Odds of Thermonuclear War in 2018

Odds of Thermonuclear War in 2018

Sat 13 Jan

A Bookmaker’s View on Thermonuclear War to occur in 2018:

unlikely - but not that unlikely.

Odds              Implied Probability (%)    Runners

1/500              99.8                              No Thermonuclear War

17/2               10.53                             Thermonuclear War to go ahead

Nation to fire first, assuming thermonuclear war goes ahead in 2018: 

2/5                 71.43                             USA

7/2                 22.22                             India

7/1                 12.5                               North Korea

14/1                 6.667                           Pakistan

25/1                 3.846                           Israel

33/1                 2.941                           China

33/1                 2.941                           Russia

66/1                 1.491                           UK

150/1               0.6623                         France


Bookmaker’s odds demonstrate the likelihood of a specific event or outcome occurring. They reflect probabilities as a ratio of potential winnings to the punter’s stake. Odds are set and in old parlance, "the book (market) is made".

At the time of writing, Jeremy Corbyn is about 4/1 to become Britain’s next prime minister and Might Bite is 4/1 to win this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. The odds 4/1 represent an implied probability of 20%. Pay attention to the word "implied" as bookmakers don’t generally offer fair (wholesale) odds as it’s not in our interest to do so. It is in the interest of profitability to lay or bet against an occurrence at the lowest possible price. Only competition keeps us lean and not too piggy.

In the interests of taste and practicality I am not offering the above in the real world: the odds are theoretical but the runners and riders alarmingly are not. The first book has two runners and No Thermonuclear War is clear favourite at 1/500. No nation has really got close to intentionally using an atomic weapon in anger since 1945. Moreover, for the last 72 years great efforts have been made in trying to convince schoolchildren that the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" bombs dropped on Japan were a necessary evil.

17/2 for Thermonuclear War to Go-ahead is a criminally short price but in a two-runner race there still needs to be a profit.

According to Peter Kuznick, director at the Nuclear Studies Institute, "any largescale use of nuclear weapons will be just as suicidal for the nation that strikes first as for the nation under attack." 1/500 represents a 99.8% probability of partial or total Armageddon remaining an idea in a book. But Kuznick also asserts that had the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan gone thermonuclear and only a hundred Hiroshima-size weapons detonated, a partial nuclear winter would have ensued and perhaps two billion people’s deaths.

This brings us to the more interesting and much more worrisome hypothetical: assuming there is atomic war in 2018, who will fire first: odds-on jolly is the United States and here’s why: the US is the only runner with useful form.

Trump is not Truman but it was Truman who pretty much single-handedly switched the lights to green for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs to be dropped by not saying "No" to an existing idea. Like Trump, he was unwilling and unready to listen to advice. There were many who thought the use of weapons of mass destruction was unnecessary, barbaric or both – six out of seven five-star generals and admirals, normally hawkish men, said so. Like Donald, Harry never really expected to be president and neither did anyone else. For this reason, he didn’t know about "the bomb" until 89 days before it was dropped.

Praying for the wise words of military and political advisors being heard may be all we’ve got. History, and particularly the newer breed of historian, tell us that leaders unable to listen to advice in both democratic and totalitarian regimes massively affect the landscape and mostly for the worse. The United States is in an unbeatable position, not because of great leadership or chicanery but through brute force: she spends more on her military machine than the rest of the world combined. The US also has sea, land and air bases or personnel in 150 countries.

If they strike first, they’ll get away with it. They’re 2/5 but not for long.

North Korea and the world’s other bogey man (or village idiot) are different. Kim Jong Un’s reasoning for proliferating nuclear weapons is far more logical than the US’s. Despite his talk, despite his haircut and despite the appalling lack of factual information about North Korea in western media, the bare facts are that the consequences of firing first would be a huge loss of Korean lives, loss of power for Kim, invasion and regime change.

India’s Narendra Modi and the BJP have taken populist nationalism to new levels and make Trump’s America look balanced and united. Failure to deliver on economic promises and power held in the most clinical of ways make India second favourite and the value bet for win purposes. 7/2 is large and were the market to be live in the real world I would expect to see India heavily backed. Attentions are on Korea and Iran but keep an eye on the Indian-Pakistan border.

