While conducting some research for a fiction writing project, I read material from the Union of Concerned Scientists about “close calls” involving nuclear weapons. The numbers and scope of incidents that could have triggered nuclear war are chilling. One article mentioned a troubling incident in which armed nuclear devices went “missing” for an extended period, due to multiple failures of individuals to follow protocol. “In total, there were 36 hours during which no one in the Air Force realized that six live nuclear weapons were missing,” the article notes. And the following, excerpted from the same piece, is especially concerning now, considering who is (occasionally) in the White House:
• August 1974. In his last weeks in office during the Watergate
crisis, President Richard M. Nixon was clinically depressed,
emotionally unstable, and drinking heavily. U.S.
Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger instructed the
Joint Chiefs of Staff to route “any emergency order coming
from the president”—such as a nuclear launch order—
through him first (Schlosser 2013, p. 360)
In light of the mistakes I’ve read about—involving both the U.S. and other countries—the background circumstances that form the underpinning of the plot I’m writing seem utterly plausible. But I hope the plot of my novel, if that’s what it is, is not a premonition of things to come.