The Guardian newspaper has made public a document titled “Nuclear Operations”, which was drawn up by the US military and rationalises the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war.
The article “Nuclear weapons: experts alarmed by new Pentagon ‘war-fighting’ doctrine” (19 June 2019) explains:
“The doctrine has been published in the wake of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from two nuclear agreements: the 2015 joint comprehensive programme of action with Iran, and the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. The administration is also sceptical about a third: the New Start accord that limits US and Russian forces strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems, which is due to expire in 2021.”
Shades of the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, based on the 1958 cold war novel Red Alert by Peter George. Except that this comes from the joint chiefs of staff and they are deadly serious. Emphasis on deadly.
The Guardian made the document available after it was removed from the Pentagon online site – presumably posted in error, although no one is saying so – but not before it was downloaded by the director of a project on government secrecy run by the Federation of American Scientists.
The plan involves deploying small-scale nuclear weapons whose destructive capabilities are “limited” or “targeted” and whose use will alter the balance of power in a conflict situation. The philosophy of the document, its language and arrogance are beyond chilling. Here are some examples:
“Nuclear weapons are a key feature of the security environment. Adversaries increasingly rely on nuclear weapons to secure their interests. Those seeking ways to use nuclear weapons for coercion and war termination present complex deterrence and escalation management challenges. US nuclear weapons and the associated capabilities needed to conduct nuclear operations are essential to ensure an effective deterrent…”
This paragraph alone sets nuclear weapons at the pinnacle of a so-called “security environment”, rather than identifying them as weapons of absolute last resort. It refers to unnamed “adversaries” – therefore any nation acting against the interests of the US and its “allies” (Saudi Arabia, Israel?) – adversaries that “rely” on nuclear weapons and are prepared to use them for “coercion and war termination” (Russia, China, India?).
To justify its position, the document rehearses weasel arguments about deterrence:
a. Deterrence is the prevention of action by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction and/or belief that the cost of the action outweighs the perceived benefits. Credible deterrence operates by influencing adversary decision makers through the demonstration of US capability and strategic messaging of US resolve to employ capabilities that deny the benefits of adversary action and impose costs on them.
b. Credible nuclear capabilities are important, as the President must have the means to respond appropriately to an attack on the US, its allies, and partners. Nuclear forces must be prepared to achieve the strategic objectives defined by the President. Strategic deterrence does not stop once a conflict has started but continues throughout the entire range of military operations. The application of nuclear and/or conventional deterrence operations during all phases of planning and execution is critical to influence an adversary’s decision-making process, regardless of the stage of conflict.
c. In addition to deterring adversaries from launching large-scale conventional attacks or using weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nuclear forces extend deterrence to allies and partners. This supports nonproliferation efforts by dissuading nation states from developing nuclear capabilities of their own.
d. There is no “one size fits all” for deterrence. Consequently, the US applies a tailored and flexible approach to effectively deter a spectrum of adversaries, threats, and contexts. Nuclear weapons proliferation, acquisition of nuclear materials of concern, and exchange of technical expertise follow pathways and threat networks similar to those of other WMD proliferation.”
“Nonproliferation efforts by dissuading nation states from developing nuclear capabilities of their own” – as with Israel? “Strategic objectives defined by the President”? – by this maniac President? “Tailored and flexible”? “A spectrum of adversaries, threats and contexts”?
We know that John Bolton and Mike Pompeo (like Kissinger, Rumsfeld, and Cheney before them) are drumming up “adversaries”, with North Korea, Iran, and maybe even Russia in the Arctic firmly in their sights. Trump’s vanity surely encompasses using nuclear weapons to bolster his self-image and to prove himself the greatest president the US has ever had. If we were not scared of him before, we damn well should be now.
The document “Nuclear Operations” is immoral. As many have eloquently pointed out and as Arundhati Roy affirmed in The Cost of Living:
“It is such a supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they’re used. The fact that they exist at all, their presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behavior. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meat hooks deep in the base of our brains. They are purveyors of madness.”