Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 100-119

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We’re getting towards the end of the list unfortunately. After this, only one set remains.

  • LIBYAN ACTION– Think Gulf of Sidra in the 1980s. In 1981, US Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan fighters during a period of heightened tension. In 1986, US and Libyan air and naval forces mixed it up and later, USAF and US Navy aircraft bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi. In 1989, Navy F-14s shot down Libyan fighters again. Any of these incidents could’ve spilled over into a much larger conflict.

 

  • PALESTINIAN TACTICAL– What if the First Intifada had gone beyond protests and riots? What if Syria had contributed equipment, weapons and advisors to the PLO and the uprising took the form of a more organized and deadly offensive against Israel?

 

  • NATO ALTERNATE– Confusing title. A Soviet move against NATO using an alternative to its war plans or vice versa?

 

 

  • CYPRUS MANEUVER– Cyprus was a bastion of instability from the 1974 coup onward into the 80s. If either Greece or Turkey had moved unilaterally to take over the island there it could have escalated quickly and gone in a direction that nobody had thought possible.

 

  • EGYPT MISDIRECTION– An Egyptian move against Libya goes awry and brings in Soviet assistance for its Libyan allies.

 

  • BANGLADESH THRUST– In the late 1970s, when this list was originally put together (years before the movie) Bangladesh was in a period of political disarray. Ziaur Rahman came to power in 1979 and was a popular president. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that Rahman, had he not been assassinated in 1981, could have prepared and executed an offensive against one of the nation’s South Asian neighbors.

 

  • KENYA DEFENSE– Kenya finds itself under attack by an external or internal enemy.

 

  • BANGLADESH CONTAINMENT– Unlike the Bangladesh scenario previous, this one revolves around containing an aggressive and outward looking Bangladesh.

 

  • VIETNAMESE STRIKE– Vietnam moves against one of its neighbors.

 

  • ALBANIAN CONTAINMENT– This one is a bit hard to swallow; Hoxa and Albania’s aspirations needing to be checked.
  • GABON SURPRISE– Omar Bongo was unpredictable and deadly. He could have taken Gabon over the edge at any time.

 

  • IRAQ SOVEREIGNTY– An internal uprising (Iranian backed?) against the Ba’ath party and Saddam Hussein.

 

  • VIETNAMESE SUDDEN– Similar to STRIKE, only faster

 

  • LEBANON INTERDICTION– This one actually became reality. Think Lebanon 1982-834

 

  • TAIWAN DOMESTIC- Chinese backed opposition groups sew political chaos on Taiwan

 

  • ALGERIAN SOVEREIGNTY– Social unrest was common in Algeria from the late 70s through the 80s. Libya or another outside nation-state player might have tried to turn the situation to its favor and chip away at Algeria’s status as a sovereign nation.

 

  • ARABIAN STRIKE– A Soviet move into the Arabian Peninsula to seize the Saudi oil fields.

 

  • ATLANTIC SUDDEN– The Soviets begin a war against NATO with a major, sudden effort to close the Atlantic.

 

  • MONGOLIAN THRUST– Either Mongolia moving against China or the Soviet Union, or perhaps a Sino-Soviet encounter within the borders of Mongolia.

 

  • POLISH DECOY– A Soviet gambit to take attention away from another region where it will be making moves in the near future.

 

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 80-99

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Hard to believe that there were so many scenarios on that list. We’re up to 100 already. Wow.

  • GREENLAND DOMESTIC– This one is interesting. Greenland is Danish territory but hosted a number of important US military installations during the Cold War. It still does today, as a matter of fact. The population is very small too. The best spark I can think of is a Soviet backed insurrection that targets US bases there, especially the BMEWS radar site.

 

  • ICELAND HEAVY-Large scale air and naval combat between NATO and the Warsaw Pact for control of Iceland.

 

  • KENYA OPTION– During the Cold War Kenya was viewed as a strategic vanguard against communist influences from Ethiopia and Tanzania. A Soviet backed move against the nation could’ve backfired and led to escalation.

 

  • PACIFIC DEFENSE– Soviet or Chinese offensive in the Pacific resulting in a US and allied defense.

 

  • UGANDA MAXIMUM- The Ugandan Bush War boils over into a regional contest for control of East Africa.

 

  • THAI SUBVERSION– Vietnamese forces made limited incursions into Thailand in the late 70s and 80s. Compound that with an effort to stoke internal flames by Vietnam and/or the PRC, and the stage could be set for a major conflict.

 

  • ROMANIAN STRIKE– Ceausescu was a maverick. Either he lashes out, or the Soviets decide to intervene and remove him from power.

 

  • PAKISTAN SOVEREIGNTY– A situation where the survival of Pakistan is threatened. Internal insurrection, Indian invasion, or possibly a Soviet invasion out of Afghanistan.

 

  • AFGHAN MISDIRECTION– Basically, what the Soviets experienced during their time in Afghanistan.

 

  • ETHIOPIAN LOCAL– East Africa was a tinderbox in the late 70s and early 80s. Even after the Cold War, conflicts between Ethiopia and its neighbors continued.

 

  • ITALIAN TAKEOVER– The Communist Party enjoyed popularity in Italy. If they’d gained control through elections and demanded the removal of NATO forces from Italian soil, the situation could have escalated. NATO moves in, the Soviets move to support the communists and things go downhill quick.

 

  • VIETNAMESE INCIDENT– Border incident with China, tensions with Thailand.

 

  • ENGLISH PREEMPTIVE- They didn’t call Margaret Thatcher the “Iron Lady” for nothing. Perhaps the British received intelligence that the Russians were going to attack and decided to get their licks in first. That’s what pre-emption is all about, really.

 

  • DENMARK ALTERNATE– The Soviets move to capture Denmark using one of their secondary war plans instead of the primary one.

 

  • THAI CONFRONTATION-Similar to the previous Thailand-themed scenarios. Conflict with Vietnam and/or Myanmar.

 

  • TAIWAN SURPRISE– PRC invasion of Taiwan obtains strategic surprise.

 

  • BRAZILIAN STRIKE– Brazil strikes Argentina, Argentina hits back and suddenly South America is in flames.

 

  • VENEZUELA SUDDEN– Border clashes and tension with Columbia reach the boiling point. Out of the blue, Venezuela invades.

 

  • MAYLASIAN ALERT– Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur brings threats from the PRC. Malaysia goes on alert, China moves in ostensibly to ‘protect its citizens’ in Malaysia and before long the area is a cauldron.

 

  • ISRAEL DISCRETIONARY– Discreet Israeli action abroad (intelligence gathering, surgical strikes, commando raid) is unsuccessful. Israel is painted as the aggressor and the Arab world stands up to confront Tel Aviv.

 

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.