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September 12, 2005 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan - The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. [...] The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations. Hmm, if we nuke them, then I guess we destroy the evidence that they were planning to use WMD against us....
posted by beth (55 comments total)

 
Yes, and Dubya's intelligence reports about WMDs in Iraq were so accurate. This gives me chills.
posted by skeeter1 at 11:21 AM on September 12, 2005


I been sayin', if George's numbers keep going down, Iran had better watch out. Man, they are just itching to use those things, aren't they?
posted by umberto at 11:22 AM on September 12, 2005


Pre-emptive nuclear strike against terrorists to stop terrorists from using nuclear weapons against the USA -- makes perfect sense(!).
posted by stbalbach at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2005


I see your "Why do you hate America?" and raise you a "Why do you hate human existence?"
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2005


Scary. Scary. Scary.
posted by loquacious at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2005


What a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?
posted by odinsdream at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2005


Oooh, shiny. *presses big red button*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:33 AM on September 12, 2005


Unlike some other nuclear powers, the U.S. has always maintained a first-strike option, and it has always had the same basic parameters for use: to prevent a nuclear attack judged imminent, and to stop an otherwise unstoppable conventional attack. It makes sense to update it to current challenges, particularly since a second-strike policy is completely irrelevant in the context of a terrorist attack.
posted by MattD at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2005


The level of intelligence verification needed for preemptive use of nuclear weapons would need to be high. Really high. So high that, it would seem to be pretty stupid to make it an official doctrine, as it would be very rare that it would ever even be considered.

"I think those terrorists just built a dirty bomb in Brooklyn -- nuke 'em!" Seems pretty stupid, but one of the few situations where we might actually have the necessary intelligence to make the call. Indeed, talking of nuking terrorists at all seems pretty stupid. Another state, maybe, but even then it should take extreme provocation.

And 'WMD' does not cut it. So Iran uses mustard gas on US infantry in some imagined conflict, and we nuke 'em? Or even better, Iran 'intends' to use mustard gas, and we nuke 'em? Mustard gas is a WMD, at least the way the term has been used the last few years.

And yet this all seems logical to the idiots with the reigns of power. Sometimes it seems like the wheels have come off of this American car.
posted by teece at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2005


As a New Yorker, I worry occasionally about someone setting off the bomb here (wow, just typo'd "bong"). Now I have to worry Bush just assuming there's a bomb here and pre-emptively nuking the place to prevent terrorists from nuking the place.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2005


They've been thinking and talking about this for quite a while. (beth, you beat me to FPP, argh!)

Yeah, very scary. Do the People of the United States want to be responsible for use of nuclear weapons in this day and age? Because if they use them, we will be. Already did it once, and controversy still rages about it.

" Yes, and Dubya's intelligence reports about WMDs in Iraq were so accurate."

Note that vaporizing alleged WMD sites means never having to prove that they were actually there.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2005


It makes sense to update it to current challenges, particularly since a second-strike policy is completely irrelevant in the context of a terrorist attack.

Oh yes, that makes sense. We have two potential types of terrorism a) state-sponsered and b) non-state-sponsored (rhizome-style.)

If we are attacked by a) then there is a clear retaliatory target. Second-strike policy is more appropriate in this case, at least according to all post-nuclear US policy up to this point.

If we are attacked by b) then there is no acceptable nuclear target. Nuclear weapons are not easily adapted to an enemy network distributed in small pockets all over the globe.

There is no terrorist threat that warrants any such first-strike nuclear policy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2005


Now I have to worry Bush just assuming there's a bomb here and pre-emptively nuking the place to prevent terrorists from nuking the place.

This was a just sarcastic "joke", right?
posted by Witty at 11:43 AM on September 12, 2005


On these parameters for use, is it
:
  1. An imminent threat
  2. A mortal threat
  3. An urgent threat
  4. An immediate threat
  5. A serious and mounting threat
  6. A threat of unique urgency
  7. A greater threat than anyone could possibly have imagined
  8. The greatest and most immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world, or
  9. all of the above?
posted by fleacircus at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2005


The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of weapons of mass destruction that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using nuclear weapons.
posted by 31d1 at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2005


From the article:

Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy."

