[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V2 #70

arms-d@ucbvax.ARPA (11/06/84)

From: Moderator <ARMS-D@MIT-MC.ARPA>

Arms-Discussion Digest Volume 2 : Issue 70
Today's Topics:

	Impact of Nuclear Winter (2 msgs)
	Importance of Nuclear Freeze
	software development effort for the SDI -- draft paper

From: ihnp4!utzoo!henry@Berkeley
Date: 4 Nov 84 00:50:15 CST (Sun)
To: arms-d@mit-mc.ARPA
Subject: Nuclear Winter does not make nuclear war obsolete, alas

People proclaiming that the Nuclear Winter makes nuclear war totally
unviable as an instrument of policy are missing an important point.
The nuclear winter is not an inherent result of the use of nuclear
weapons.  It is the result of the use of such weapons in situations
where they cause massive fires.

(The meteorologists I know class the airborne-dust component of the
nuclear-winter scenario as ridiculous, totally incompatible with
observations of the global effects of large volcanic eruptions.
The significant contribution of the nuclear-winter people was the
observation of the significance of airborne soot, something that
nobody had examined properly.)

It is quite possible to design nuclear weapons whose use will not
result in large-scale incendiary effects.  Weapons which penetrate
into the ground before detonating will run much more heavily toward
blast, cratering, and fallout effects.  Such warheads are already
operational on the Pershing II.  Neutron bombs are another case in
point.  Simply exploding a large "dirty" bomb at ground level well
upwind of a target is an obvious possibility.  Small warheads delivered
very accurately will minimize incendiary side effects.  I've seen
several other schemes suggested.

Assuming that the Nuclear Winter hypothesis holds up under detailed
examination by skeptical observers, it will certainly change a lot
of military plans.  But it won't make nuclear war obsolete.  Sigh.

				Henry Spencer @ U of Toronto Zoology


Date: 4 Nov 84 17:48:50 EST
Subject: Nuclear winter -- does it make war obsolete?
To: arms-d@MIT-MC.ARPA

Does nuclear winter make nuclear war obsolete?  If only it were that simple.

Nuclear winter is caused primarily by burning cities.  Any nuclear strategy
which avoids massive city fires will avoid nuclear winter.  As I was trying
to say in my message on the Atlantic article, there are obvious ways of
designing nuclear weapons to reduce fire effects.

Nuclear weapons cause fires in two ways.  First, thermal pulse ignites dry
material with a line of sight to the fireball.  Second, the blast ruptures
water mains, gas lines and petroleum tanks; it also causes sparks and liberates
existing sources of flame.

The first effect can be minimized by surface or underground bursts, and by
using larger numbers of smaller warheads.  As I understand it, ground bursts
entrain large amounts of soil which greatly dims the fireball.

The second effect is harder to avoid.  Very large multi-ton conventional bombs
in WWII worked by an interesting mechanism: their explosions were entirely
contained underground.  The explosions created large cavities into which the
targets fell.  This turned out to be far more efficient than destroying the
target with blast alone. (Reference: The Dam Busters, Ballentine Books).

Exploding nuclear weapons under their targets, even if the blast is only
partially contained, would greatly reduce blast pressures in the surrounding
area.  Instead, the surroundings will be buried by the matter kicked up
from the crater and so would be less likely to burn.

Finally, radiological warfare is possible.  It has been ignored up to this
point because the easiest way to make radionuclides, fission, also makes
a lot of energy, so you might as well use that energy to blow up or burn
the target.  Now that nuclear winter makes direct attack on urban areas
suicidal more thought will be given to bombs tailored for rad-war.  A
"enhanced fallout weapon" would consist of a neutron bomb wrapped
in a neutron multiplier, such as beryllium, surrounded by a neutron
thermalizer (carbon, say) mixed with an element that absrobs thermal neutrons
to make a radioisotope with the desired halflife & decay energy.
Cobalt-60 (halflife 5.2 year) or scandium-46 (halflife 84 days) could be
good end products.


Some consequences:  (1) large warheads are much less valuable.  They cannot
be used in cities for fear of fire, and cannot be buried far enough to
avoid fire dangers.  (2)  accuracy becomes more important than throw-weight
(3) impact velocity of the warhead is important, so ballistic missiles
are preferred to ground hugging cruise missiles or bombers (4) radiological
warfare moves to center stage.


