Three articles about recent plans for a nuclear war.

first from the LA Times March 10, 2002


Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable
A secret policy review of the nation’s nuclear policy puts forth chilling new contingencies for nuclear war



March 10 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, in a secret policy review completed early this year, has ordered the Pentagon to draft contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, naming not only Russia and the "axis of evil"--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea--but also China, Libya and Syria.

In addition, the U.S. Defense Department has been told to prepare for the possibility that nuclear weapons may be required in some future Arab-Israeli crisis. And, it is to develop plans for using nuclear weapons to retaliate against chemical or biological attacks, as well as "surprising military developments" of an unspecified nature.

These and a host of other directives, including calls for developing bunker-busting mini-nukes and nuclear weapons that reduce collateral damage, are contained in a still-classified document called the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was delivered to Congress on Jan. 8.

Like all such documents since the dawning of the Atomic Age more than a half-century ago, this NPR offers a chilling glimpse into the world of nuclear-war planners: With a Strangelovian genius, they cover every conceivable circumstance in which a president might wish to use nuclear weapons--planning in great detail for a war they hope never to wage.

In this top-secret domain, there has always been an inconsistency between America's diplomatic objectives of reducing nuclear arsenals and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, on the one hand, and the military imperative to prepare for the unthinkable, on the other.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration plan reverses an almost two-decade-long trend of relegating nuclear weapons to the category of weapons of last resort. It also redefines nuclear requirements in hurried post-Sept. 11 terms.

In these and other ways, the still-secret document offers insights into the evolving views of nuclear strategists in Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Defense Department.

While downgrading the threat from Russia and publicly emphasizing their commitment to reducing the number of long-range nuclear weapons, Defense Department strategists promote tactical and so-called "adaptive" nuclear capabilities to deal with contingencies where large nuclear arsenals are not demanded.

They seek a host of new weapons and support systems, including conventional military and cyber warfare capabilities integrated with nuclear warfare. The end product is a now-familiar post-Afghanistan model--with nuclear capability added. It combines precision weapons, long-range strikes, and special and covert operations.

But the NPR's call for development of new nuclear weapons that reduce "collateral damage" myopically ignores the political, moral and military implications--short-term and long--of crossing the nuclear threshold.

Under what circumstances might nuclear weapons be used under the new posture? The NPR says they "could be employed against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack," or in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, or "in the event of surprising military developments."

Planning nuclear-strike capabilities, it says, involves the recognition of "immediate, potential or unexpected" contingencies. North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya are named as "countries that could be involved" in all three kinds of threat. "All have long-standing hostility towards the United States and its security partners. All sponsor or harbor terrorists, and have active WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs."

China, because of its nuclear forces and "developing strategic objectives," is listed as "a country that could be involved in an immediate or potential contingency." Specifically, the NPR lists a military confrontation over the status of Taiwan as one of the scenarios that could lead Washington to use nuclear weapons.

Other listed scenarios for nuclear conflict are a North Korean attack on South Korea and an Iraqi assault on Israel or its neighbors.

The second important insight the NPR offers into Pentagon thinking about nuclear policy is the extent to which the Bush administration's strategic planners were shaken by last September's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Though Congress directed the new administration "to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear forces" before the events of Sept. 11, the final study is striking for its single-minded reaction to those tragedies.

Heretofore, nuclear strategy tended to exist as something apart from the ordinary challenges of foreign policy and military affairs. Nuclear weapons were not just the option of last resort, they were the option reserved for times when national survival hung in the balance--a doomsday confrontation with the Soviet Union, for instance.

Now, nuclear strategy seems to be viewed through the prism of Sept. 11. For one thing, the Bush administration's faith in old-fashioned deterrence is gone. It no longer takes a superpower to pose a dire threat to Americans.

"The terrorists who struck us on Sept. 11th were clearly not deterred by doing so from the massive U.S. nuclear arsenal," Rumsfeld told an audience at the National Defense University in late January.

Similarly, U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said in a recent interview, "We would do whatever is necessary to defend America's innocent civilian population .... The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody ... has just been disproven by Sept. 11."

Moreover, while insisting they would go nuclear only if other options seemed inadequate, officials are looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role in the kinds of challenges the United States faces with Al Qaeda.

Accordingly, the NPR calls for new emphasis on developing such things as nuclear bunker-busters and surgical "warheads that reduce collateral damage," as well as weapons that could be used against smaller, more circumscribed targets--"possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility," in the jargon-rich language of the review.