Pakistan is pretty equally matched thermonuclear-wise with India. However the latter is superior by a factor of about five in conventional military power. Relative stability, sanity in Islamabad and a focus on homegrown real-world issues are reasons enough for 14/1.

The rest are 25/1 bar.

And best of the rest is Israel at "a pony" or 25/1. It feels like Israel are always at war and it must feel like that for those living there. This Wales-sized country with a population less than London’s. They are yet to admit (or deny) having thermonuclear capabilities so I hope Israel’s inclusion in this list is not libellous.

This tiny state has fought eight official wars and numerous separate and connected conflicts but some would say just one. Solidly backed by the US since her creation in 1948 this bilateral partnership was cemented in 1967 during and after the "Six Day War". Israel’s agenda is very different from her backer’s but it comes to the same thing. It’s easy to get hung up on promising maiden form: the reasoning for a nuclear arsenal is purely defensive backed by a will to carry on as is.

The UK, France and Russia retain their capabilities from a previous era. Britain (66/1) was the third joker in the Cold War pack and conducted her first atomic weapon test in 1952. Still ambitious on an imperial world stage, hungover from the war and eager to please and impress Uncle Sam, the plutonium – implosion device showcased British ingenuity and canny self-preservation. Rationing ended nearly two years later.

Britain, further confused by Brexit, is once again a leaky rudderless vessel. Quite why Britain has nuclear strike capability is a question unlikely to yield a straight answer. An appropriate target is an even bigger unknown. Odds compiling is part intuition but I feel safe in laying at 66, although I wouldn’t expect much to be placed on her and could see her touch 100/1.

France, burnt by the war like Britain but in very different places conducted its first test under de Gaulle in 1960. 1957 saw the signing of the Treaty of Rome and 1958 saw the creation of the Fifth Republic. France more than ever sees itself as perhaps the most internationally important member of the EU. Effectively, France holds Europe’s missiles but as with Britain, quite where they would point one is unknown. France is biggest at 150/1 and with good reason.

Russia has either the largest or second largest stockpile of atomic devices depending on who you ask. But Russia, like France and Britain is in no mood to conquer and is too busy holding on to what it has: vast mineral and oil wealth, strong trade agreements and an ability to keep home-grown threats at bay. Threats of invasion simply aren’t on the cards but strategic agreements are all over the place. As such, China and Iran could see Russia unwittingly drawn into something silly. Russia is 33/1 with China who quite simply have more responsibility to more people.

China’s economic growth outshines any in history. Their contribution to global GDP will surpass the United States this year. Quite simply, in three decades China has risen to the top. With the second smallest nuclear stash, China is the only NWS (Nuclear Weapons State) to guarantee non–use towards non-nuclear states. China’s borders are largely unchanged in five thousand years so should be believed. Involvement with North Korea is noteworthy but this has everything to with trade and nothing to do with the spread of Maoism or Maoism Mark 2 or 3.

China has grown meteorically and despite rhetoric to the contrary it has been with European and American blessings. Four hundred US military installations hold China in a stranglehold and they all have weapons, some nuclear, pointing at her. This starts at the Middle East and stretches to Japan. There is simply too much to lose by winning this race.

That’s all nine covered and I could go on. It’s appealing to look at more perverse reasons for nuclear war but I’m sure these are covered in detail on InfoWars and other divisions of the New Media with endless discussion, rants and "news" based on feeling not fact. It could be the Mysterons who fire first. Good for the bookmakers if so.

What is factual is why we have escaped a nuclear holocaust. In 1945 we escaped it because only one other country had a nuclear bomb.

In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis we were spared all-out nuclear war not by John Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev or an eleventh hour moment of clarity derived from the collective wisdom of both men. It came down to one man: Vasili Arkhipov and his clear thinking.

In 1980 at the Little Rock Air Force base a man dropped a spanner. Another Act of God intervened.

In 1983 Stanislav Petrov saved the world. These are names that are unfamiliar to most of us, but how they saved us from all-out nuclear war is worth reading about. How did we not destroy life as we know it? How did we not do this not just once but three times, and only just?

After 1980 wrench-carrying procedures were changed. But all three of these incidents – there are many more - show just how close the world came to changing forever and accidentally. Atomic power is simply too hot to handle.

Article by Long Shot.

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