Date: Mon 5 Nov 84 09:12:26-PST
Subject: Importance of Nuclear Freeze
To: arms-d@MIT-MC.ARPA

     I  am  a newcomer to this discussion and have only read the  past  two
weeks of the arms discussion digest.  So I hope I won't simply be beating a
dead horse if I take issue with some apparently unarticulated assumptions.
     First I don't agree that nuclear arms,  freeze, disarmament, whatever,
is the central issue which should concern us.   To me the central issue  is
the avoidance of a global war.  And I don't know of any war in history that
was fought or not fought  because  of  the  availability  of  a  particular
weapon.  I assume that those who zero in on  nuclear  arms  do  so  because
they feel that the real  question  is  intractable  so  if  we  could  only
put nuclear weapons in the same category as poison  gas,  outlawed  by  all
nations, they would never be used and the world would at least be  a  safer
place.  Well, I see a number of problems with that approach.
     When  poison gas was used in WWI it was seen to be a disaster for  all
sides. Its utility as a weapon, on balance, was minimal.  No such consensus
exists  for  nuclear weapons.   Most people believe that it was  militarily
successful in shortening WWII.  Military experts on both sides believe that
nuclear weapons would be highly useful in a number of situations (tank  and
troop concentrations, carriers, transportation bottlenecks, etc.)  And many
of the experts on both sides believe,  despite the "official" protestations
to the contrary,  that such weapons can be used effectively without serious
negative  effect on themselves.   As the experience with poison gas  shows,
even though a weapon is outlawed,  no large nation is without a development
program and stockpiles.  Poison gas was not a factor in WWII not because it
was outlawed but because it was not seen as effective.  Nuclear weapons, if
anything,  are seen as super effective.   I think we are sticking our heads
in  the sand if we think that a world war can be fought without the use  of
nuclear  weapons no matter what treaties are signed.   This is not  to  say
that we might not be able to mitigate such usage through treaty.
     However, if we concentrate our effort on avoiding global war, then the
role of nuclear weapons becomes much more ambiguous.   We need to seriously
consider  the  effect that each proposal has,  not just on  nuclear  weapon
reduction,  but on war probability reduction.   If,  for example,  we could
wave  a magic wand and eliminate all nuclear weapons from the face  of  the
earth  tomorrow,  I  am sure that there would be a global war  within  five
years.   The  temptation  for those with the conventional forces  in  place
would be overwhelming.   I don't think that anyone would deliberately start
that  war,  rather  they would be simply improving their  local  positions.
Just  as  the Soviet Union and its partner,  Nazi  Germany,  didn't  really
believe that their invasion of Poland would launch a world war,  so today a
miscalculation  of  the  response  of  the  other  side   would  cause  the
escalation.  And, of course, nuclear weapons would  soon  be  back  in  the
     The second problem I see with the current emphasis on nuclear  weapons
is that it leads some to believe that there is a magic bullet that will end
the danger of nuclear annihilation.   Magic bullets are much easier to sell
politically than are realistic policies.  Star Wars and nuclear freezes can
be  very dangerous if their proponents begin to believe that they are  more
than convenient tags to rally the public.  The extremist rhetoric can paint
both  sides  into  corners  from which the magic bullet  will  be  launched
without  any  real discussion of the uninteresting but  essential  details.
The  real  world  is very  complex.   Actions  frequently  have  unintended
effects.  These effects will not be discovered through polemic.
     Finally,  I believe that there is a danger that the attention given to
a  single  weapon  is  distracting attention from  the  necessary  kind  of
detailed analysis that looks at the actual national goals and interests  of
each  side  realistically  so as to forge the kind of  policies  that  will
prevent war.  That analysis, I believe, is well worth discussion.



Date: 5 November 1984 23:21-EST
From: Herb Lin <LIN @ MIT-MC>
Subject: software development effort for the SDI -- draft paper

*DRAFT* paper title:  Thoughts on Software Development and the SDI
Author:  Herb Lin
Address: Center for International Studies
	 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
	 Cambridge, Massachusetts  02139
Date:    October 1984


          The battle management system for the ballistic missile defenses
          that are addressed by the Strategic Defense Initiative is
          critically dependent on fully reliable software.  The Fletcher
          Commission estimates that the battle management software will
          be on the order of ten million lines of code.  If this estimate
          is valid, the software development effort is estimated to take
          on tens of thousands of man-years to design and implement. 
          Alternative approaches to conventional programming (expert
          systems and automatic programming) are considered and are found
          to be unable to mitigate the problem significantly. 

Copies available through ARPANET FTP on request.

[End of ARMS-D Digest]