April 30, 2008


Eisenhower Advisers Discussed Using Nuclear Weapons in China (Walter Pincus, 4/30/08, Washington Post)

Senior Air Force officers proposed using 10-to-15-kiloton nuclear bombs against targets in Communist China in 1958, in the event that Beijing blockaded the Taiwan Strait, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower ruled out that option, according to a newly declassified Pentagon document.

At a Cabinet meeting in mid-August 1958, as the threat of a Chinese blockade of Taiwan was developing, Air Force Gen. Nathan F. Twining, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained "that at the outset American planes would drop 10- to 15-kiloton bombs on selected fields in the vicinity of Amoy," a coastal city on the Taiwan Strait now called Xiamen, according to the documents.

But "the President simply did not accept the contention that nuclear weapons were as conventional as high explosives," according to the now-declassified Air Force history of the Taiwan crisis.

Nukes are just explosives and the best way to wage a war is to end it quickly with minimal casualties to your side at the lowest cost possible. Nuking Moscow and Beijing would have served the purpose admirably in the Cold War. Failure to regime change China led to what? 100 million dead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2008 10:41 AM

In your alternative history scenario, I am curious to know how you think the Chinese and Russians would have reorganized themselves with fewer casualties. Democracy? Monarchy?

Posted by: Rick T. at April 30, 2008 1:36 PM

When the [actual] alternative was 100,000,000 dead, it hardly matters what the new organization would have been.

Posted by: ray at April 30, 2008 2:31 PM

Since we couldn't change the far smaller North Korean regime a few years before that, what in the world makes you think we could have changed Red China?

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 30, 2008 3:20 PM

They aren't magical, but no one wants to be responsible for starting a war that could leave tens of millions dead.

Posted by: Brandon at April 30, 2008 4:48 PM


Posted by: oj at April 30, 2008 6:33 PM

We'd have changed the North Korean regime if we'd nuked Moscow and Beijing.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2008 6:39 PM

No, they want to pat themselves on the back for the peace that kills a hundred million. It's morally vacuous, but typical of diplomats.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2008 6:41 PM