It also proposes to train U.S. Special Forces operators to play the same intelligence gathering and targeting roles for nuclear weapons that they now play for conventional weapons strikes in Afghanistan. And cyber-warfare and other nonnuclear military capabilities would be integrated into nuclear-strike forces to make them more all-encompassing.

As for Russia, once the primary reason for having a U.S. nuclear strategy, the review says that while Moscow's nuclear programs remain cause for concern, "ideological sources of conflict" have been eliminated, rendering a nuclear contingency involving Russia "plausible" but "not expected."

"In the event that U.S. relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future," the review says, "the U.S. may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture."

When completion of the NPR was publicly announced in January, Pentagon briefers deflected questions about most of the specifics, saying the information was classified. Officials did stress that, consistent with a Bush campaign pledge, the plan called for reducing the current 6,000 long-range nuclear weapons to one-third that number over the next decade. Rumsfeld, who approved the review late last year, said the administration was seeking "a new approach to strategic deterrence," to include missile defenses and improvements in nonnuclear capabilities.

Also, Russia would no longer be officially defined as "an enemy."

Beyond that, almost no details were revealed.

The classified text, however, is shot through with a worldview transformed by Sept. 11. The NPR coins the phrase "New Triad," which it describes as comprising the "offensive strike leg," (our nuclear and conventional forces) plus "active and passive defenses,"(our anti-missile systems and other defenses) and "a responsive defense infrastructure" (our ability to develop and produce nuclear weapons and resume nuclear testing). Previously, the nuclear "triad" was the bombers, long-range land-based missiles and submarine-launched missiles that formed the three legs of America's strategic arsenal.

The review emphasizes the integration of "new nonnuclear strategic capabilities" into nuclear-war plans. "New capabilities must be developed to defeat emerging threats such as hard and deeply-buried targets (HDBT), to find and attack mobile and re-locatable targets, to defeat chemical and biological agents, and to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage," the review says.

It calls for "a new strike system" using four converted Trident submarines, an unmanned combat air vehicle and a new air-launched cruise missile as potential new weapons.

Beyond new nuclear weapons, the review proposes establishing what it calls an "agent defeat" program, which defense officials say includes a "boutique" approach to finding new ways of destroying deadly chemical or biological warfare agents, as well as penetrating enemy facilities that are otherwise difficult to attack. This includes, according to the document, "thermal, chemical or radiological neutralization of chemical/biological materials in production or storage facilities."

Bush administration officials stress that the development and integration of nonnuclear capabilities into the nuclear force is what permits reductions in traditional long-range weaponry. But the blueprint laid down in the review would expand the breadth and flexibility of U.S. nuclear capabilities.

In addition to the new weapons systems, the review calls for incorporation of "nuclear capability" into many of the conventional systems now under development. An extended-range conventional cruise missile in the works for the U.S. Air Force "would have to be modified to carry nuclear warheads if necessary." Similarly, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should be modified to carry nuclear weapons "at an affordable price."

The review calls for research to begin next month on fitting an existing nuclear warhead into a new 5,000-pound "earth penetrating" munition.

Given the advances in electronics and information technologies in the past decade, it is not surprising that the NPR also stresses improved satellites and intelligence, communications, and more robust high-bandwidth decision-making systems.

Particularly noticeable is the directive to improve U.S. capabilities in the field of "information operations," or cyber-warfare. The intelligence community "lacks adequate data on most adversary computer local area networks and other command and control systems," the review observes. It calls for improvements in the ability to "exploit" enemy computer networks, and the integration of cyber-warfare into the overall nuclear war database "to enable more effective targeting, weaponeering, and combat assessment essential to the New Triad."

In recent months, when Bush administration officials talked about the implications of Sept. 11 for long-term military policy, they have often focused on "homeland defense" and the need for an anti-missile shield. In truth, what has evolved since last year's terror attacks is an integrated, significantly expanded planning doctrine for nuclear wars.
_ _ _

William M. Arkin is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is also a consultant to a number of nongovernmental organizations and a regular contributor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Officials are looking for nuclear weapons that could help against a foe like Al Qaeda.


Also from the LA Times (

U.S. Works Up Plan for Using Nuclear Arms
Military: Administration, in a secret report, calls for a strategy against at least seven nations: China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria.

