During the Cold War, New York was a scary place.
You were always being reminded of the imminent danger of nuclear attack.
Everywhere you went, there was a nuclear symbol on the wall and the number of people the place could hold as a fallout shelter.
Everyone knew the Russians would attack the big cities first, it made sense.
If you wanted to be safe, you needed to move away from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, etc.
To be safe, you needed to go and live in the country, miles from anywhere: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming.
The Russians wouldn’t bother targeting them, there was no point, there was nothing there.
That was the thinking, move to the country where it’s safe.
Of course, what nobody knew about was the “Nuclear Sponge” policy.
For the last fifty years, American nuclear thinking has been to build all land-based ICBM silos in those very states: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
They’ve always had around 400 ICBMs stationed in silos there, ready to fire at Russia.
But the truth is, those missiles are never supposed to be fired, they are placed there purely to lure Russian missiles away from the big cities, like New York.
That’s why, in military terminology, these states are known as “The Nuclear Sponge”.
They’re meant to soak up a Russian nuclear attack.
The Russians know all about these ICBM silos, they’re meant to know.
They also know there are no missile silos in any of the big cities.
So, in the event of a nuclear attack, it makes sense to target the ICBMs in those states first.
To do that, they would need to use several nuclear missiles to take out each one, which means these silos could potentially soak up around 800 Russian ICBMs.
Hence the term “Nuclear Sponge”.
That’s why Secretary of Defence James Mattis called it: “The most cost-imposing strategic asset for potential enemies.”
Strategically, these sites are expendable because of the US Navy’s nuclear submarines.
They always have 8 on patrol, each submarine carries 8 nuclear missiles so, with multiple warheads, that’s like 448 ICBMs undetected under the sea, anywhere in the world.
Plus, the USAF, which has 1,000 nuclear LRSOs (Long Range Stand-Off weapons) ready to launch from anywhere.
So the land-based ICBMs in fixed silos are redundant, except as bait.
And yet the US government is now about to commit $2 Trillion, over the next two decades, to build brand new updated missiles and silos.
Why is that if they’re just bait, surely old ones would save money and do just as well?
Well no, the theory is the ICBMs will only work as bait if they are state-of-the-art.
They’re not meant to be fired, but the Russians have to believe they pose a genuine threat.
So you have missiles that are never meant to be used (whose sole job is to attract a nuclear strike that will wipe out those five states) being updated at unthinkable cost.
Meanwhile, do you reckon the people in those states know they are ‘The Nuclear Sponge’?
Or do they feel safer than the people in the big cities?
When they look round at the beautiful blue skies and wide-open ranges, are they relieved that the Russians won’t be targeting them?
Isn’t it interesting how we think the little bit we know is all there is to know?
That there isn’t any possibility of a different point of view.
It never occurs to us that that’s a very weak way to approach the world.
Because the truth always is, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Which is why an open mind is always more powerful than a closed one.