Monday, September 12, 2005

Worst... Idea... Ever

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.


Mike said...

You can't hug your children with nuclear arms.

So the United States appears to be heading for a new preemptive strategy in dealing with the rest of the world. Fine, but preemption has several stages. The first stage must always be diplomacy. The second should also be diplomacy. And so on until the final act of preemption, when all nonviolent forms have failed beyond all doubt, should be the use of force.

The problem is, the country is taking the opposite approach to preemption, which is "shoot first and ask questions later". If we're gonna shoot first, we better make damn sure the other guy would have pulled a gun a split second later. Preferably, we'd also like to know that his posse isn't just waiting in the saloon to come out and kick our ass.

Nuclear retaliation, let alone nuclear preemptive strikes, should never be an option. Period. There was certain merit to it in 1945: hundreds of thousands were already dead and the message needed to be sent. It was, and the nations of the world haven't forgotten it. Now that it's been heard, let the rest of our nukes stand as reminders, nothing more.

"You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"

(As a side point of interest, Slim Pickens was never shown the full Dr. Strangelove script and told that it was a rah-rah patriotic war film. I wonder what he was thinking as he rode that bomb...)

Jeff said...

I just got back from a research ethics class. Apparently one would need more review for studying cancer drugs than for launching a nuclear weapon.

Eureka Dejavu said...

I think your blog is excellent and informative and thought you might be interested in a column I wrote about the bunker buster at I am an award winning reporter on the nuclear industry...