Nuclear War Expert: 72 Minutes To Wipe Out 60% Of Humans, In The Hands Of 1 Person! - Annie Jacobsen

Nuclear War Expert: 72 Minutes To Wipe Out 60% Of Humans, In The Hands Of 1 Person! - Annie Jacobsen

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Nuclear war could end in 72 minutes, resulting in 5 billion deaths.
  • The decision to pick leaders is crucial as the US president can launch nuclear missiles without authorization.
  • A survivor of the Nagasaki bomb shared her horrifying experience.

Why Write This Book Now? (00:01:59)

  • The book "Nuclear War: A Scenario" was published in March 2024, coinciding with global tensions.
  • The author, Annie Jacobsen, has written six previous books about the military and intelligence organizations in the US.
  • Many sources in her previous books expressed pride in preventing nuclear World War III.
  • The book aims to illustrate the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war and challenge the notion of deterrence.
  • The writing process began during COVID-19, but Jacobsen's reporting on nuclear weapons spans her entire career.
  • Her first book, "Area 51," revealed the US government's atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in Nevada.
  • Realizing nuclear war as a ticking clock scenario inspired the book's focus on the rapid sequence of events after detection.

Are We Getting Closer to Nuclear War? (00:06:30)

  • The geopolitical temperature of the world has escalated to an unprecedented level, making the subject of nuclear war seem more real than ever.
  • Despite the constant threat of nuclear war, the world has become complacent and forgotten about it.

Who Is in Charge of the Nuclear Button? (00:08:05)

  • In the United States, the President has sole presidential authority to launch a nuclear war without seeking permission from anyone, including the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Congress.
  • This authority is due to the limited time available to respond to an incoming ballistic missile, which can reach its target in approximately 30 minutes.

The Evolution of Nuclear Weapons (00:12:23)

  • The atomic bomb used in 1945 is different from modern thermonuclear bombs.
  • Thermonuclear bombs are more powerful and smaller than atomic bombs.
  • The development of thermonuclear bombs involved the collaboration of Nazi scientists.
  • The goal was to create smaller and more powerful weapons for ballistic missiles.
  • The nuclear Triad consists of ICBMs in silos, nuclear-powered submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect and are constantly patrolling the oceans.

Who Has Nuclear Weapons? (00:16:16)

  • There are nine nuclear-armed nations: the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
  • Iran is suspected of trying to obtain nuclear weapons, which would further destabilize global safety and security.
  • Many of the countries with nuclear weapons are currently involved in direct or proxy wars, making the situation even more precarious.
  • The UN Secretary-General warns that the world is only one misunderstanding or miscalculation away from nuclear Armageddon.
  • World leaders are aware that a nuclear war would end civilization, yet they continue to make threats and provocations.

What Is the Football and Why Is Near the President 24/7? (00:21:32)

  • The 'football' is a briefcase that accompanies the US president 24/7.
  • It contains two important things:
    • Instrumentation that allows the president to be identified to the National Military Command Center.
    • The 'black book', a list of pre-prepared nuclear strike options for the president to choose from.
  • The president has only six minutes to decide on a counterattack if a ballistic missile is detected.
  • There is no time for discussion, so the president must choose from a list of pre-prepared options.
  • The black book contains a list of nuclear strike options, each with different targets and potential casualties.
  • The information in the black book is watered down into strike options, so the president may not fully understand the consequences of their decision.

How Important Is Picking the Right Leader? (00:24:30)

  • The decision to pick leaders is crucial, especially in the context of nuclear warfare.
  • Most presidents are ill-informed about their role as commander-in-chief in a nuclear war.
  • Deterrence theory suggests that having more nuclear weapons makes us safer, but this is debatable.
  • Leaders should be mentally checked regularly to ensure they are fit to make decisions about nuclear weapons.
  • There is no clear defense mechanism to stop a president from making a decision to end the planet.

What If the President Is Dead? (00:28:17)

  • If the president is incapacitated or killed in a nuclear attack, the decision-making process for nuclear weapons is unclear.
  • The satellite system used to detect nuclear launches is not always trustworthy.

