Sunday, September 12, 2004

Provoking a Nuclear Strike

There's a Simpsons episode that takes place in the future where Krusty the Clown tells this joke.

"What's the difference between Pakistan and pancake? I dont know any pancakes that have been nuked by India!! Too soon?"

I thought about this joke earlier this week when a Russian general said that the Kremlin wasn't considering 'nuclear strikes'. The denial leads one to ask: what does it take to provoke a nuclear strike? What kind of atrocity would make the Kremlin consider such strikes? The attack on Middle School #1 killed 350 or more people. The attack on the Moscow theater in October 2002 could have killed many more than the 129 who died there. What if the Chechens attacked several sites simultaneously - schools, hospitals, government offices? What if the death toll was in the thousands?

At what point would the Kremlin say, 'fuck it' and nuke Grozny and other locations throughout Chechnya? I think that the Russian threshold is lower than our own. I believe that a few thousand dead Russians, especially in Moscow or St Petersburg, would the government right to the edge.

What about India? There have been so many terror attacks in the past three years that we have forgotten about some of them. Who now remembers the attack on the Indian parliment on December 13, 2001? Only 14 people died but the intent was clearly to decapitate the Indian government. What attack would finally provoke India to strike Pakistan with its nuclear arsenal to end the threat once and for all?

And once that frontier is crossed, will it make the next strike easier or more difficult?


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