While I doubt anyone there wants a nuclearized battlefield, I also doubt the ability of the two sides to control themselves. (I would say the same thing about the U.S and USSR if this was 1984) However, there are a few critical differences here that make the situation more dangerous than most Cold War crises.
- The involvement of troops from both countries. Unlike the Cold War, this is not a conflict where two proxy armies are facing off. While there are some proxy forces engaged in the conflict (just ask John Walker, he's a veteran of it) you mostly have two nations locking horns directly.
- The size of Pakistan. There isn't much breathing room for them if they were to be invaded, they might very quickly feel that their nation's existance is threatened. This is the reason they cultivated Afganastan as a client state. Nowm they have nowhere to fall back to.
- The proximity of the two nations. There is no Europe to fight a protracted conventional war in without risking the homeland. Kashmir is a nice little disputed territory, but fighting there doesn't give much hope of buying either side much time to work things out, as the war would most likely spread to one nation's land or another within a short time.
- The difficulty in responding to responding to a nuclear first strike. If someone launches a missle at the U.S, there are about 15-30 minutes in which the U.S can respond to it. This is the basis of MAD. A first strike via missle is a really, really dumb idea. The attacking country has no hope of eliminating the ability of the U.S to wipe out their own nation before their missles hit. In this conflict however, you have two nations right next to each other. One launches, the other stands a good chance of being SOL. And both sides know this very well. Therefore, Launch On Warning becomes the main concern. The idea behind Launch On Warning is that one side thinks the other side is going to launch a nuclear attack knowing there is too little time to initiate a respone, so they are pushed into launching a preemtptive nuclear strike to eliminate the chance of that happening. This actually came into the spotlight a few years ago, when in one incident, India was convinced Pakistan was going to launch a first strike, so they seriously considered a nuclear release to prevent it. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
However, there is nothing to say such an incident can't happen again.
And with actual fighting going on between the two armies, it would be less likely that someone would say "OK, let's just sit down and think this one through."
[ 12-26-2001: Message edited by: DoctorGonzo ]</p>