In the ‘70s and ‘80s the world’s main worry was Armageddon.
The USA and USSR had enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on the planet many times over.
All it took was one mistake.
That would trigger everything else.
Thousand of missiles, each containing dozens of warheads.
Each warhead hundreds of times bigger than Hiroshima.
In a nuclear war no one could win, because no one would be left.
The heads of the USA and USSR agreed to have talks.
These were known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
SALT for short.
As a result of SALT, America and Russia agreed to reduce their nuclear missiles.
Each side had spy satellites so they could monitor whether the other side were keeping their agreement.
What I love is what the Americans did next.
They got creative.

They still wanted an advantage over the Soviets.
So they designed what was called The Racetrack system.
They would limit themselves to the specified number of missiles.
But they would build five times as many silos as they needed.
And they’d have a long railroad going between them, constantly.
The railroad would have trains pulling missile containers.
The trains would stop at every silo for long enough to load, or unload, a missile.
The satellite wouldn’t be able to tell whether the missile was being loaded or not.
The train would then carry on, on its journey.
And the satellite would never know which of the silos the missiles were in.
So, with five times more silos than missiles, the Soviets wouldn’t know which silos to aim at.
And they wouldn’t have enough missiles to hit them all.
So even if the Soviets attacked first, the Americans would have more than enough missiles left to hit back.
Even though they’d kept scrupulously to the agreement.
But with each side having exactly the same amount of missiles, the Americans had the advantage.
Because the Soviets only had a one in five chance of hitting the right silos.
What I love is the way the Americans viewed the problem creatively.
They reframed it.
They got upstream and changed the context.
They realised, once everyone’s got the same number of missiles, missiles isn’t the issue.
Targeting the missiles is the issue.
Which means locating the missiles is the issue.
Missiles are limited, but silos aren’t.
So, if we build more silos, the Soviets won’t know which silos have missiles.
So, by building more silos than them, we effectively give ourselves more missiles than them.
The Americans understand predatory thinking.
Getting upstream and changing the context changes the problem.
And that gives you an advantage.
Because you’re not solving the same problem as the competition.
You’re solving a problem which renders their solution redundant.
They’ve been sidelined.
Taken out of the game.
Not by anything you’ve actually done.
Just by the way you’ve changed the context.

And, of course, that changes everything.

  • john woods

    Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.  

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