Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety


In 1980 rural Arkansas, it was just another day for the men stationed at the Titan missile launch silo. Buried underground, the facility was created to quickly respond to a nuclear attack. But on this day, the nuclear threat was not from outside the silo, but from within. Malfunctions mount. Safety controls fail. A nuclear warhead sits atop a ticking time bomb.

Why I liked this book

This book should terrify all Americans; not because of an external existential threat, but an internal one. Despite the layers of (warranted) safety measures applied to nuclear weaponry, accidents still happen—and in far more frequency than you know. Our former obsession with nuclear war, and the rapid development of arms to fight it, have created surface area for cataclysms to happen. That's what nearly unfolded in Damascus, Arkansas in 1980. For all of the fear mongering and propaganda surrounding nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union, it was nearly the American military's fault to have nuclear disaster occur on American soil.

Nuclear war is insane. The infrastructure and game theory surrounding it is insane. Command and control measures, the system of checks and approvals used to manage nuclear weapon launches, is fallible despite the millions of dollar poured into it.

What's craziest is that these measures persist today. Sure, we have better technology, but those errors still exist. We just don't know where.

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