Times Staff Writer

March 9 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries and to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations, according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The secret report, which was provided to Congress on Jan. 8, says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. It says the weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or "in the event of surprising military developments."

A copy of the report was obtained by defense analyst and Times contributor William Arkin. His column on the contents appears in Sunday's editions.

Officials have long acknowledged that they had detailed nuclear plans for an attack on Russia. However, this "Nuclear Posture Review" apparently marks the first time that an official list of potential target countries has come to light, analysts said. Some predicted the disclosure would set off strong reactions from governments of the target countries.

"This is dynamite," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "I can imagine what these countries are going to be saying at the U.N." Arms control advocates said the report's directives on development of smaller nuclear weapons could signal that the Bush administration is more willing to overlook a long-standing taboo against the use of nuclear weapons except as a last resort. They warned that such moves could dangerously destabilize the world by encouraging other countries to believe that they, too, should develop weapons.

"They're trying desperately to find new uses for nuclear weapons, when their uses should be limited to deterrence," said John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World. "This is very, very dangerous talk . . . Dr. Strangelove is clearly still alive in the Pentagon."

But some conservative analysts insisted that the Pentagon must prepare for all possible contingencies, especially now, when dozens of countries, and some terrorist groups, are engaged in secret weapon development programs.

They argued that smaller weapons have an important deterrent role because many aggressors might not believe that the U.S. forces would use multi-kiloton weapons that would wreak devastation on surrounding territory and friendly populations.

"We need to have a credible deterrence against regimes involved in international terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction," said Jack Spencer, a defense analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. He said the contents of the report did not surprise him and represent "the right way to develop a nuclear posture for a post-Cold War world."

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Richard McGraw, declined to comment because the document is classified.

Congress requested the reassessment of the U.S. nuclear posture in September 2000. The last such review was conducted in 1994 by the Clinton administration. The new report, signed by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, is now being used by the U.S. Strategic Command to prepare a nuclear war plan.

Bush administration officials have publicly provided only sketchy details of the nuclear review. They have publicly emphasized the parts of the policy suggesting that the administration wants to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.

Since the Clinton administration's review is also classified, no specific contrast can be drawn. However, analysts portrayed this report as representing a break with earlier policy.

U.S. policymakers have generally indicated that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states unless they were allied with nuclear powers. They have left some ambiguity about whether the United States would use nuclear weapons in retaliation after strikes with chemical or nuclear weapons.

The report says the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in an Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, or in an attack from North Korea on the south. They might also become necessary in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor, it said.

The report says Russia is no longer officially an "enemy." Yet it acknowledges that the huge Russian arsenal, which includes about 6,000 deployed warheads and perhaps 10,000 smaller "theater" nuclear weapons, remains of concern.

Pentagon officials have said publicly that they were studying the need to develop theater nuclear weapons, designed for use against specific targets on a battlefield, but had not committed themselves to that course.

Officials have often spoken of the advantages of using nuclear weapons to destroy the deep tunnel and cave complexes that many regimes have been building, especially since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Nuclear weapons give off powerful shock waves that can crush structures deep in the Earth, they point out.

Officials argue that large nuclear arms have so many destructive side effects, from blast to heat and radiation, that they become "self-deterring." They contend the Pentagon needs "full spectrum deterrence"--that is, a full range of weapons that potential enemies believe might be used against them.

The Pentagon was actively involved in planning for use of tactical nuclear weapons as recently as the 1970s. But it has moved away from them in the last two decades.

Analysts said the report's reference to "surprising military developments" referred to the Pentagon's fears that a rogue regime or terrorist group might suddenly unleash a wholly unknown weapon that was difficult to counter with the conventional U.S. arsenal.

The administration has proposed cutting the offensive nuclear arsenal by about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 missiles, within 10 years. Officials have also said they want to use precision guided conventional munitions in some missions that might have previously been accomplished with nuclear arms.

But critics said the report contradicts suggestions the Bush administration wants to cut the nuclear role.

