The real question to my mind is whether the benefit of nuclear deterrence suppressing non-nuclear conflict is greater than the cost that will be incurred from MAD failures/exceptions. But that's an almost impossible question to answer today. Still, it's a more honest perspective. I suspect we don't look at in this way because the public would almost certainly decide (perhaps irrationally) that they're far more afraid of a nuclear strike than the slow slaughter of conventional warfare, creating pressure to discard nuclear weapons entirely.
IMO modern monitoring in general skews conservative responses, it would be pretty rare for malfunctions across multiple detectors to show multiple launces / full mad scenario that require immediate counter-strike. It's almost worth taking risk of hypothetical hit and then counterstrike with certainty then retaliate prematurely on false alarms.
Brrz, Brrrz, Brrrrz!
/me vanishes, spraying rainbow colored sparkles... ;->
Too many situations started, and were saved simply by happenstance or imperfect information.
IIRC during the Cuban missile crisis local Russian commanders had the authorization to launch if they felt the US was invading. Because of course, you couldn't have a deterrent if you weren't able to launch during a communication blackout. Of course that also meant that any given accident or misunderstanding could lead to a launch and full scale response. Control of starting the war was now in the hands of folks with even less information...
MADD seems to guarantee a war as much as deter it.
It's an highly recommended overview of many of the issues surrounding accidental — or unauthorized — nuclear explosions (it was originally made for internal use at the Lab).
But there's been plenty of indirect superpower conflict, and in the last couple of decades this has moved into disinfo/infowar and direct cyberwar.
You might think this is less dangerous. But instead of ruined smoking cities you end up with governments run by foreign interests which are hostile to their own populations, supported by extravagant disinfo efforts designed to create confusion, paranoia, fear, and distrust.
That genie is going to be even harder to put back in its bottle.
Any time you're relying on humans not to do something that technically can be done, over a long enough period of time, someone eventually will probably do it. Disarmament puts much larger barriers in place than locking them up and putting walls of red tape around them.
I think we need to bring nukes right to the front of public consciousness so we can at least have the debate and make some sane policies. I've often wondered if a scheduled, highly public test would shock people into action.
We already have enough conventional weapons to bomb NK back into the Stone Age, should it be necessary. I'm not sure which other countries you're referring to that are not trustworthy diplomatically, but, IIRC, there are only a handful who have nuclear capability (China, Russia, Israel?, Iran?), and those can be dealt with using existing satellite monitoring capabilities to detect nuclear buildup, and treaty monitoring.
I would much rather reduce arsenals to zero or near zero levels than risk having Jericho happen in my backyard.
These kinds of hysterics don't help when analyzing a rather serious issue.
>A radar alert from Thule, Greenland was sent to NORAD, announcing the detection of dozens of Soviet missiles launched for the United States
EDIT: Also, at the distance the crash was from the base, assuming a weapon detonated on impact the facilities would have experienced ~1 psi of overpressure. I strongly suspect they'd still be operational afterwards.