The Biggest Mistakes in Nuclear Detection (00:29:28)

  • There have been instances where nuclear detection systems triggered false alarms due to misunderstandings or miscalculations.
  • Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry shared a firsthand account of a false alarm during the Carter Administration.
  • Perry was informed about incoming ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union confirmed by the nuclear bunkers beneath the Pentagon and Offutt Air Force Base.
  • The false alarm was caused by a VHS tape of a simulated war game mistakenly inserted into a machine in the nuclear bunker beneath the Pentagon.
  • The tape appeared realistic, leading to confusion and the belief that an actual attack was underway.

Nuclear War Games and Strategies (00:32:16)

  • The Proud Prophet war game, a rare declassified nuclear war game, revealed that any nuclear war involving NATO or China would result in nuclear Armageddon.
  • Paul Bracken, a Yale professor who participated in the game, stated that nuclear war, regardless of how it starts, ends in the destruction of the world.
  • Former STRATCOM director General Keeler estimated that a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States could lead to the end of the world within a couple of hours.
  • Obama's FEMA director, Craig Fugate, confirmed that there is no population protection planning for a nuclear war because everyone is expected to die.
  • Fugate explained that his focus in a nuclear war would be on the continuity of government issues rather than population protection.

How Do the Decision Makers Cope? (00:38:09)

  • Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry is deeply concerned about the risks of nuclear war and has been actively working to raise public awareness about the issue for over 152 years.
  • Perry has written a book called "The Button" and a podcast called "At the Brink" to share his knowledge and insights on nuclear weapons and the military-industrial complex.
  • Perry spent most of his life working in the military-industrial complex, involved in the research and development of weapon systems.
  • Eisenhower warned about the dangers of the military-industrial complex in his farewell speech and emphasized the importance of a knowledgeable and alert citizenry to balance peace and defense.
  • Perry and the author share concerns that peace and defense are very different from constant states of war.

How Would We Know Where the Nuclear Bomb Got Launched From? (00:40:32)

  • The US has a set of satellites called CBERS that can detect and measure the hot rocket exhaust of a nuclear weapon launch within a second.
  • The CBERS satellites are parked 22,000 miles up in geosynchronous orbit.
  • The data from the CBERS satellites is sent to various commands in the United States, including the Aerospace Data Center and the Space Force, which calculate the trajectory of the missile and determine its target.
  • This process takes approximately 100 seconds.
  • However, if a nuclear weapon is launched from a submarine, there is no way of knowing where it came from.
  • Nuclear-armed submarines owned by Russia and China regularly come within a couple of hundred miles of the East Coast of the United States and England.
  • The movements of these submarines can be tracked after the fact using a complex system of underwater surveillance systems.
  • The close proximity of these submarines to the coast reduces the travel time of a ballistic missile to under 10 minutes.

What Happens After the First Minutes? (00:46:02)

  • A nuclear war could potentially wipe out 60% of humans in just 72 minutes, and the president has only minutes to decide on a counterattack after being informed of a missile launch.
  • The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president and may move him to a safe location if Washington D.C. is the target.
  • An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear explosion can threaten electronic systems, including the president's helicopter (Marine One).
  • As a backup plan, the Secret Service may tandem jump the president out of the aircraft with a parachute if Marine One is at risk of crashing due to the EMP.
  • The book "The Pentagon's Brain" by Annie Jacobsen explores the history and inner workings of the United States' nuclear weapons program, highlighting the complex and chaotic nature of nuclear war planning and the importance of understanding the various competing agendas and the potential for chaos and mayhem in the event of a nuclear war.

What Happens if the President Dies (00:51:46)

  • If the President dies before ordering a counterattack, the Strategic Command (STRATCOM) cannot launch nuclear weapons without the universal unlock code.
  • The President can release the universal unlock code to the STRATCOM commander, allowing them to launch nuclear weapons if the President dies.

The Aftermath (00:53:23)

  • The book discusses the potential consequences of a nuclear attack and the decision-making process behind launching nuclear weapons in response.
  • The author focuses on North Korea's nuclear capabilities based on interviews with experts and advisors to US presidents.
  • The scenario involves a nuclear attack by North Korea leading to miscommunication and a chain reaction of nuclear launches.
  • The concept of "Mad King logic" highlights the unpredictability and irrationality of certain nuclear decision-making.
  • The US and Russia have over 1,674 nuclear weapons pointed at each other.
  • The US has 44 interceptor missiles with a 40-55% success rate against long-range ballistic missiles.
  • Nuclear warheads often contain multiple warheads and decoys, making interception even harder.
  • Interceptor missiles travel at 20,000 miles per hour, while ballistic missiles travel at 14,000 miles per hour, complicating interception.
  • All of this occurs 500 miles up in space, further complicating the interception process.

