a nuclear weapons program. If one or another Muslim state acquired nuclear weapons and a war broke out with Israel, it could easily escalate, with both sides using nuclear weapons.

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