"This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than deterring them," said Cirincione.
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Thirdly the following article is from

Airstrip One
by Christopher Montgomery
February 25, 2002

Not So MAD Then?
The world after nuclear weapons

Last year, The Daily Telegraph sponsored a conference in London on the contentious subject of Star Wars – or to foreign policy bores like you and me, National Missile Defence. We will straight-away pass up on the cheap shot about, 'uh, which nation's that then, that's going to be defended?' and instead consider the enthusiastic support William Hague (then Tory leader – his successor, Iain Duncan Smith, was defence spokesman, and even more keen) gave to this scheme. The Telegraph, in reporting it, loyally averred that, 'the government was thrown into confusion by [Hague's] annoucement'. And well the assorted peaceniks, sometime CND members and all-weather humanitarian bombers who comprise the current regime might be at the news that the Conservative party favours Star Wars. Since it contradicts every argument the Thatcherites made in the 1980s in defence of nuclear weapons. Those you'll remember boil down to: deterrence. Mutually Assured Destruction prevents nuclear war. In other words, the only set of circumstances in which nuclear weapons were likely to be used, would be if only one side had them. Hence, remember, unilateral disarmament, such a bad thing. So, is the policy of the US that all other countries should be denied nuclear weapons? for that would be the consequence of an effective NMD.

Let's look at things from the perspective of those other countries: the successful accomplishment of NMD by the US would denude them of their nuclear deterrent – which of course they had maintained for exactly the same strategic rationale as she had hers. What then should be their response to even the prospect of such a development? Well, exactly that which would be the response of the US: they should oppose it. There are two levels at which this could be undertaken: first is the diplomatic; second is the tactical, or military response.

We can dispense with the diplomatic in a sentence – either the US is going to see sense or she is not. There is no more to it than this, as, after all, no other country is proposing such a radical disruption to the status quo.

Then we have the military response. This is reminiscent of the 'danger zone' that vexed Tirpitz during the long Dreadnought race against Britain. Very simply, the theory the father of the High Seas Fleet evolved to justify it coming into being in the first place was, if we don't have one, Britain can fall on Germany at will, and if we do embark upon the building of one to protect ourselves against this eventuality we will face a 'danger zone' i.e. a period between the provocative start of building and that point when we have built sufficient Dreadnoughts to be secure. Germany of course never left this danger zone because Britain always built more Dreadnoughts per ratio than Germany could, constantly pushing into infinity the possible end of the danger zone. Exactly the same thing occurs today with Star Wars, for even the most optimistic assumptions about a successful NMD assume a static missile threat. Whereas in fact, were such a scheme initiated what would be the response of the ballistic, but non-NMD, equipped powers? It would be to raise their offensive capability – not to do so would indeed be a gross dereliction of duty. The magnitude of which we can easily assess by again asking, what would America do if things were reversed?

If say China was set to achieve NMD, and the US was nowhere near this (or even if she was – we'll come back to that point about the immanent strategic difference between NMD and ICBMs presently), what would the paladins of the USAAF be saying? Would they be going up to the Hill and murmuring, 'well thank goodness for that. We may not have NMD but lucky China, she does. My how this will advance the cause of peace and stability that at least one nation can rest tonight, immune from every other nation's nuclear missiles. It being in no way, no way unsettling that that immune nation of course possesses yet nuclear weapons herself'. Palpable nonsense: what they would do is to demand more funding for more delivery systems. And they would be right, for any NMD that is going to come into being anytime soon is simply going to be unable to cope with an ICBM barrage. This bomb always will get through. That's what made the doctrine of deterrence so beautifully simple.

None of this even assesses the potential chances of NMD working. Accepting for a moment that these are in truth slight, the point remains, if the US seriously says that she is going to attempt it, it behooves other, responsible, governments to believe her. And accepting American sincerity the only responsible thing the Russian or the Chinese government can do by their people is to build more ICBMs so as to nullify any NMD. One calculation in Washington may well be that neither Moscow nor Peking can bear this particular burden. That seems to me to be very shoddy reasoning – nuclear missiles are an established technology, in other words their real unit cost is going to go down rather than up. Moreover as strategic assets both eastern powers know that missiles are a damn sight more dependable than conscripts. ICBMs also by definition have an extra-continental influence: something Russian and Chinese infantry have rarely if ever had in the long history of those two countries.

However this discussion of what established powers would do in response to an American effort to create a genuine NMD points up the supreme irrelevancy of the arguments actually advanced in its favour: namely the 'rogue state' scenario (obediently cited by Mr. Hague). This is the one where, for no good reason, North Korea or Iraq or some loopy dictatorship decides, let's loose one off at the US. Leave to one side, yeah, real loopy, firing one, maybe two wonky ICBMs at the state with more functioning ICBMs than everyone else put together. And forget that little bit of dishonesty about the loops not having a perfectly understandable reason for having a swipe at the US (say, because they've been bombed or invaded or generally told what to do by the US), let's just consider how our entirely fictional loops might actually use nuclear weaponry against the US, if for some crazy, illogical reason there was ever a regime anywhere that wanted to do such a pointless thing.

