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[Link] Dan Carlin six hour podcast on history of atomic weapons

3 Post author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 04:10PM

Comments (20)

Comment author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 04:22:09PM *  6 points [-]

The podcast, part of Carlin's excellent Hardcore History series, is called "The Destroyer of Worlds". The podcast has convinced me that Truman was a horrible president. After the United States had a monopoly of atomic weapons our two sane courses of action would have been to either maintain this monopoly by threatening to go to war if another nation developed atomic weapons, or to have made an all out push for peace with the Soviet Union to avoid a future arms race. Instead, Truman used the monopoly to engage in short-term bullying of the Soviets, while doing nothing to hinder their development of atomic weapons thus guaranteeing that they would eventually have thousands of atomic weapons aimed at us. I bet in most branches of the multiverse arising out of 1953, millions of Americans die in nuclear war by 2017.

Comment author: Lumifer 09 February 2017 05:04:53PM 4 points [-]

threatening to go to war if another nation developed atomic weapons

That doesn't sound sane to me at all.

So in the late 40s you're going to tell Stalin that he can't develop nuclear weapons because you don't want him to be powerful. Stalin says: Fuck you.

Your move.

Comment author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 05:30:45PM *  4 points [-]

If I have the location of the Soviet atomic weapons development facilities I bomb them with conventional weapons and I destroy the Soviet Air Force and Navy with my Air Force. If I don't have these locations I start flying American planes over the Soviet Union to look for them, and when I find them I bomb them. I tell the American people that Stalin has a plan to develop atomic weapons and then use them against us. I get Curtis LeMay, Patton, and MacArthur to say that the long-term survival of the United States requires that we eliminate Soviet atomic weapons development and that anyone who opposes such preemptive action is a communist. I let Stalin know that if he launches an invasion of Western Europe my top priority will be to drop an atomic weapon on him.

Your move, Stalin.

Comment author: Lumifer 09 February 2017 05:42:22PM *  5 points [-]

I bomb them with conventional weapons

You try. Don't forget that Russia is really really big, all you have is prop bombers with no in-air refueling (and no good airbases nearby) and Russia has competent and well-practiced AA. Can your bombers even reach the middle of Kazakhstan?

I destroy the Soviet Air Force

No, you don't. From which airbases? Russia has LOTS of airplanes and is capable of producing lots more quickly.

and Navy

That, sure. No one cares (did Russia even have a Navy at that time?)

I start flying American planes over the Soviet Union to look for them

They all get shot down. It's 1940s, you don't have a U-2 or anything like that.

I let Stalin know that if he launches an invasion of Western Europe my top priority will be to drop an atomic weapon on him.

Stalin replies that you have just declared war on him, of course it's your top priority. He accelerates the development of atomic weapons. Clearly it's necessary for his own safety (and in the meantime he moves to a country house. Somewhere in Siberia? Central Asia? an underground shelter in the Urals? all of the above? maybe? you don't know).

Stalin invades Western Europe and invites you to nuke Paris.

Back to you :-)

Comment author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 06:02:45PM 3 points [-]

OK, accepting your assumption that I can't bomb Russian atomic weapons development facilities, my first step is to build air bases in Finland, West Germany, China, and Japan so that I have the ability to strike anyplace in the Soviet Union. If this still isn't enough, I prioritize developing long-range bombers.

If Stalin invades Western Europe I use my Air Force to destroy his logistical support and follow Patton's advice of reactivating as much of the German army as possible under American command. I use atomic weapons against Soviet targets if this would significantly harm Soviet logistics and industrial capacity. I think, given my air superiority, that I am able to hold off the Soviets and put a massive strain on their industrial capacity.

Comment author: Lumifer 09 February 2017 06:18:40PM *  4 points [-]

my first step is to build air bases in Finland, West Germany, China, and Japan

You forgot about the invasion part :-) It will be hard for you to build airbases in the the Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic (or in the German Soviet Socialist Republic). Japan you have, but China might be a bit difficult -- they have a civil war going on and someone by the name of Mao seems to be winning.

