>but I thought that being told specifically it's a recon mission and then going around Germany(?) shooting up the garrison and police etc in broad daylight in the middle of the city and then bombing a prison and busting everyone out and causing WW3 was hilarious.
Yes, but you wasn't supposed to do it Anakin! You were sent to dismantle the efforts of a mysterious enemy to frame the Soviet Union for attacks, not commit them yourself!
>Can you do that without starting WW3?
Not only that, the game is much longer than what you get if you enter failstate early.
There is a neutral end: Usual history
There is a good end (for completing all critical objectives and making a choice): America does a Right Wing purge, and ejects from NATO, NATO collapses.
Also, personal ends: you get arrested/you are decorated (and later killed by the remnant of your mysterious enemy), you knock up your mysterious comrade.