This has always bugged me: The US goes to war w/ Russia and the Russians battle plan doesn't include striking the resupply bases on the eastern coast of the US that will supply the need logistics for the US to fight the battle? Huh?
Sinking ships is less of a cause for escalation than attacks on US soil, for starters. Also, the main reason for the whole Soviet plan was the Middle Eastern oil fields. The conflict in the book was only a preparation for that, and they didn't expect for things in Europe to get dragged out long enough that doing more than sinking the cargo ships would be necessary. Shortsightedness fueled by believing your own hype about how successful your military is "guaranteed" to be is hardly a new phenomenon.
That's true..it was a feint to disguise a drive into the Gulf oil fields. It just seems impractical to think that you'd allow your enemy to resupply their lines unmolested.
They didn't let them resupply unmolested; a significant portion of the novel is centered on the dangers the convoys face crossing the Atlantic. It almost works, too, as ammunition gets to be pretty thin for the tanks at the front.
The only way to successfully strike the US coast would have been an extremely expensive bomber raid, which would have to contend against lots and lots of land-based interceptors, or sub-launched cruise missiles, and it's mentioned that coastal ASW aircraft have been extremely busy trying to make sure that no missile-carrying sub gets close enough to do that. Besides, the real risk is escalation.
The answer here is that they were just too well defended and too far away. Look at operation doolittle. That is the scale of the operation you would need to attack New York, say. Even worse is that the subs don't have England and Norway to dock at after, they would have to recross the atlantic.
Remember Operation Doolittle and how it was crazy risky and required almost every missile sub in NATO and only managed to destroy 4 airfields? Or the bomber strike on Iceland that didn't even close the runway? Thing is that cruise missiles just don't do a whole lot of damage, at least not in terms of leveling city blocks. There's simply no way to put a VAST port out of action using them. They are precision weapons. It takes either nukes or INSANE amounts of conventional ordinance. Combined with the much greater risk for the Soviets it made attacking mainland US essentially impossible.
Even operation Doolittle wasn't intended to destroy the airfields themselves so much as to catch the returning bombers as they were landing.
The basis of Soviet strategy, and the maskirovka, was to make the War seem centered around West Germany. The Russians wanted to contain the battle to just destroying NATO forces in Europe. Attacking the US directly would have seriously escalated a conflict the USSR didn't want, and meant taking more resources from the battle they DID want, in the Gulf.
Here's another one: The US detects the Russians building up a massive force to enter the Fulda Gap and nobody on our side thinks about a first strike?
NATO isn't a first-strike organization, by its charter and rules. Without breaking their own rules ("good guys", remember?) they can't.
Good guys or not, removing the first strike (which don't believe NATO ever has) was tactically and strategically foolish. Do you have a source for the no first strike policy?
The closest thing I could find, without more digging than I care to do at oh-dark-thirty, is Article I of the NATO Charter. "The Parties undertake, [...] to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations." It's possible I'm misremembering or misinterpreting the whole "no first strike" issue, though.
A first strike with what? The Soviets deliberately timed their attack for NATO's lowest point in their readiness cycle, and the political misdirection was successful enough that it was less than a week before jump-off date before the clues finally became unambiguous; the Russians were coming.
Besides, NATO traditionally operates on a defensive posture. Shifting from the defensive to the offensive is a whole lot of logistical work that could not possibly have been finished in time.
Is it worth pointing out that NATO did get a first strike off, wiping out radar aircraft, bridges and logistics, cutting off the front lines from their supply and ensuring air supremacy which pretty much was the only reason they survived the initial thrusts. As far as first strikes go, its not quite as exciting as nukes and cruise missiles, but it was tactical genius pretty much ensuring that the fight would bog down before a shot had been fired. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Hey! What about the Luftwaffe attack the Soviet airbase at Mahlminkel? Germany! Germany!
Surely that should be: "F-R-G! F-R-G!"
Yet another strange thing: The Nimitz and its nuclear-powered cruiser escorts are said to make 30 knots towards Britain after their disastrous battle, yet the Blue side decided to put the wounded carrier into a heavy list when she docked to misguide some unwelcome observers - The problem is, a heavy list is indicative of damage below the waterline, as well as some tens of thousand tons of additional displacement on a ship of that size, both of which would stop her from making her full speed like that had it been real. Might have missed something but - Are they hoping for the Reds to jump to conclusions?
Tracking a carrier isn't a trival effort, especially during the time when this story was set. Also, it's very possible for the propulsion of a ship to be undamaged despite other catastrophic damage. The USS Saratoga was hit badly during WW2 and still managed to make 16 knots and reach Pearl Harbour in only a couple of days.
Hoping is exactly what they are doing. People who only experience war through fiction constantly underestimate the amount of confusion and misdirection present in the real thing.