We have our goal: nuke New York. How do we, nutso loser state accomplish this quite dazzlingly incomprehensible goal (for one minute would an advocate of NMD set forth why the nuts would want to do this, what they would actually gain from it, other than actualization of their echt or ur-nuttiness? You know I'm beginning to suspect that this 'nutty' explanation is all a bit fishy . . .) given: we're oh so very poor, and, well, nutty? Do our nutty scientists invent atomic weaponry, and then inter-continental ballistic missile technology to boot? Doubtless, for otherwise NMD would be a pretty daft expenditure by the hated Yanquis. Heaven knows how Congress would account for the money spent if we developed non-atomic weapons of mass destruction, which might, who knows, be easier to manufacture and deploy. Still, we're a nation of irrational fruitloops, we're not going to go down that route. It's nukes or nothing. Though . . . and here it comes, super simple point, so easily understood it's Condolezzable: whilst we might well build ourselves a nice little atomic bomb, and we might very well look up New York on a map, why on earth should we deliver it by means of an ICBM? Being nuts and all, why don't we just put it on a yacht, or on the back of a lorry driven up from Mexico (thank goodness for NAFTA), or any way other than the one which possibly, just concievably might be prey to NMD? Only one thing can explain our attraction to ICBMs – we're . . . well we're not quite right in the head, are we?

I don't mean to rub this in, but when an adherent of NMD ripostes, 'well if that's such a good delivery system, why don't other states use it?' the answer is painfully obvious. It's not a particularly good medium, it's susceptible (though not that susceptible) to counter measures e.g. at time of tension, theoretically the US could prohibit foreign vessels from her waters, whereas the existant nuclear powers prefer the certain, unstoppable route of ICBMs. However the whole point of the 'rogue state' argument for NMD is that there will not neccessarily be a causus belli. There won't be a sudden build-up of tension, an attack could, nay will come at any moment, without provocation – that's rather the deal with being a 'rogue state'. This is not to deny the appeal of ICBMs for a rogue state to do her rogue thing, but strictly speaking they're not neccessary. An SUV will do.

So, NMD cannot prevent the only sort of attack which has been used to justify it. It could be useful in mitigating the nuclear weaponary currently possessed by e.g. China and Russia. Though only at the margins, at the moment, at the present state of Russo-Chinese nuclear weaponary, if the very best that is now hoped for the schemes on the drawing board are successfully realised. Far, far more likely is that NMD will not work at any level. The basis for believing this is of course the brutally apparent fact that it has as yet never worked convincingly at any level. It's not to say that it won't, but it is to say that it will be a considerable achievement.

Indeed, were one an opponent of American empire, there are few policy courses one could more fervently wish for than pursuit of NMD. Let us detail what that will entail. The first, and unavoidable cost is the vast financial commitment NMD requires. Even with the strength of the US economy today, this cost will mean less expenditure on conventional military needs, and hence a reduction in America's actual military capability. As we have already seen, it also, to be an effective investment, requires immobility on behalf of those it affects most e.g. the Russians and the Chinese. This is unlikely.

That leads us to the second cost: the diplomatic one. Determined pursuit of NMD requires treaty busting, and then blank dismissal of the squeals of protest inevitable from Russia and China. In other words, the cost will be an entirely unnecessary estrangement from Russia and China – thus one issue will have poisoned an entire relationship. That and, the US will sound even more silly the next time she harangues a 'treaty-busting' regime, you know, places like Iraq or North Korea.

However the real danger to NMD lies in the fantastical possibility that it might be successfully realised. America is a very inventive nation, it has some jolly useful clients like Britain to hand (do you really think if push comes to shove, Tony Blair would deny them use of e.g. Fylingdales?) so it might happen. But because, for all the Reaganite soft-soap that attaches to Star Wars – appealing visions of being a defensive shield, rather than an offensive 'sword' – intimating that this is not an asset employable for the purposes of power projection, we should not think that the result of a working NMD will be anything other than increased American military intervention overseas. The disaster inherent in NMD is that, if it ever worked, it would allow the US to behave towards the nuclear armed the way she currently does towards the nuclear free. William Hague was, and Iain Duncan Smith is a moron for supporting this prospect, Tony Blair will do nothing better in office if he prevents it happening.

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