Monday, April 29, 2002

Josh Treviño at i330.org (sorry no direct link to section, but it's 27th April #3) discusses nuclear strategy, specifically, what are our options in the event of an Iraqi response with chemical/biological weapons when the Allies invade? He asks whether we could justify a nuclear response (in line with stated NATO warfighting doctrine since the year dot) given that we would be perceived by those on the sidelines as the aggressors. It's a good point, and I'm sure the policy wonks in the State Department and Foreign Office have it all planned out, but I think it misses the central thrust of why we have nuclear weapons, and the circumstances in which they can be deployed.

I saw the last half of 'Dr. Strangelove' on cable on Sunday. I know it's an anti-nukes polemic, but the central premise is 100% on the money. If a nation has a capability that, in the event of a hostile action against that nation, will surely, certainly and irrevocably destroy the attacker, then war against that nation becomes impossible. The whole point of the Dr Strangelove story is that the US was unaware of the existence of the Doomsday weapon, thus rendering it ineffective. By comparison, both we and the Soviets had a stated policy of catastrophic response in the event of a nuclear attack by one on the other. 'Launch-on-warning' and 'fail-deadly' were postures that were designed to convince the opposition of not merely willingness, but determination to bring the temple down around the ears of the attacker. It was a dangerous and terrifying strategy, but it kept the peace (largely) for 50 years.

All this boils down to a simple fact: if we are to invade Iraq, it must be made abundantly clear, in a fashion that can brook no uncertainty, that use of WMDs against Allied forces will result in the prompt, merciless and unequivocal extermination of the entire Iraqi populace. This does not mean tactical nuclear strikes against the units that use the WMDs in the first place, or against Republican Guard tank formations. It means multiple salvos of strategic, countervalue weapons against any and all population centers in Iraq, with the express aim of killing every Iraqi citizen practicable. This sounds shockingly brutal. It is. It is also the only way in which the use of WMDs by Iraq, or indeed any other potential adversary, can be adequately deterred.

Does this mean that I advocate the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq? Of course not. Such an outcome would be a tragedy. I further think that it would be almost impossible for the C-in-C to respond in the manner I have outlined above. But if truth be told, that is the only rational posture he can maintain.


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