There were two occasions in which the United States came close to using nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The first was in Korea, when the U.S. Army appeared to be facing defeat on the ground and General MacArthur asked for the use of nuclear weapons against China. This was rightly refused by President Truman as the overwhelming majority of observers have concluded. The second was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place close to the very shores of the U.S. mainland and was averted by intense eleventh hour diplomacy. Both affected America and Americans directly in a way that the present war in Ukraine, for all its horrors, quite obviously does not.
But of course, if we were to end up in a nuclear exchange with Russia, our situation would come to resemble not World War III, but something much worse. Blurring the line between proxy war and direct war is therefore not just irresponsible, but dangerous. If this belief took hold among U.S. policymakers, we could find that we had crossed that line without realizing that we had done so — until it was too late to go back.
As for absolute victory, not one American war since 1945 has ended that way. All have led to draws, compromises, long civil wars, or eventual outright defeat. The search for absolute victory in Ukraine points towards either unending war, or the Russian use of absolute weapons in response.No blob, we are not ‘already fighting’ World War III – Responsible Statecraft