the Americans and the Soviets used diplomacy to get out of situations that were at least as dire as the July Crisis in 1914.
An arsenal of nuclear weapons on each side had a heck of alot to do with that diplomacy. If atomic weapons and MAD hadn't existed, there almost definately WOULD have been a third world war aganist the Soviet Union.
True. But if you boil it down to the basics, MAD meant that the hawkish elemnets in the command structure were reined in and the standard method of conflict resolution became diplomacy. This is not an outlandish notion and before WWI, there were plently of influential people who were trying hard to stop the war from happening, and all it would have needed was for the heads of state to listen to the Jean Jaurès instead of the von Hötzendorfs.
There's, another example. See, here I'm now sitting by myself, uh, er, talking to myself. That's, that's chaos.