I don't really understand this. What can nuclear weapons do to destroy biological weapons that can't be done by sufficient quantities of non-nuclear weapons?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:58 AM on September 12, 2005


I'm not too familiar with the structure of the fedgov. Would it be worthwhile to write/fax my congresspeople about this? If not, then whom should I attempt to contact?
posted by afroblanca at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2005


I'm not too familiar with the structure of the fedgov. Would it be worthwhile to write/fax my congresspeople about this? If not, then whom should I attempt to contact?
----------------------------------------
Why not just use your fax paper as toilet paper? It's about as effective either way. Not trying to be mean, just making a statement about how little our government holds input from citizens in regard these days. . .
posted by mk1gti at 12:06 PM on September 12, 2005


What can nuclear weapons do to destroy biological weapons that can't be done by sufficient quantities of non-nuclear weapons?

A neutron bomb would likely kill the bugs with gamma rays.
posted by caddis at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2005


The first recipient of our nuclear gift might very well be North Korea. Of course, even nuking North Korea off of the map would probably not protect Seoul.
posted by caddis at 12:10 PM on September 12, 2005


Why not just use your fax paper as toilet paper?

Look, I'm as cynical as everyone else here, but I'm not willing to be silenced on issues that matter to me. As a citizen of this democracy, I have certain rights and responsibilities, and I have every intention of acting upon them.

The fact of the matter is that we need less nukes, not more. Not only do I want to voice my opposition to this development, I also want to query the appopriate people about what the fedgov plans to do about nuclear proliferation - an issue that has been largely ignored since the election.
posted by afroblanca at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2005


Oh how peaceful it will be (flash)
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2005


I don't really understand this. What can nuclear weapons do to destroy biological weapons that can't be done by sufficient quantities of non-nuclear weapons?

Bigger explosion?
posted by DyRE at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2005


We should probably follow up this change of policy with a law stating something along the lines that

"By being elected the President and there-by approving the use of Nuclear weapons on targets without the possesion of absolute, verifyable, unambiguous proof of an impending terrorist attack on US Soil using nuclear weapons or weapons with the capability of killing thousands of americans, or where the choice of targets of said nuclear strike was made with intents other then immediatly preventing said terrorist attack, or where the choice of targets shall cause more civilian deaths that the terrorst attack would cause, this nuclear strike shall be considered an crime against humanity will be punished by the death penalty."
posted by jboy55 at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2005


Redundant. A unilateral nuclear strike IS a death penalty
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:23 PM on September 12, 2005


Since no rouge terrorist organization has the capability of using WMD on the US without first being in the US, I assume this new policy means we can nuke ourselves.
posted by jboy55 at 12:23 PM on September 12, 2005


the choice of targets shall cause more civilian deaths that the terrorst attack would cause

The administration's response to 911 has already caused more deaths than died in that attack. Koolaid drinkers are still making absurd numbers of Americans and Iraqis that "woulda" died had we not invaded Iraq.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:23 PM on September 12, 2005


Lets be clear, A unilateral nuclear strike against Iran or other state not in a position to threaten a nuclear counterstrike by itself or its allies, is not probably going to result in a nuclear strike against the US.

Sanctions, immigration of at least one American to another country (myself), protest, etc, would result, but China and Russia aint going to risk themselves over Iran etc.
posted by jboy55 at 12:26 PM on September 12, 2005


How long do you think we'll last without any imported oil? Do you think a nuclear strike will eliminate Jihadists or recruit more? What will that do to our already fragile economy? There is more one way to retaliate...
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:31 PM on September 12, 2005


Q. What can a nuclear weapon do that a conventional military attack cannot do?

A. Leave no evidence to either support or disprove the claim that there was a legitimate target.

------ With conventional weapons, you can inspect the results. With nuclear weapons, you must trust the President's judgment because there's nothing left to inspect.-------------
posted by hank at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2005


If the US nukes a region because of a theoretical threat... I propose they be evicted from Earth.

