Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 120-140

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This is it. The list of scenarios from the movie Wargames has been laid out and analyzed. It took nearly three years and as far as side projects go, this one was a lot of fun. All good things must come to an end, however, and here we are. The final twenty nuclear war scenarios from Wargames.

  • ALASKAN DISCRETIONARY– A low profile operation by the Soviets to disrupt the Alaskan pipeline or possibly disable US early warning radars in preparation for a first strike. As Alaska is US territory, this would be a direct attack upon the United States and the possibility of escalation is very high.

 

  • CANADIAN THRUST– A Soviet military move into Canadian territory. With East Bloc forces on North American soil the situation would become volatile very fast.

 

  • ARABIAN LIGHT– A regional conflict spills over and provides the spark for a global conflict. The Iran-Iraq War certainly had the potential to serve as a catalyst.

 

  • AFRICAN DOMESTIC– Apartheid was ugly. The South African government was a pariah and the ANC was backed indirectly by the Soviet Union. If Apartheid had exploded, the superpowers would have been drawn in. While the US had no love for the South African government, it could not allow the Soviets to gain total control of resource-rich South Africa.

 

  • TUNISIAN INCIDENT– Libya and Tunisia clash in an isolated action on land or at sea and it escalates.

 

  • MALAYSIAN MANEUVER– China begins making political and military moves to gain control of Malaysia.

 

  • JAMAICA DECOY– Cuba instigates an action in Jamaica to divert attention away from Soviet action elsewhere. The US responds with a Grenada-like operation and it’s all downhill from there.

 

  • MALAYSIAN MINIMAL– Communist insurgency rekindles in Malaysia

 

  • RUSSIAN SOVEREIGNTY– This could refer to an invasion of Russia by the PRC. Possible during the time period. It’s the only realistic possibility.

 

  • CHAD OPTION– In the late 70s and early 80s, the Libyan-Chad conflict raged. French involvement increased the potential of a wider clash between the US and Soviet Union.

 

  • BANGLADESH WAR– Bangladesh’s leader moved away from his country’s strong ties with India and the Soviet Union in the early 80s in favor of a strong relationship with the West. It could have sparked war with India.

 

 

  • BURMESE CONTAINMENT– Again, Burma’s inclusion on this list mystifies me.

 

  • ASIAN THEATERWIDE– Asia explodes. Korea, PRC-USSR, US-USSR, PRC-USA….choose your poison.

 

  • BULGARIAN CLANDESTINE-NATO or independent Turkish covert actions against Bulgaria, a Warsaw Pact member at the time.

 

 

  • GREENLAND INCURSION– Soviet assault to seize and destroy US military assets in Greenland. Considering that Thule AB and the BMEWS radar site are located there, escalation would’ve been assured in this scenario.

 

  • EGYPT SURGICAL– Libyan surgical strike against an Egyptian target. Political or economic.

 

  • CZECH HEAVY– Confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Southern Germany and Czechoslovakia. NATO incursion perhaps.

 

  • TAIWAN CONFRONTATION– The PRC launches an offensive to reclaim the ‘lost province.’

 

  • GREENLAND MAXIMUM– Greenland Incursion times 5.

 

  • UGANDA OFFENSIVE– The Ugandans go on the offensive and occupy Congo.

 

  • CASPIAN DEFENSE– A NATO offensive on its southern flank, or alternatively, perhaps an Iranian offensive into the southern Soviet Union.

 

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 40-59

It’s been a couple of years since the last posting. Definitely time for the third installment of the list seen on the board at NORAD in the final few minutes of the movie Wargames.

 

  1. ETHIOPIAN ESCALATION– During the late 70s the Horn of Africa was a very active Cold War chessboard. Ethiopia and Somalia had fought a war in 1977-78, aided by supplies furnished by the Superpowers. Another conflict in the area was always possible.

 

  1. TURKISH HEAVY– A conflict on NATO’s Southern Flank, whether part of a larger Soviet operation or not, would have run the risk of swift escalation.

 

  1. NATO INCURSION– Open ended somewhat. It could refer to an attempt by NATO to break through a Soviet/East German blockade of Berlin.

 

  1. U.S. DEFENSE– Think Red Dawn

 

  1. CAMBODIAN HEAVY– The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 did not bring everlasting serenity to Southeast Asia. China and Vietnam had already locked horns once as a result of Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia. A second war between the two could have escalated.