I prioritize developing long-range bombers

Sure, that's what Truman did as well. You get B-52s in early-to-mid 50s, but that's too late. The Russian have nukes by that time.

If Stalin invades Western Europe I use my Air Force to destroy his logistical support and follow Patton's advice of reactivating as much of the German army as possible under American command.

You're being a bit too optimistic, I think. You assume the natural superiority of the US Air Force, but it didn't exist in the 1940s. Russia produced about 40,000 aircraft in the single year of 1944 and their planes don't need to cross the Atlantic. And why would the Germans fight for you?

I think, given my air superiority, that I am able to hold off the Soviets and put a massive strain on their industrial capacity.

I have my doubts, but not that it matters. So you hold off the Soviets in Western Europe. Stalemate.

But the clock is ticking. If you do not conquer Russia (see "land war in Asia") by 1949, you lose. Can you?

Comment author: CellBioGuy 11 February 2017 03:02:16AM *  1 point [-]

Nothing lasts forever, especially global hegemony.

Comment author: turchin 09 February 2017 08:50:53PM 1 point [-]

If he started the war, you in another branch of the universe will complain that he is the bad president because he started the war, which surely will have many nasty consequences.

So no matter what he did, you will complain. So he is not bad president.

Generally speaking many our questions could exist only because some past event existed. Such conditioning makes these questions meaningless.

Comment author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 09:48:35PM 1 point [-]

Biased, not meaningless. But I think correcting for this bias cuts in my argument's favor because otherwise one could claim that the fact that we are still here is strong evidence that Truman followed a wise policy

Comment author: math 13 February 2017 01:10:02AM 0 points [-]

After trying to listen to it, I'm impressed you managed to make it all the way through. With his angsty and rather stupid commentary on the events I found it rather unlistenable.

Comment author: Thomas 09 February 2017 07:00:41PM 0 points [-]

I bet in most branches of the multiverse arising out of 1953, millions of Americans die in nuclear war by 2017.

Oh, come on! This fairy tale about parallel worlds and WWIII in most of them is pretty lame.

Comment author: Artaxerxes 09 February 2017 05:47:45PM 0 points [-]

I've heard good things about Dan Carlin's podcasts about history but I've never been sure which to listen to first. Is this a good choice, or does it assume you've heard some of his other ones, or perhaps are other podcasts better to listen to first?

Comment author: moridinamael 09 February 2017 05:59:33PM 3 points [-]

None of the series assume you've listened to previous ones. As long as you start at the beginning of, say, the Wrath of the Khans sequence, you won't be lost.

The one about World War I might be a good place to start? They're all good, though.

Comment author: James_Miller 09 February 2017 06:10:55PM 2 points [-]

His best is his history of Genghis Khan, although it's no longer free.

Comment author: math 12 February 2017 09:12:29PM *  1 point [-]

I've listened to some of them. Unfortunately, the title is false advertising, a more accurate title would be "History as read by someone who can't handle thinking about violence without dissolving into a huge pile of angst."

Edit: I just realized no one on this thread had mentioned that the podcast is called "Hardcore History". That should hopefully make this comment more comprehensible.

Comment author: drethelin 13 February 2017 10:57:51PM 1 point [-]

This is why we need downvotes.

Comment author: James_Miller 16 February 2017 01:20:08AM 0 points [-]

While I don't think that Carlin "dissolved into a huge pile of angst" the podcast did property communicate the angst that any sane human should feel over our species' history of atomic weapons.

Comment author: math 16 February 2017 04:09:00AM 0 points [-]

Given that the position you advocate here is basically the opposite of his, I'm surprised you have that interpretation.

Comment author: gjm 13 February 2017 03:10:17AM 0 points [-]

Would you care to be more specific? E.g., how can I (if I should) distinguish what you describe from "History as read by someone who finds it very sad when hundreds of thousands of people die violently"? Does this "huge pile of angst" lead him to actual errors?

(I haven't listened to any of his podcasts.)

Comment author: math 13 February 2017 11:36:58PM 0 points [-]

Does this "huge pile of angst" lead him to actual errors?

Not as far as I know, but it is rather annoying, especially for a podcast that bills itself as "Hardcore".