In the Things No One Noticed That Could Result In Armageddon department, the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon is set to endorse the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, they would recommend that the President have full authority to use this power whenever he damn well pleases. And Congress hasn't heard about it until now - Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R-VA) hasn't received a copy yet.
Has anyone seen Dr. Strangelove? Yeah, it's kinda like that.
To be fair, we haven't used nuclear weapons since 1945 - a time period which has seen undeclared and unconstitutional wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq (twice). Back then traditional weapons were often just as destructive as nuclear ones - for example, Tokyo was more severely damaged by a single firebombing run than Hiroshima was by the nuclear bomb. However, nuclear bombs have grown up significantly since 1945 - today's bombs carry at least 100 times the destructive power of Little Boy.
But it's scary to think that Bush could just nuke Tehran tomorrow. Given the state of our ability to tell when someone is about to attack us or not, this policy could mean that we'll end up nuking somebody somewhere for absolutely no reason. "Preemption" is always dangerous, and it just got more so.
And nuclear weapons aren't specific. Lots of people die when a nuke is set off, even one of the small "bunker-buster" ones that were in planning until Congress wisely pulled the plug. The potential for so-called "collateral damage" - by which I mean the death of innocent civilians - is far greater. A scorched-earth policy of warfare is not useful in a delicate fight such as the war on terror, nor should it be a tool for diplomacy. We ought to have more concern for those whose hearts and minds we claim to be pursuing and less for the well being of our nuclear arsenal.