 

  1. PACT MEDIUM– Generic title. Invasion of Warsaw Pact territory by NATO, or vice versa.

 

  1. ARCTIC MINIMAL– The world’s attention on the Arctic in recent years is nothing new.

 

  1. MEXICAN DOMESTIC– Civil war in Mexico, perhaps touched off by Nicaraguan backed rebels. The US would not stand idle while its southern neighbor dissolved into chaos.

 

  1. TAIWAN THEATERWIDE– China moves to recapture Taiwan, touching off a conflict that rages across the entire Western Pacific.

 

  1. PACIFIC MANEUVER– A ruse by the Soviets in the Pacific to take attention away from another region where they were preparing to make a move.

 

  1. PORTUGAL REVOLUTION– Revolution in Portugal. The communists came close to seizing power there once or twice. Portugal was and still is a valuable member of NATO. A revolution there could have drawn in Spain and perhaps even France.

 

  1. ALBANIAN DECOY– A Soviet gambit to deflect attention away from somewhere else.

 

  1. PALESTINIAN LOCAL– Arafat’s dream. The Palestinian conflict draws in the superpowers and escalates to a nuclear showdown

 

  1. MOROCCAN MINIMAL– Morocco has been a bastion of stability in North Africa for decades. This title is open to speculation

 

  1. BAVARIAN DIVERSITY– When I think about diversity in Bavaria, I’m generally thinking about the diverse selection of beers available there

 

  1. CZECH OPTION– NATO launches an operation through Czechoslovakia, maybe in an effort to shear it away from the Warsaw Pact

 

  1. FRENCH ALLIANCE– France allies itself with someone and before they can surrender, the mushrooms sprout

 

  1. ARABIAN CLANDESTINE– A covert Soviet operation to secure or destroy the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia leads to escalation

 

  1. GABON REBELLION– Yet another African hotspot during the Cold War

 

  1. NORTHERN MAXIMUM– Soviet operation against the Northern Flank of NATO, or perhaps Sweden.

 

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 20-39

Second group of scenarios from the list seen on the board at NORAD during the last few minutes of the movie Wargames.

 

20.       NATO …? This is one of the titles on the list that was obscured.

21.       Argentina  Escalation– In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falklands, prompting a powerful British response. Another attempt to retake the islands bringing about an escalation was not out of the question back in the 80s. In recent years the idea of another Argentinian invasion attempt in the future has gained some momentum.

22.       Iceland Maximum– Control of the North Atlantic would have been essential to both sides in a NATO-Warsaw Pact war. Iceland was the gate to the North Atlantic. The Soviets would have had to neutralize the NATO bases there in order to undertake a successful Atlantic campaign

23.       Arabian Theatre-wide- All hell breaks loose on the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf. Escalation of the Iran-Iraq War or perhaps a Soviet invasion of Iran

24.       U.S. Subversion– Political turmoil and internal conflict inside of the United States. Homegrown or the result of foreign meddling?

25.       Australian Maneuver– This one could either be Soviet action against Australia or, less likely, Australian led action in the region

26.       Iranian Diversion-Another open-ended title. It could signify a Soviet invasion of Iran to draw off US/NATO attention from Europe

27.       …? limited- Another obscured title. Ugh!

28.       Sudan surprise– Challenges to the Sudanese Socialist Union could have led to an Afghanistan-like invasion by the Soviet Union

29.       NATO territorial– Incursion of NATO territory by the Warsaw Pact

30.       Zaire Alliance– Mobutu aligns Zaire closely with the Soviet Union

31.       Iceland Incident– Soviet assault against Iceland or an inadvertent incident at sea between the US and Soviet navies off of Iceland.

32.       English Escalation– Oh those whacky Brits

33.       Zaire Sudden- Zaire falls into chaos. The Soviets intervene

34.       Egypt Paramilitary– This one stumps me. Overthrow of Egyptian government by paramilitary forces perhaps.

35.       Middle East Heavy– Conflict in the Middle East. Lebanon, Arab-Israeli, Iran-Iraq….take your pick

36.       Mexican Takeover– The red tide that threatened Central America in the 1980s comes north. Mexico falls to Nicaragua and Cuba

37.       Chad Alert- Chad was a hotspot in the 80s. Libya became embroiled in the Chad civil war. France supported Chad.