Send the whole country to Mars. They can have the whole thing to themselves. Lots of space to tool around on with their Hummers and shoot stuff.
The rest of us will just have to make do without Pentiums and Towne cars and rides on the Space Shuttle.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:36 PM on September 12, 2005


If the US nukes a region because of a theoretical threat...

DPRK: Hey, why the hell did you nuke me? I didn't nuke you!
USA: No, but you were thinking about it.
posted by psmealey at 12:40 PM on September 12, 2005


So wait a second. Let me get this straight. This quote
Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy."
means that US doctrine allows for the possibility that we'll need to
"nuke the site from orbit." because "It's the only way to be sure." ?

Great. Our military policy is now being cribbed from Aliens.

<boggle>
posted by Pliskie at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2005


to prevent a nuclear attack judged imminent, and to stop an otherwise unstoppable conventional attack



barrel + fish = utter boredom
posted by matteo at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2005


So, we plan and plan for all kinds of war scenarios. but fail miserably when planning for... you know human suffering post any disaster.

Guess it shows where our priorities are.
(this is NOT a partisan slam)
posted by edgeways at 1:06 PM on September 12, 2005


Lets be clear, A unilateral nuclear strike against Iran or other state not in a position to threaten a nuclear counterstrike by itself or its allies, is not probably going to result in a nuclear strike against the US.

Right, but a unilateral nuclear strike would have to be demonstrably necessary, AND used where very minimal civilian casualties of any kind would be inflicted, which necessitates that it be used in the middle of nowhere.

Otherwise, the US would become the enemy of every nation on earth, regardless of whether or not all would admit it. We would be roundly reviled, and every country on the planet would ramp up it's ability to launch ICBMs at the US.

It would be a universally stupid idea to nuke terrorists, as it would be very hard to get right, and the consequences of our actions might very well be worse than whatever the terrorists were going to do.
posted by teece at 1:43 PM on September 12, 2005


Buzz about this has been going on since July. On July 27th, the LaRouche Political Action Committee issued a press release regarding Dick "Strangelove" Cheney's intentions. Anyone reading this might want to check your search engines for "guns of august" and "Sudden Response 2005" and start digging from there.

Since 'terror attacks' seem to be scripted false flag operations, I can't help but remember the 1983 tv movie called, "Special Bulletin," written by Marshall Herskovitz. I can't get it out of my mind. Was it conditioning for events to come? Was it a test to see how the American public would react?

It is now evident that there is distention in the military ranks, and United States Northern Command is/was conducting a terror drill involving a nuclear device in Charleston's harbor. There is a chance that the exercise is in limbo, and that Northern Command announced its conclusion as a cover. Remember OpSec / ComSec? What gives? 911 and 7/7 both happened during multiple terror exercises with similar scenarios. Cheney has ordered Stratcom Officers to prepare for a possible first strike nuclear attack on Iran. Military leaves have (supposedly) been cancelled from September through December. The four-star commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at the Fort Monroe, General Byrnes has been relieved of command for 'sexual misconduct.' I believe this is a cover story for something bigger. If Byrnes was attempting to stop a first-strike, he is a true patriot. Flag officers and politicians don't get relived for their sex-lives unless it helps their superiors' agendas.

Seriously read about or find the movie "Special Bulletin."
posted by augustweed at 1:55 PM on September 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


One tiny problem with nuking terrorists: would it not be necessary to be able to find Osama them first?
posted by Cranberry at 1:56 PM on September 12, 2005


It would be a universally stupid idea to nuke terrorists, as it would be very hard to get right, and the consequences of our actions might very well be worse than whatever the terrorists were going to do.

Nuclear weapons have almost always been a political weapon since the time the Soviets built theirs.

Given terrorists are not an organization, completely unlike a state-based government, it is more than "very hard" to get right, but rather more like impossible. How do you hit something that doesn't exist?

Nuclear weapons are now completely impotent in their political benefit for the United States, despite the Bush administration's promotion of this technology.