What Would Happen to a Country After It's Struck by Nuclear Bomb (01:01:59)

  • The aftermath of a nuclear strike on the US or UK is described in horrifying detail, sourced from defense department documents and scientists.
  • The scenario involves a one megaton thermonuclear bomb striking the Pentagon, causing widespread destruction and fires.
  • A thousand Russian nuclear weapons landing on the US results in a conflagration of fires, leading to nuclear winter.
  • Survivors would face lawlessness, scarcity of resources, malnutrition, and a return to a primal, violent state.

How Many People Will Die? (01:06:51)

  • The estimated death toll from a nuclear war scenario includes hundreds of millions of people dying within 72 minutes.
  • According to Professor Brian Tun, five billion people would be dead, leaving three billion survivors out of the current global population of 8 billion.

Where Is Safe? (01:07:35)

  • According to Professor Tune, the only places that could sustain agriculture after a nuclear war are New Zealand and Australia.
  • Most of the world, including the mid-latitudes, would be covered in ice sheets, making agriculture impossible.
  • The ozone layer would be damaged, causing radiation poisoning and forcing people to live underground.

What Is the Solution? (01:10:07)

  • The author believes that people motivate other people and the president of the United States has a powerful influence.
  • President Reagan changed his position on nuclear weapons after watching the TV movie "The Day After" which depicted a fictional nuclear war.
  • Reagan and Gorbachev had a summit in Iceland and issued a joint statement declaring that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
  • The number of nuclear warheads has been reduced from 70,000 in 1986 to approximately 12,500 due to treaties and reductions.
  • The author suggests that dramatic storytelling and presidential action can lead to positive change.

How Did Annie's Feelings Change? (01:14:02)

  • The author's focus was on gathering facts and presenting them in a readable way.
  • As a mother and a hopeful person, the author wanted to convey a sense of urgency and fear about the threat of nuclear war.
  • Intellectually, the author approached the subject as an investigative journalist, focusing on the next page of the story.

Conspiracy or Real? (01:15:53)

  • Annie Jacobsen, an author who has written several books on topics often associated with conspiracy theories, believes that curiosity is important and dismissing ideas as conspiracy theories can be intellectually lazy.
  • Jacobsen has interviewed many interesting people close to subjects like Area 51, Operation Paperclip, and nuclear weapons, and has discovered that some things once considered conspiracy theories are actually true.
  • One example is the CIA's use of strategic deception, which involves misleading the public about certain activities or projects. For instance, the U2 spy plane was developed in secret to spy on the Soviet Union without their knowledge.
  • The CIA used strategic deception to cover up the crash of a U2 spy plane carrying important engineers into Mount Charleston by claiming it was a group of atomic scientists working on a secret weapons program.
  • Intelligence agencies like the CIA have a history of working with journalists, reporters, and authors to disseminate information.
  • Annie Jacobsen, an expert on nuclear war, discusses the risks and dangers of nuclear weapons and the importance of preventing their use in a YouTube video titled "Nuclear War Expert: 72 Minutes To Wipe Out 60% Of Humans, In The Hands Of 1 Person! - Annie Jacobsen."

The Role of the CIA (01:26:55)

  • The CIA has changed over time and has less power now.
  • The CIA is a large organization with many different components, including human intelligence, analysts, espionage, and paramilitary operations.
  • The CIA was responsible for putting the first satellite in space and developing remarkable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance programs.
  • The CIA's paramilitary operators are responsible for finding, fixing, and finishing targets.
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AI and the War Machine (01:30:36)

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly advancing and could potentially make autonomous decisions in the future, raising concerns about who should control the decision to launch nuclear weapons.
  • The development of AI has its roots in early computing, with key figures like John Von Neumann envisioning self-thinking computers.
  • The defense department's consistent investment in AI and computer systems has led to advancements in nano technology and miniaturization, making AI more feasible.
  • DARPA's robotic AI program, initiated in 1983, aimed to remove humans from the battlefield.
  • The profound classification of nuclear command and control communication systems, coupled with the analog technology used in ballistic missile systems, makes them vulnerable to manipulation by advanced AI.
  • The presence of multiple nuclear powers with varying systems increases the risk of an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) exploiting vulnerabilities and potentially triggering a nuclear conflict.
  • To mitigate this risk, the author suggests considering the reduction of nuclear weapons.