38.       Saudi Maneuver– A Soviet move against the Saudi oilfields

39.       African Territorial– One of the myriad of African conflicts escalates and brings in the superpowers.

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 1-19

 

The movie Wargames was an influential piece of cinema back in the early 80s. Like a respectable number of movies during the time period, this one took an indirect look at nuclear war. For many young people back then, Wargames helped to shape their views on nuclear warfare. Keep in mind the tenor of the times. The Cold War was in full swing. The possibility of it boiling over into a hot nuclear conflict was quite real. The United States was no longer the push over it had been during the Carter years. The Post-Vietnam malaise was wearing off. Soviet expansion efforts across the globe were being countered effectively. The US military was undergoing a complete overhaul. Soviet leadership was fluid, with a revolving door seemingly in place at the Kremlin. Soviets were fearful of the United States. Americans were fearful of the Soviets. Folks were quite worried that there might not be a tomorrow. It certainly was a very dangerous time. I can appreciate that now, however, back then I was just a kid who was more concerned with his GI Joes.

In the last few minutes of the movie, Joshua begins playing a large number of nuclear war scenarios at a rapid clip. As it plays the scenarios, it learns and ultimately comes to the conclusion that the only proper move is not to play at all. The scenarios always piqued my curiosity. Back during my undergrad days I came across a copy of the entire list on the internet. Over the years I’d pull the list out and try to figure out the background story of each scenario.  I thought I would share the list and my summaries on here. Since the list has over 150 entries I only be putting twenty or so up at a time. So, shall we play a game?

As a final note, keep in mind the time period of these scenarios: late 70s to Early 80s.

 

1. US first strike– Pretty basic. A US counterforce nuclear strike against targets in the Soviet Union. I disagree with Joshua on this one. The scenario is quite winnable under certain circumstances

2. USSR first strike – Same as above, only the Soviets launching first. Again, I believe this scenario is winnable for the initiator.

3. NATO / Warsaw Pact– NATO vs WP conventional conflict escalates to a strategic nuclear exchange.

4. Far East strategy– This scenario title is open ended. I’ll go on the assumption that it involves a Soviet backed campaign in the Far East. Korea perhaps.

5. US USSR escalation– Very generic. Tensions rise, forces deploy, units exchange fire and ultimately it leads to a nuclear exchange.

6. Middle East war– In the 80s, the Middle East was a hotbed of violence. Israel vs Syria, Iran/Iraq, Operation Praying Mantis….a nuclear war could have kicked off from one of many conflicts in the region.

7. USSR – China attack – Back in the 70s and 80s the Chinese and Soviet Union disliked each other quite a bit. The fear was always there that a conflict between the two might go nuclear.

8. India Pakistan war– Still a very real threat today!

9. Mediterranean war– Soviet/WP moves against NATO’s Southern Flank or a flare up between the US and Soviet allies such as Syria and/or Libya which leads to rapid escalation.

10. Hong Kong variant– In the 1980s Hong Kong was sovereign British territory. Any PRC moves against the city would have inevitably drawn in the Superpowers.

11. SEATO decapitating– SEATO dissolved in 1977. A decapitation attack would have been nuclear strikes against the members capital cities.

12. Cuban provocation– Cuba provoking a crisis somewhere that leads to a conflict between the US and Soviet Union. Grenada could be considered a Cuban provocation. Fortunately, it did not involve direct fighting between the Superpowers.

13. Inadvertent– An accident. Always possible. When the one side launches its missiles, accident or not,  the other side is going to be forced to respond.

14. Atlantic heavy– Control of the North Atlantic was essential to both NATO and Soviet war plans. The US Navy was prepared to take the war directly to the Soviet homeland. The Soviets were prepared to close the Atlantic off with its submarine and bomber forces.

15. Cuban paramilitary– A situation similar to Angola

 

16. Nicaraguan preemptive– A US preemptive strike against Communist controlled Nicaragua. There were always fears that Mexico would be next if the Nicaraguans were allowed to go on unchecked.

17. Pacific territorial– Naval fighting between the US and Soviet Union in the North Pacific

18. Burmese Theatrewide– This scenario title was always interesting. How could Burma have played central role in nuclear war planning?

19. Turkish decoy– A Soviet attack against Turkey to keep NATO’s attention focused there. It’s a feint and the real Soviet objective is somewhere else in the world.