US commanders to seek preemptive use of nukes
Posted: 03 May 2005 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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The U.S. military plans to allow regional combatant commanders to request the president for approval to carry out preemptive nuclear strikes against possible attacks on the United States or its allies with weapons of mass destruction, according to a draft new nuclear operations paper.

The paper, drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, also revealed that submarines which make port calls in Yokosuka, Sasebo and Okinawa in Japan are prepared for reloading nuclear warheads if necessary to deal with a crisis.

"There are numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal) and about 30 nations with WMD programs, including many regional states," the paper says in allowing combatant commanders in the Pacific and other theaters to maintain an option of preemptive strikes against "rogue" states and terrorists and "request presidential approval for use of nuclear weapons" under set conditions.

Citing North Korea, Iran and some other countries as threats, the report set out contingencies for which U.S. nuclear strikes must be prepared and called for developing earth-penetrating nuclear bombs to destroy hidden underground military facilities, including those for storing WMD and ballistic missiles.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Historically, (ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki) as part of the overall strategy of deterrence, the US has never renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons.

During the Cuban Missile crisis, it was Khrushchev’s stark realization and belief that Kennedy was prepared to preemptively use nuclear weapons to take out the Soviet Missiles in Cuba that caused him to back down.

A significant part of the credibility of that threat was the fact the we had bomber crews in the cockpits of nuclear loaded and armed aircraft sitting at the end of runways all over the US and especially in the south east. 

In addition, at the height of the cold war, the US wanted the Soviets to know, in no uncertain terms, that if they ever launched a conventional attack on Europe, South Korea, the Middle East or elsewhere, they could not be assured that we would not use nuclear weapons to stop them.  In order to make sure that the Soviets understood this, the US military published policies, procedures and tactical doctrine that spelled this out in unmistakable terms.

US commanders have always had the option to request the use of nuclear weapons if they believed that such use was necessary to achieve vital military objectives.

No doubt, the main reason for drafting and releasing this latest policy is to send clear messages to North Korea, Iran, and any other like-minded nuclear wannabe that they are risking a pre-emptive nuclear attack on their WMD facilities if they continue on their current paths.

This is really not so much of a change in policy as it is an explicit “diplomatic signal” to potential adversaries so that they do not miscalculate the risks that they are incurring by persisting in their current WMD strategies and programs.

The US WMD strategy and policies have always been based upon the belief that the best way to win and survive a WMD-based war is to deter it from happening in the first place and to make sure that it does not start as a result of a miscalculation by a potential adversary.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]During the Cuban Missile crisis, it was Khrushchev’s stark realization and belief that Kennedy was prepared to preemptively use nuclear weapons to take out the Soviet Missiles in Cuba that caused him to back down.

I disagree with your assertion that a primary US Cold War strategy was the threat of a preemptive strike against the Soviets. The US didn’t threaten to strike the Soviet homeland preemptively during the Cuban crisis. You are correct that Khrushchev believed that the US would strike Cuba as a result of this crisis, but the crisis itself was an effort to preserve a US second strike capability. It was the threat of a second strike that worried Khrushchev most and the motivation for the entire crisis. The reason the Soviets wanted missiles in Cuba was to blunt our second strike capability. JFK was determined to preserve our second strike capability. The second strike capability of our ballistic submarine fleet gave the US what McNamara and von Neumann called a second strike capability inside the MAD strategy. (See Prisoner’s Dilemma by William Poundstone for a fascinating discussion) The US has never used a preemptive strike to prevent the proliferation of WMD. We could have easily done this to the Soviets after WW2. It was certainly suggested.

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]A significant part of the credibility of that threat was the fact the we had bomber crews in the cockpits of nuclear loaded and armed aircraft sitting at the end of runways all over the US and especially in the south east.

Sure. This gets to the second strike strategy - it was not a pre-emptive stance against the Soviet homeland.

From wiki: Ballistic missile submarines established a second strike capability through their stealth and by the number fielded by each Cold War adversary - it was highly unlikely that all of them could be targeted and preemptively destroyed (in contrast to, for example, a missile bunker with a fixed location that could be targeted during a first strike). Given their long range, high survivability and ability to carry many medium- and long-range nuclear missiles, submarines were a credible means for retaliation even after a massive first strike.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union truly developed an understanding of the effectiveness of the U.S. ballistic missile submarine forces and work on Soviet ballistic missile submarines began in earnest. For the remainder of the Cold War, although official positions on MAD changed in the United States, the consequences of the second strike from ballistic missile submarines was never in doubt.

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]In addition, at the height of the cold war, the US wanted the Soviets to know, in no uncertain terms…US WMD strategy and policies…to deter ...a miscalculation by a potential adversary.