Even so-called "low-yield" nuclear weapons are useless given inevitable deaths of innocent civilians — we would be pariahs for decades for their use, even supposing countries did not immediately retaliate in kind.

Further, any nuclear attack on an energy-rich state like Iran would very definitely provoke an atomic war with China at the very least, even if Pakistan and India were to somehow avoid joining in the conflict.
posted by Rothko at 1:57 PM on September 12, 2005


Isn't 2005 turning out just dandy?
posted by normy at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2005


... A unilateral nuclear strike against Iran or other state not in a position to threaten a nuclear counterstrike by itself or its allies, is not probably going to result in a nuclear strike against the US.

Maybe. I would argue that North Korea, Iran, and other potential targets will be trying to build up their second-strike capability in order to deter a pre-emptive attack. (Assuming that Iran does indeed intend to go nuclear, which isn't entirely clear to me.)

This is what strategists learned from Pearl Harbor -- if your adversary thinks that your supposed deterrent force can be destroyed through a pre-emptive attack, it may make a pre-emptive attack more likely rather than less likely. So an effective deterrent requires second-strike capability, i.e. the ability to survive and retaliate after a pre-emptive strike. Edward Luttwak discusses this a bit in Strategy.

Obtaining a guarantee from a major nuclear power (China in the case of NK, Russia in the case of Iran) is probably also looking like a good idea.

Regarding the document itself: the Washington Post story makes it sound as though the document blurs the distinction between pre-emption and retaliation. Those are two very different choices. At the very least, retaliation should suffice for hostile states, which have a return address; pre-emption should be reserved for non-state actors such as al-Qaeda, and in this case nuclear weapons seem like overkill.
posted by russilwvong at 2:06 PM on September 12, 2005


It's worth remembering that Iraq 2 is already a nuclear war.
posted by piscatorius at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2005


" Q. What can a nuclear weapon do that a conventional military attack cannot do?

A. Leave no evidence to either support or disprove the claim that there was a legitimate target.

------ With conventional weapons, you can inspect the results. With nuclear weapons, you must trust the President's judgment because there's nothing left to inspect.-------------"


I said that up toward the top of the thread, but it definitely bears repeating:

"Note that vaporizing alleged WMD sites means never having to prove that they were actually there."

posted by zoogleplex at 3:10 PM on September 12, 2005


The great cities of the dead, in numbers, remain Verdun, Leningrad, and Auschwiz. But at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the "city of the dead" is finally transfomred from a metaphor into a literal reality. The city of the dead of the future and its victims are -- not French and German soldiers, nor Russian citizens, nor Jews -- but all of us without reference to specific identity." -- Gil Elliot

One awaits the return of American sanity.

Nice post, beth.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:16 PM on September 12, 2005


It's worth remembering that Iraq 2 is already a nuclear war.

The link refers to depleted uranium. What I've seen on the subject is less alarming; some USENET discussion of depleted uranium (from an anonymous military guy who opposed Iraq 2).

I think I have a soft spot for DU because of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.
posted by russilwvong at 3:37 PM on September 12, 2005


Here's the scene I was thinking of.

Because of the fires and small explosions going off on Bruce Lee's pirate ship, it takes them a minute to realize that several people are still alive there, still shooting at them. When Fisheye becomes aware of this, he pulls the trigger again, the barrels whirl themselves up into a transparent cylinder, and the tearing, hissing noise begins again. As he waves the gun back and forth, hosing the target down with a hypersonic shower of depleted uranium, Bruce Lee's entire ship seems to sparkle and glitter, as though Tinkerbell was flying back and forth from stem to stern, sprinkling nuclear fairy dust over it.

posted by russilwvong at 3:46 PM on September 12, 2005


Mustard gas is a WMD, at least the way the term has been used the last few years.

