JF Ptak Science Books Post 1559
[This is part of a series of posts on planning for the post-apocalyptic nuclear war world. Others include Virtuosic Apocalypticism: Maps anbd Charts of Nuclear Exchange, 1964, Taxes Trump Death in the Post-Nuclear-Attack World, 1964, and others which are linked to those two posts.]
There is nothing quite like reading turgid handbooks filled with impossible hope for recovery from un-recoverable situations. Of course, there are few situations that might actually occur in which recovery (to anything like the "life" that existed before the event) would be impossible: enormous meteorites making impact with the Earth would certainly be one, and there is little else besides this, really, outside of an enormous nuclear war. And it is exactly this, this second scenario, that the U.S. Government planned for to great lengths for decades on end--it was expected to be investigated, of course, because there was little else that could be done short of doing away with nuclear weapons, which was/is an action that would not be a serious consideration.
Planning for post-Armageddon was a solid, white-collar job that kept thousands of people employed for 30+ years. The idea behind the smiling mask was simple--that in an "exchange" (an uncommonly milky euphemism for launching nuclear weapons between enemies) there would be winners and losers, and in spite of tens of thousands of megatons of nuclear weapons being detonated, there would be enough infrastructure that would survive to be able to declare one of the smoke-filled-holes a winner in the conflict.
That is certainly the optimistic outlook of a preliminary report issued by Marshall K. Wood and John D. Martin, who issued this working paper on the state of a computer program that was being constructed to assist post-attack planners in re-establishing the broken remains of the country. Post-Attack Resource Management (PARM) was being compiled for the National Damage Assessment Center, under the National Planning Association, under the Office of Emergency Planning, in the Executive Office of the President, to be run on the UNIVAC Scientific and the Sperry Rand ERA 1103A computers, and made to assess national economic and military recovery of the U.S. post-nuke-war. This of course is a gargantuan, staggering task, given the number of changing variables, but someone had to give it a try.
Just collecting the existing data on x-number of eco-industrial-military-medical-human variables that make to country run is a daunting thing; try to imagine that as you added the Factors of Change in a nuclear war, trying to determine how thousands of explosions over the breadth of the country would affect the national infrastructure if these thousands of bombs were exploded in place A1-A1xN over periods of time T1-TX. It would be a phenomenal task to try and determine what results there would be on the country following thousands of different attack models. And then, after everything was said and done, there just wouldn't be very much left.
Maybe the thing worked. Maybe by planning for a survivable outcome to an unsurvivable situation enticed the actors to wait and prepare their weaponry to such a point where they would be the one certain to survive a nuclear war. In this way the build-up would continue forever, as no one party could achieve any sort of dominance in a first strike capacity to be able to wipe out their adversary's war-making capability before they had a chance to employ it. Perhaps in some weird, sick way this sort of planning for post-war activity kept the war from ever occurring by virtue of no one actor being able to achieve a superiority. Or perhaps not.