You are absolutely correct. Information about consequences were important in order to avoid misunderstandings (and to fight the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids)

But this administration is not thinking in terms of stark consequences. What specific behavior on the part of NK or Iran will lead to our preemptive use of WMD? It seems ambiguous to me. Worse, a straight-forward reading makes it seem as if Iran and NK could face attack today by nukes. This is exactly the stance that the Soviets used through much of the Cold War. Our rational response was to insure a second strike capability. This will no doubt be the response of our adversaries. Stealth, hair triggers, and survivability will be the rational outcome to a preemptive threat by an adversary. It’s what we did. This is a reckless use of brinkmanship that is unwarranted. We have just increased the value of clandestine nukes and made our strategy more ambiguous. I believe it makes the world more dangerous and our citizens less safe.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]During the Cuban Missile crisis, it was Khrushchev’s stark realization and belief that Kennedy was prepared to preemptively use nuclear weapons to take out the Soviet Missiles in Cuba that caused him to back down.

I disagree with your assertion that a primary US Cold War strategy was the threat of a preemptive strike against the Soviets. The US didn’t threaten to strike the Soviet homeland preemptively during the Cuban crisis.

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]A significant part of the credibility of that threat was the fact the we had bomber crews in the cockpits of nuclear loaded and armed aircraft sitting at the end of runways all over the US and especially in the south east.

Sure. This gets to the second strike strategy - it was not a pre-emptive stance against the Soviet homeland.

I am afraid that you misread my post.  I never said that Kennedy threatened to strike at the Soviet homeland during the Cuban Missile crisis.  I clearly stated that the threat was against the missiles in Cuba.

Also, I never stated, asserted or implied that the primary (or secondary) US cold war policy or plans contemplated a first strike on the USSR.

Not only was that not our policy or plan but, the Soviets knew that it was not and never seriously feared such an attack as evidenced by the relatively relaxed day-to-day alert posture of their Strategic Rocket Forces, their warning systems, and their strategic command and control.

[quote author=“Salerio”]From wiki: Ballistic missile submarines established a second strike capability through their stealth and by the number fielded by each Cold War adversary - it was highly unlikely that all of them could be targeted and preemptively destroyed (in contrast to, for example, a missile bunker with a fixed location that could be targeted during a first strike). Given their long range, high survivability and ability to carry many medium- and long-range nuclear missiles, submarines were a credible means for retaliation even after a massive first strike.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union truly developed an understanding of the effectiveness of the U.S. ballistic missile submarine forces and work on Soviet ballistic missile submarines began in earnest. For the remainder of the Cold War, although official positions on MAD changed in the United States, the consequences of the second strike from ballistic missile submarines was never in doubt.

What the Soviets understood and feared both before and after the Cuban missile crisis was the second strike capabilities of the US bomber force.  Even by the end of the cold war, the preponderance of US deliverable nuclear megatonage was still carried by the bombers.

Rather than developing and deploying their SLBM force as a deterrent, the Soviets built and positioned them as a means of destroying the US bomber force on the ground before they could be launched and deliver a second strike on the USSR.  Presumably this was to occur in conjunction with a Soviet preemptive ICBM strike on the US.  That is why their SLBMs were consistently deployed within 1500 miles of the US coast and within an 8 to 10 minute flight to any SAC bomber base in the country.  They were, in effect, an alternative to having missiles in Cuba but served the same purpose…….to neutralize the US bombers.

In contrast, I agree that the US SLBMs were developed as a highly survivable MAD deterrent as part of a “triad” of forces that included ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers each of which with a unique but complementary role to play in the US deterrence and war fighting strategies.

[quote author=“Salerio”]But this administration is not thinking in terms of stark consequences. What specific behavior on the part of NK or Iran will lead to our preemptive use of WMD? It seems ambiguous to me. Worse, a straight-forward reading makes it seem as if Iran and NK could face attack today by nukes. This is exactly the stance that the Soviets used through much of the Cold War. Our rational response was to insure a second strike capability. This will no doubt be the response of our adversaries. Stealth, hair triggers, and survivability will be the rational outcome to a preemptive threat by an adversary. It’s what we did. This is a reckless use of brinkmanship that is unwarranted. We have just increased the value of clandestine nukes and made our strategy more ambiguous. I believe it makes the world more dangerous and our citizens less safe.

I think that we need to look at this draft policy as a single “phrase” or “sentence” in much larger, complex, long-term and explicit overall US diplomatic and military “messages” to the bad guys.  I suspect that additional parts of the messages are being delivered by other means and through different channels.  Also, that message and the deterrent objectives are no doubt somewhat different for North Korea than for Iran.

The Joint Chiefs are not going to unambiguously lay out the exact conditions that would cause their commanders to request the preemptive use of these weapons.  Rather, they are going to establish the overall policy and procedures that would allow it to happen if necessary.

The primary objective of US policy is to deter the development and deployment of a FIRST strike capability by these folks and to deter nuclear proliferation. 

