I’ve been studiously ignoring the news but this penetrated my anti-media barrier thanks to my spouse:
My first thought was, “Thank God this didn’t happen during the Cold War!” The Soviets were so batsh*t paranoid that they would have started with the assumption it was some kind of attack just like when they shot down the Korean airliner.
For all of the doom and gloom today about terrorism, global warming (or whatever apocalypse is fashionable this week) young folks should remember that no problem we face today was as serious and as dangerous as Cold War balance of terror. We faced the very real prospect that within the space of a mere hour, every major city and piece of infrastructure in the developed world, the communist and (it would turn out) India, would have been utterly destroyed along with most of the people inside them. Civilization would have ended for centuries. It would take just one hour for it all to end.
The post-Cold War revelation of just how ready the Soviets were to empty the silos, and how they almost did once out of shear delusion, are easily the scariest thing I ever read. The world could have ended just because a bunch of political zealots caught, in what was effectively a absolutist religious delusion, could have destroyed civilization for absolutely no valid reason at all, not even a reason valid in their ideology.
The Soviet Union would turn out to have been an utterly militarized state whose ruling caste was totally convinced not only that America spent its every waking moment trying to destroy them but that the “scientific” doctrine of Marxist historical inevitability made an eventual American attack as certain as the predicted orbits of the planets. Leftists scoffed at Cold War CIA estimates that the Soviet Union spent 20% of its GNP on the military. The CIA was in fact wrong. The Soviets actually spent 40% of their GNP on the military. Basically WWII, never ended for them and the Soviet Union was a military with the bare minimum civilian sector necessary to support it. They thought themselves constantly at war.
All the Cold War era arguments in the West itself about the West’s role in creating the Cold War turned out to be utterly moot.