September 12, 2005


The Pentagon's nuclear wish (Jim Lobe, 9/14/05, Asia Times)

Amid increasing tension between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, and growing concern about overstretched US ground forces, the George W Bush administration is moving steadily toward adopting the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states as an integral part of its global military strategy.

According to a March document by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that was recently posted to the Pentagon's website, Washington will not necessarily wait for potential adversaries to use what it calls "weapons of mass destruction" before resorting to a nuclear strike against them. [...]

"The new doctrine reaffirms an aggressive nuclear posture of modernized nuclear weapons maintained on high alert," Hans Kristensen, of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), wrote last week in Arms Control Today magazine. "The new doctrine's approach grants regional nuclear-strike planning an increasingly expeditionary aura that threatens to make nuclear weapons just another tool in the toolbox.

"The result is nuclear preemption, which the new doctrine enshrines into official US joint nuclear doctrine for the first time, where the objective no longer is deterrence through threatened retaliation but battlefield destruction of targets."

The doctrine is the latest in a series of documents adopted by the administration that has moved the US away from the traditional view that nuclear weapons should be used solely for the purposes of defense and deterrence.

Along with the NPR, which called for the development of new delivery systems for nuclear weapons and noted that China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya could all be targets, the new view was expounded by Bush himself in his September 2002 National Security Strategy document. "We cannot let our enemies strike first," he warned at the time.

There could hardly be a better nuclear deterrent than to use nuclear weapons to terminate the nuclear capabilities and programs of North Korea, Iran, China, Pakistan and France.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 12, 2005 11:56 PM

I don't like it.

Our supremacy rests on contemporary and emerging technology, largely as applied through air and sea power.

Both of these capabilities share a limitation: nuclear weapons.

I suggest that we should maintain the nuclear threshold, using atomics as we did to defeat the FORMER SOVIET UNION, as a shield of deterrence to the sword of technology.

The problem with atomics remains what it alway has been, namely once the line has been crossed, it cannot be defined or restrained: things will be happening too quickly for that.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 13, 2005 9:56 AM

the Cold War was a disaster precisely because we didn't use our nuclear advantage.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2005 10:07 AM

Lou - The danger now is nuclear terrorism, not missile-delivered nukes spotted in advance by our warning system with a clearly identified country of origin. Nuclear proliferation makes it possible for nuclear terrorism to go undeterred. It's appropriate for us to use military action to stop it.

Posted by: pj at September 13, 2005 11:20 AM

pj: No disagreement here. Smash terrorism with conventional, but transformational power. Threaten, that is, deter, states which promote and harbor terrorism with that power, destroying them if necessary. Use the credible (that means you've got to convince them of your possession of the means and the will to deliver if they call your bluff) threat of massive retailiation to deter anyone from using nuclear weapons against us.

The paradigm of the WOT is Pershing's raid. Our overwhelming conventional power secures the compliance of states in the role of Mexico, and our Strategic nuclear capability protects that power from tactical nuclear threat.

oj: You will excuse me if I cannot concur that the cold war was a disaster. We buried them, not the other way around, and we did it without general war. It was the slickest thing the United States has ever done, and we have pulled off some great moves.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 13, 2005 2:10 PM

100 million dead, $5 trillion in debt, the 1970s, JFK/LBJ/Nixon/Ford/Carter.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2005 2:21 PM

PJ may be familiar with this class of weapons: ultra high kinetic-energy weapons as a way around the impasse. If nukes lead to unacceptable political consequences (I do not concede that they do), then other means will have to be found to otain the same force multplication that nukes deliver.

Large titanium rods or some such dropped from space yield impressive energy releases without some of the same drawbacks (drifting fallout, irradiating the target area, the very idea of nukes themselves as an unthinkable threshold). We aren't there yet, but it is an idea worth accelerating.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 13, 2005 2:38 PM

100 million dead, $5 trillion in debt, the 1970s, JFK/LBJ/Nixon/Ford/Carter.

Plus no Earth-Shattering Kaboom! There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom...

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 13, 2005 4:49 PM

The Soviets were never capable of shattering much but themselves.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2005 4:59 PM

Yeah, you hold the entirely irrational belief that because you disliked the Soviets, they couldn't do anything right, and were about as dangerous as mouldy cheese.

However, in the real world, a champion can get killed by a homeless burnout loser.

If you're interested, I can list at least a dozen things that the USSR did better than the U.S. at one point or another, despite the fact that they got the biggest things quite wrong.

The list would include small arms, tanks, aircraft, lasers, medical advances, and of course, their space programme.

The Soviets WERE dangerous.

If a tornado goes by, but misses your house, it doesn't mean that you were never in any danger.
It just means that you got lucky.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2005 12:41 AM


Who was the first Soviet to walk on the Moon?

Posted by: oj at September 14, 2005 7:35 AM


Who has the most reliable manned launch vehicle?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 14, 2005 11:29 AM

The Nazis. Heck, we could have just kept building Apollo forever too.

Posted by: oj at September 14, 2005 12:37 PM
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