The world and our citizens will be much safer if that policy succeeds.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]Also, I never stated, asserted or implied that the primary (or secondary) US cold war policy or plans contemplated a first strike on the USSR.

To be sure, a preemptive strike is a first strike. I read your post as an attempt to tie the Cuban Crisis to this new strategy position. You drew a spurious parallel between the Cuban Crisis and the crisis we face today. Nonetheless, I think we agree that a first strike strategy was not the aim of the US in the Cold War.

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]The Joint Chiefs are not going to unambiguously lay out the exact conditions that would cause their commanders to request the preemptive use of these weapons.

The lack of exactitude and veiled threats are a dangerous way to pursue a nuclear strategy with an adversary whom you overthrew just 50 years ago and another whom you are technically still at war.

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]The primary objective of US policy is to deter the development and deployment of a FIRST strike capability by these folks and to deter nuclear proliferation.

DAMN GOOD IDEA. Where were you 2 years ago? Too bad we have been bogged down in Iraq while Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan have advanced their real WMD programs.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]Also, I never stated, asserted or implied that the primary (or secondary) US cold war policy or plans contemplated a first strike on the USSR.

To be sure, a preemptive strike is a first strike. I read your post as an attempt to tie the Cuban Crisis to this new strategy position. You drew a spurious parallel between the Cuban Crisis and the crisis we face today. Nonetheless, I think we agree that a first strike strategy was not the aim of the US in the Cold War.

The parallel is not spurious.  If a nuclear rogue state or terrorist group deployed and postured WMDs to threaten the US and/or its vital interests (as the Soviets did during the Cuban missile crisis), we would do everything within our power to eliminate that threat by diplomatic and/or conventional means if possible but with WMDs if necessary.

[quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]The Joint Chiefs are not going to unambiguously lay out the exact conditions that would cause their commanders to request the preemptive use of these weapons.

The lack of exactitude and veiled threats are a dangerous way to pursue a nuclear strategy with an adversary whom you overthrew just 50 years ago and another whom you are technically still at war.

It is not the Joint Chiefs’ job to establish US foreign policy or to define the exact conditions under which they could or would be ordered to execute an attack (preemptive or otherwise).  Their job is to assess the various threats that might emerge along with the range of responses that may be required by the National Command Authorities and to ensure that the military has adequate policies, plans, procedures, personnel and technical capabilities to carry out those orders should they come.


[quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]The primary objective of US policy is to deter the development and deployment of a FIRST strike capability by these folks and to deter nuclear proliferation.

DAMN GOOD IDEA. Where were you 2 years ago? Too bad we have been bogged down in Iraq while Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan have advanced their real WMD programs.

Well, North Korea becoming a nuclear state happened on Clinton’s watch with the assistance of Jimmy Carter who personally inserted himself into the situation and gave away the farm.

In addition, Iran is a hostile Islamic fundamentalist state today because Jimmy Carter refused to support the Shah (who was attempting to establish a modern secular society in Iran) which lead directly to his overthrow by the Shiite fundies.

Since coming to office the Bush administration has eliminated Iraq and Libya as potential WMD adversaries and shut down the Pakistani nuclear proliferation network.

Next stop NK and Iran……...

Thanks to the consistent and steadfast leadership of GWB, the administration’s strategy is working, the nuclear swamp is being steadily drained and we are safer because of it.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 05:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]Bush has eliminated Iraq and Libya as potential WMD adversaries and shut down the Pakistani nuclear proliferation network.

“Potential WMD adversary” - that’s a nice euphemism. I don’t remember Powell describing Iraq as a “potential WMD adversary.” Or Bush saying that it would cost $300 billion and 13,718 U.S. Casualties to eliminate a “potential WMD adversary.”

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]Next stop NK and Iran…

Can’t wait, should be fun.
What do you say we finally clean up the business with OBL first?

[quote author=“Conservative Atheist”]Thanks to the consistent and steadfast leadership of GWB, the administration’s strategy is working, the nuclear swamp is being steadily drained and we are safer because of it.

Surely you can’t be serious. A real increase in the “Axis of Evil’s” nuclear weapons stockpile and capabilities can not honestly be termed a steadily drained swamp.

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Posted: 03 May 2005 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Salerio”]Surely you can’t be serious. A real increase in the “Axis of Evil’s” nuclear weapons stockpile and capabilities can not honestly be termed a steadily drained swamp.

Yes, I am very serious. 

The only “axis of evil” country to increase its nuclear stockpile in the last 4 years is (the Clinton/Albright/Carter facilitated) North Korean regime.

And, you are right, GWB needs to deal with them, OBL and Iran before the Democrats can get back in power and resume their misguided appeasement oriented foreign policies that encourage terrorism, reward nuclear proliferation and retreat in the face of Islamic fundamentalism.

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Posted: 04 May 2005 05:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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The real pity of this is that Iran itself moves closer to overthrowing its own theocracy, and creating a democracy.

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