Most people are reluctant to discuss major risks like nuclear war because they are not intellectually sophisticated enough to contemplate such a disturbing possibility in an objective manner. They may not even be consciously afraid, but still immediately twitch away from contemplating the subject due to a mostly subconscious emotional reaction. They may also place excessive faith in the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, even though the myriad ways in which this scenario could break down are thoroughly familiar to defense analysts.
To come to terms with this reality, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford and one of the inventors of public key cryptography, Martin Hellman, wrote a piece last July titled “Soaring, Cryptography and Nuclear Weapons”. This paper approaches the issue of nuclear war risk from the perspective of something less threatening: gliding. I suggest you check it out.
For a concurrent view, see former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s “Apocalypse Soon” from Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s a couple quotes:
“On any given day, as we go about our business, the president is prepared to …