In this context, the word MAD means ‘mutually assured destruction’ as first introduced in a telephone conversion between US President John Kennedy and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1963 and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s scary to realise just how close the World came to Armageddon at that time and where wise minds prevailed to avoid it. The resolution meant a climb down on both sides with US missiles withdrawn from Turkey and Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba. It’s become a lesson that none should ever forget since it is this ‘balance of power’ that has retained peace in the wake of two global conflicts that occurred prior to the nuclear age and murdered millions of people.
Decades later and with a new younger generation, we hear talk from some politicians advocating the apparently sensible notion of unilateral disarmament whilst failing to recognise how the concept of MAD means that the smart play in times of conflict is not to play and thereby rendering possible offensives redundant but it only works if the concept of MAD is maintained. It means nothing if an enemy can strike at the other with impunity.
In my view, it’s counter-productive for politicians to talk about unilateral disarmament as if any conflict involving such weapons are restricted outside of their national borders. The accidental nuclear explosion at Chernobyl should have taught us that lesson and again reinforcing the idea that the best prevention against deliberate use of nuclear weapons is to reinforce the notion that such use would be counter-productive and invite terrible retribution.
Being entirely clear on this, I truly wish the damned weapons had never been invented but it’s hard to backtrack through history and uninvent something that allegedly may have saved millions of lives caught up in the closing stages of the last global conflict. Nagasaki in my humble opinion remains as the ‘most unfortunate city’ since it was not the preferred target on that day.
Ultimately, the decision to be made in 2016 starts with the recognition that NATO is an alliance in which the credo of MAD is central and where we were once glad of US participation by supplying air bases and naval port facilities during the ‘Cold War’ era. The fact that US bombers and submarines can now operate on a global basis without assistance from other nations doesn’t alter the need for an independent and credible defence program. “Fixed defensive structures are a monument of man’s stupidity,” offered General George S Patton in the past but in the modern era; it’s maybe even more pertinent than before.