B61-11 tactical micro-nuke headed for Afghanistan?
October 8, 2001 11:37 PM   Subscribe

B61-11 tactical micro-nuke headed for Afghanistan? Though large "theater" thermonuclear devices -- doomsday bombs -- don't fit the Bush administration's war on terrorism, smaller tactical nukes do not seem out of the question in the current mindset of the Defense Department. Rumsfield avoided answering the question of whether the use of tactical nuclear weapons could be ruled out. What kind of nuclear fallout would a weapon like this cause?
posted by suprfli (16 comments total)
The relevant part of this article was on page 1 (page 2 linked). See the complete article.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:54 PM on October 8, 2001

dammit!! i was looking at the second page of the article when i copied and pasted it and didn't think about it until after i had posted it. thanx for putting the link to the first page.
posted by suprfli at 12:00 AM on October 9, 2001

More info on the B61-11 here.

posted by RoyalJack at 12:01 AM on October 9, 2001

Technically, the possibility of nukes are always laid on the table as an option in any US military action. And there are several scenarios under which they could be used, though none of them are at all likely. (Use of "weapons of mass destruction" against either the military or US civilians are the least-wild scenarios.) But this is mainly just psyops to freak the enemy out a little, I think.
posted by aaron at 12:02 AM on October 9, 2001

Evil. Just pure evil.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:26 AM on October 9, 2001

If these are used, the US govt can kiss any sympathy and support goodbye. No more coalition. Except maybe Blair, In which case I'm leaving the UK.

But I'm prepared to see what actually happens rather than get my knickers in a twist in something that appeared in something pretending to be a news source.
posted by jackiemcghee at 4:12 AM on October 9, 2001

The mountains of Afghanistan are highly populated... we all know that.

Can someone give me a good reason that we shouldn't use small nukes? Say that we had Russia's support. The nuke could possibly take out a large faction of the Taliban hiding in deep mountain caves. Sure life wouldn't be able to live in that paticular region for some time but who cares? No one seems to be clamoring over that Nevada real estate. I think nukes should be a last resort weapon but no one seems to give a real reason why they shouldn't be used "tactically".
posted by geoff. at 5:25 AM on October 9, 2001

One imagines similar arguments being made about using the rectal pear.

What part of "just wrong and evil" do you misunderstand, geoff?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:33 AM on October 9, 2001


I would argue that it's possible that the threat of U.S. deployment of weapons of mass destruction has kept OBL et al from deploying their own.

Yes, I know that Ramzi Yousef tried to use cyanide in his WTC attacks in 1993, but he failed when it burned up. We've heard all over the place that it would require a group funded by a nation-state to implement a full-scale bio/chem/nuclear attack - my theory is that Yousef's amateurish mistake/failure both proves that point and that he was acting as a rogue to some extent.

Osama bin Laden can probably set off 100 car bombs, or crash 50 planes into U.S buildings (ok, exaggeration) without eliciting a nuclear assault on our part. There's a chance that as crazy as some people think the guy is, he's sane and smart enough to realize that if he takes off the kid gloves, we will too.

I'm not trying to suggest he's being merciful, just a decent strategist. But if we take those kid gloves off first, I guarantee we end up gassed/infected/nuked.
posted by Sinner at 5:33 AM on October 9, 2001

Sure life wouldn't be able to live in that paticular region for some time but who cares?

If there's a serious, credible possibility the OBL has nukes, I would have no problem with a first strike.

Actually, the nuclear version of the munition discussed in the link is not suited to this purpose; the same bomb with conventional explosive might be. If you wanted to kill everyone in a large network of caves, I would go with a neutron-type device--anyone old enough here to remember the Carter Administration? But even that's probably not necessary.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:43 AM on October 9, 2001

stavrosthewonderchicken - What part of "just wrong and evil" do you misunderstand, geoff?

That translates to "I don't like it." How about giving it another shot? You've left nearly infinite room for improvement, stavros.

And don't assume I'm in opposition to your position.
posted by NortonDC at 6:45 AM on October 9, 2001

From royaljack's link: What is known about the B61-11 strongly suggests that its rushed development has been motivated by a desire to target one or more non-nuclear-weapon states.

On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, other than possibly in the case where the very survival of a nation was threatened, was against international law.

Unless we want the US to be a rogue state, the decision to use nuclear devices is not a US-only decision.
posted by yesster at 7:03 AM on October 9, 2001

yesster - your citations do not support the assertion that the US risks being labeled as a rogue state if it acts independently. Nothing you cited depends upon the input of other bodies.
posted by NortonDC at 7:25 AM on October 9, 2001

You've left nearly infinite room for improvement, stavros.

Story of my life.

I would give it another shot, NortonDC, and thanks for leaving the saloon doors a-swinging for me to do so, but it's past my bedtime. My limp, half-assed justification for what was pretty much an inexcusable throwaway comment is that there are simply some things that are inarguably, universally wrong. Killing people is one.

Rectal pears are another.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:48 AM on October 9, 2001

Can someone give me a good reason that we shouldn't use small nukes?

The "tactical nuke" is sort of an oxymoron. we've never been able to develop anything that could be used effectively in limited theater operations. There's simply no way to contain the damage within a specified area. in addition, the environmental contamination that such attacks would cause add to the costs of rebuilding Afghanistan after this is all over. also, the lingering effects of nuclear blasts make nukes much more "cruel" than conventional weapons that would accomplish the same ends (same argument for bio & chem attacks) and are therefore less ethical. what the military refers to as "tactical nukes" are just smaller munitions. keep in mind that the stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction is often used as a deterrent. (thus the debate in some security-related circles on intentionally giving certain countries that do not already have them nuclear capabilities.)
posted by lizs at 8:38 AM on October 9, 2001

geoff - Can someone give me a good reason that we shouldn't use small nukes?

Yes, subsurface nuclear blasts generate intense nuclear fallout and long term radioactive contamination. Most people possibly advocating the use of nukes, quite frankly such as yourself, don't know jackshit about the long term consequences.

See Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons

Also see The High Energy Weapons Archive
posted by zeb vance at 8:45 PM on October 9, 2001

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