Is Annie Optimistic? (01:40:55)

  • Annie is an optimistic person by nature.
  • She believes that a man-made problem has a man-made solution.
  • The probability of a nuclear war increases as time goes on due to the existence of unstable leaders.
  • Younger generations are more concerned about the possibility of a nuclear war compared to older generations.
  • People need to move away from seeing everyone as an enemy and towards considering adversaries as opponents.
  • War has always existed and is a result of human nature, including the search for status, ego, reproduction, resources, and survival.

The Origin of War (01:43:37)

  • Anthropologists have studied hunter-gatherer tribes to understand the origins of war.
  • Some hunter-gatherers interpret strangers as threats and kill them, while others interpret them as teammates.
  • It is unknown why some people are suspicious of strangers while others are trusting.
  • People can learn to think differently and interpret strangers as potential teammates rather than enemies.
  • Annie trains herself to find the positive side of even dark reporting and to see strangers as potential teammates or opponents, not enemies.

The Most Important Takeaway from Annie's Books (01:46:24)

  • Annie's books are all important to her and she can't choose one over the other.
  • The common theme in her books is the role of fate and circumstance in the lives of the fascinating people she interviews.
  • Many of the people she interviews are warfighters or intelligence agency personnel who have lost friends.
  • Annie met a woman in Brussels who was a one-year-old survivor of the Nagasaki bomb.
  • The woman shared the stigma that survivors of the atomic bombs faced due to the fear of radiation.
  • Annie became emotional during the interview because one of her sources, who wired the Nagasaki bomb, meant a lot to her.

The People on Both Sides of Nuclear (01:50:25)

  • The author interviewed individuals involved in top-secret nuclear weapons programs, including one who wired a bomb for the Manhattan Project, and found that their experiences profoundly impacted their lives.
  • The author's work as an investigative journalist involves building trust with people from various backgrounds, including those in the military-industrial complex and peace activists, to uncover the experiences of individuals involved in classified programs.
  • Despite their involvement in significant historical events, many of these individuals expressed mixed emotions, including happiness, regret, and anger.
  • The author emphasizes the importance of balancing self-discovery with understanding others and respecting their privacy, while also preserving personal stories and historical context.

The Impact of Your Books on You (01:59:18)

  • Meeting a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing in Brussels enhanced the emotional impact of the author's work.
  • The author had previously read accounts from survivors and quoted some in her book, including Satsuko Thurlow, a survivor who gave public statements about her experience.
  • Reading ancillary material and trying to imagine the situation helped the author understand the survivors' experiences, but meeting someone who lived through it made it all feel more real.

Survivors of Nuclear Bomb (02:00:46)

  • In Japanese, there is a specific term, "hibakusha," used to refer to survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
  • Most survivors of the bombings are now in their 90s, including Satsuko Thurlow, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for her work to reduce nuclear weapons.
  • Organizations like the one Thurlow is involved with work diligently to bring information about nuclear weapons to the public and advocate for change at the geopolitical level, such as through the United Nations.

Conversations with Her Husband (02:02:28)

  • Annie Jacobsen discusses conversations with her husband after meeting people for her books.
  • These conversations help her understand the themes and intentions of her next book.
  • She emphasizes the importance of balancing emotions and journalistic objectivity when writing about sensitive topics.
  • Unlike military or CIA personnel, she believes writers have the luxury of incorporating their emotions into their work.
  • Jacobsen acknowledges that different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and society benefits from the diversity of perspectives.
  • The podcast has a closing tradition.

What Have You Changed Your Mind About? (02:06:18)

  • Annie Jacobsen, a renowned journalist and expert on nuclear war, emphasizes the importance of approaching interviews with an open mind and avoiding preconceived notions.
  • She highlights the significance of recognizing shared human experiences and concerns to bridge divides and prevent conflicts, including the potential for nuclear wars.
  • Jacobsen stresses the need to confront uncomfortable realities and engage in honest conversations about nuclear war scenarios to increase the chances of finding solutions and preventing such catastrophic events.
  • She warns that a single person could potentially wipe out 60% of the human population in just 72 minutes due to the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

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