ec2-3-235-188-113.compute-1.amazonaws.com | ToothyWiki | RecentChanges | Login | Webcomic

I kill you.
You kill me.
We're as dead as dead can be.

{shoots BarneyTheDinosaur}

One might argue, however, that the death of BarneyTheDinosaur would be worth it...

Which is actually quite a good point.

But... But... I didn't want to make a good point... :/ - Kazuhiko
Hello?  You advocated shooting BarneyTheDinosaur, no matter what the personal risk was.  How can you claim nonsense?

MAD works, if it works, when three conditions are true:
1. Both (all) sides have managed to develop their weaponry to this point without using them on each other yet.
2. The promised counterstrike is devestating enough to your assets that nothing you would gain by striking first would be worth it.  (Hence someone should nuke BarneyTheDinosaur )
3. Both sides can see the other sides strike coming far enough in advance to decide, and use, their counterstrike.  (Or their counterstrike is set up in such away that no conceivable pre-emptive strike could take it out.)

In theory, both superpowers can then sit there threatening each other - but everyone is too scared to make a move, or even develop new weapons.

In practice, I understand that many people shat their pants during the 50s and 60s - but the world somehow pulled through.

The theory isn't perfect.  If someone can develop some form of defence, or some form of attack that can be pre-emptive enough to prevent a counter-attack, or is just insane enough to not value the possible losses - then it falls over completely.  NuclearNonProliferation? was supposed to at least hold that third scenario at bay for a while.

One strong disproof of MAD ushering in peace is the brinksmanship theory.
You draw a line in the sand.
Not out of the blue, presumably. We both discuss where the line should be.
I nudge it with my toe - do you nuke me?
I chop off the bit of your toe that went over the line. Do you nuke me?
Alternatively, if I'm following current US/UK precedent, I get my thugs to chop your head off and take over your bit of beach, and the whole story just ends there.
I move an inch over the new line.  Do you nuke me?
I point at your foot while it's over the line, making sure everyone sees, then chop that inch off your foot. Do you nuke me?
I step across the new line.  Do you nuke me?
I chop off both your feet while my pals, who also saw you step across, hold you down. Do you nuke me?
I stride across the street with the line in.
How? You've no feet.
Do you nuke me?
I invade poland.

That's sort of the whole point (which you have made hard to read by interspersing your replies there) - MAD doesn't prevent escalation, and there's nothing (really) to prevent escalation all the way back up to nuclear weaponry, and THEN what do you do?
Of course, the whole theory of MAD was two (roughly) evenly matched powers.  The whole situation is kinda different now.

There's a wonderful Yes Prime Minister scene about this - anyone got the text?

Added in YesPrimeMinister/NuclearDeterrent - tjm

I've yet to see a sensible explanation of why that won't work - since there is NO sensible time for a sane person to push the button and destroy the planet.

Perhaps because the people involved are not necessarily either sane or sensible?
If you are going to argue that the people holding the triggers are so insane as to use them at the tiniest provocation, then you are somewhat (though not totally) disproved by the current existence of civilisation.  The whole idea of MAD falls apart completely with a madman on the trigger.

Game theory dictates that you must limit your options, and be seen to limit your options. In the case above, link a light beam sensor device to the trigger, and stand well back. Now you'd have to be mad to try pushing things. Assured political suicide if you back down may achieve the same option.

Nevertheless, the threat of widespread nuclear death did actually keep the peace between the superpowers for four decades (or at least, kept any conflicts limited to proxy wars which were local in scope). This actual historical evidence trumps any and all theoretial 'disproofs'. The simple fact is that no one did play brinkmanship, simply because there was too much to lose if it went wrong. The closest things came to 'salami tactics' was Cuba, with first the USSR giving aid, then building bases, then sending missiles... and they backed down.

So come up with all the theoretical disproofs you like, the truth is that in the real world it works because nobody risks seeing how far they can push. -- Someone fed up with Cambridge graduates offering up theories and suggestions as to why such and such a thing should or shouldn't work and what people and countries should and shouldn't do that have are wonderfully obtruse and pretty and logical and game theoretical but have little or no basis in the real world.

One test run is not a statistically significant sample.  It worked once.  Does that mean we should rely on it again?

A rare optimistic thought, from a quote.  This is the first time in history that a weapon has been created, proven to work, and then not used again in human history.  (Taking into account a bigger weapon being invented and used)  We are going on sixty years since the bomb was used.  MAD may not be pretty, it certainly is brinksmanship and it's terrifying (especially as new and smaller powers emerge) - but it has proved that humanity can refrain from using a weapon, at least for a while.  Even if the world is ended tomorrow, that's one hell of a thing to prove.  --Vitenka

[Another view on MAD]

ec2-3-235-188-113.compute-1.amazonaws.com | ToothyWiki | RecentChanges | Login | Webcomic
Edit this page | View other revisions | Recently used referrers
Last edited March 24, 2004 5:59 pm (viewing revision 16, which is the newest) (diff)