My ASS is a WMD the way that term has been used the last few years.
posted by spazzm at 4:40 PM on September 12, 2005


We have to nuke pre-emptively to protect the purity of our bodily fluids.
posted by Ndwright at 7:36 PM on September 12, 2005


Note: "preemptive" should read "preventive" in this context. This is preventive warfare, and it should never be justified.
posted by blendor at 8:21 PM on September 12, 2005




Interesting Balisong.

Doomsday (movie?) plot:
-Hurricane
-Flood
-Bio-lab abandoned
-Looters enter lab looking for drugs
-Andromeda strain released
-Man eliminated from Earth
-[and if this is a US made movie, except for a few hardy survivors]
posted by caddis at 10:31 PM on September 12, 2005


So augustweed Byrnes is canned because he found out about the 'real' reason behind the training exercise. This revision of the nuclear plan is then what? An excuse to nuke Iran?
So we stage a nuke attack on our own soil to go after them with the hard stuff?

Hmmm.... it would lessen our need for men. It fits with the new doctrine. I agree with many above - there is little reason to nuke a diffuse enemy unless you're going after the population that enemy is fighting for....still, tough one. Yet our 'response' would fit in with a scenario requiring something like this.
Hmmmm...

Still, I don't know that I trust the likes of Greg Szymanski, I certainly don't trust the LaRouchees (no offense). The Sec of Def tried to shut down Byrnes' career a ways back during a fracas over budget cuts in the Army so maybe his wife came up with some B.S. and this is payback? Maybe they just don't like mustangs in the rarified officer's air?
I don't know Byrnes, but by many accounts he was a square shooter (perhaps overly so). I don't know that plotting a coup is his style. Perhaps. It's 'in house' kind of thinking. I don't know what's to prevent him from shouting it from the rooftops now ("suicide" perhaps?).

The tinfoil hat stuff aside, they wouldn't eliminate a 4-Star General that close to retirement over a relationship with some broad when he's been separated for over a year.

So there is some fire there.

Add that to Blackwater in NOLA and all the other goofy stuff happening....
At the very very least this is a slow motion coup by BushCo.

The shift in doctrine here is just one of the signs of that. You don't need a policy to nuke someone who might be nuking you. If the POTUS got wind of some terrorists setting up an SS-25 ICBM and pointing it at San Diego (say), I'd expect him to respond - whatever form it took (dunno if a nuke would be the fastest, depends on where our carriers are, but it would be the surest).

So it's a political statement. But one that does (as pointed out - russilwvong, et.al) go over the top. The question then is - why does it go over the top?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:50 PM on September 13, 2005


I'll disregard the LaRouche conspiracy stuff.

So it's a political statement. But one that does (as pointed out - russilwvong, et.al) go over the top. The question then is - why does it go over the top?

My guess is that it's a domestic political statement (like a lot of Bush's actions), but not a conspiracy or anything like that.

Among Bush's base, there's a certain constituency for the rehabilitation of nuclear weapons: that is, there's people who are annoyed at the stigma attached to nuclear weapons. They want to rehabilitate nuclear weapons, make them seem normal and useful. Fafblog could probably do a better job of explaining this than I could. The development of bunker-busting nukes is part of this attempted rehabilitation.

It's like Star Wars: no matter how expensive and potentially destabilizing it is, there's people who regard attempts to kill Star Wars as somehow un-American. Maybe it's linked to the American tradition of technological progress.

The fact that this policy change is (IMHO) counterproductive in terms of American foreign policy doesn't really come into it. That seems to be how the Bush administration operates: pander to the base, the effect on the rest of the world doesn't matter.
posted by russilwvong at 5:44 PM on September 13, 2005


I see here a lot of american people with a good common sense!

How the Hell this guy have been president two times ??

Am an arab and I hate the way America is on

I can define myself mindopen, but if America continues this way I'll surely become closemind

I have less and less arguments against friends of mine about the fact that americans are not the same from east to west, and there are many of them trying to change things, but how hell can I continue to argue ??

Please people of America Wake Up
posted by zouhair at 8:13 PM on September 15, 2005


More tin foil hat goodness - Black Death infected mice missing from biolab!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by caddis at 9:08 PM on September 15, 2005


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