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U.S. Works Up Plans for Using Nuclear Arms 1253

rjrjr writes: "The L.A. Times reports on the DoD's new stance on the use of nukes, including such comforting notions as nuclear bunker busters. What it all means is well explored in this cogent commentary."
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U.S. Works Up Plans for Using Nuclear Arms

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  • by bief ( 532369 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:32PM (#3138360) Homepage
    ...this article [] with a bit more detail.
  • Yesterday's News (Score:5, Informative)

    by BoyPlankton ( 93817 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:35PM (#3138376) Homepage
    Pentagon Explanation []

    It's just a congressionally mandated review.
  • See also (Score:3, Informative)

    by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:37PM (#3138384) Homepage
    The story at the BBC [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:43PM (#3138418)
    And they aren't thrilled...try looking an non-American press too. the article []
  • Re:Ugh (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:51PM (#3138472)
    Russia is still not America's best friend. They have very different ideologies supported by a huge arsenal of poorly secured nukes.

    North Korea is a brutal regime which still has eyes on South Korea and is developing weapons of mass destruction.
  • Not very surprising: (Score:2, Informative)

    by rsidd ( 6328 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @02:57PM (#3138495)
    The US has always refused [] to make a "no first use" pledge about nuclear weapons. The Clinton admin was "shocked" by Germany's proposal that NATO make such a pledge.

    Soon after Sept 11, senior people in the military were quoted as saying that they wanted the entire Afghanistan/Middle East region to "glow with radiation." []

    So, no, I'm not surprised that the US wants to use nukes. Particularly against that axis of evil -- if you can't nuke them, who can you nuke? And if you can't nuke anyone, what are those nukes for?

  • Re:Japan (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2002 @03:42PM (#3138709)
    In all my time of reading slashdot, I have never heard an historical inaccuracy quite so large as the one you just regurgitated.
    Japan had already surrendered when the bomb was dropped?

    Sorry dude, but you're the one that should be hitting the history books before you post. Japan was already negotiating the terms of its surrender when the nukes were dropped.

  • The Entire Report (Score:3, Informative)

    by elfdump ( 558474 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @03:44PM (#3138718)
    The report can be found in its entirety at: [] This site is a good resource for classified documents.
  • Re:Ugh-Simply. (Score:5, Informative)

    by kopper187 ( 59901 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @04:03PM (#3138818)
    Quite simply the US has had a standing policy that any attack on the US with weapons of mass destruction, be it chemical, biological, nuclear or otherwise, will be responded to with a nuclear strike. So if a rouge nation used chemical weapons on a US city or interest, we would respond, most likely, with nuclear weapons. This is OLD doctrine.
  • Re:Anyone else? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jgalun ( 8930 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @04:13PM (#3138883) Homepage
    A statement like this is just the excuse that hard line factions in any one of these countries (along with half the arab world) need to take power.

    Ziang Zemin has already picked a successor in China. Putin is in very firm control in Russia. There are no signs of regime instability in North Korea, and besides, there's really no way that the North Korean regime could get more hard-line than it already is (what, will 1/2 the country be in the army now, instead of 1/3?). Hussein has not been seriously threatened at all, and he's not going to get more hard-line (he can't kick the UN inspectors out again, now can he?). Bashar Assad is firmly in power in Syria. I'm not sure what's going on in Libya, but Qaddafi certainly has survived for long enough, I don't think our "secret" plans will change that regime one way or another.

    The only regime this could effect would be Iran, where there is a struggle going on.

    Russia is going through enough trouble as it is. They're fighting internal difficulties and are still hot at the US over the olympics.

    Russia is not about to fight us because of Olympic figure skating. Jesus, if their reaction to our pulling out of the ABM treaty was muted, why do we expect them to become our enemy over figure skating?

    People are right to be concerned about what other countries will think and do. But we have to be realistic too.

    At least two of the countries (China and Russia) are two of the most powerful countries on the planet and are supposedly on somewhat nice terms with the US.

    Russia and China are on "somewhat nice terms" because they know that they have to live with us. That is the same reason that we are on "somewhat nice terms" with China. China and the US certainly don't love each other. They are certainly competitors, and disagree on MANY issues. But the US wants China as a market and knows that it can't bully China around, and China wants the US as a market (China has a trade surplus with the US that funds China's continued industrialization) and knows that it can't bully the US around. Therefore, they are very cold "friends." As for Russia, it has disagreements with both the US and China (though not as great as the disagreements between the US and China), but it is weak now and so needs to be friendly to both to help itself. That is why Putin has been friendly to the US - not because he loves the US, but because he wants to strengthen Russia, and Russia will not be helped by a confrontation, diplomatically or military, with either China or Russia at the moment.
  • Re:Ugh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @05:23PM (#3139204)
    The United Nations divided the Koreas. Not the US and Soviets.

    The United Nations divided East and West Germany between the US, UK, France and Soviets.

    The United Nations decided on the spliting of Palestine that resulted in the Israeli War of Independance, but that split was based on League of Nations decrees from before the Second World War.

    The Korean War wasn't just a US vs China and Korea civil war. It was the United Nations against North Korea and Communist China.

  • Re:appalling. (Score:5, Informative)

    by praedor ( 218403 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @06:19PM (#3139505) Homepage

    You are actually rather ignorant and an totally naive. I served with the nuclear forces (B-52s) for the 4 years leading up to their final removal from nuclear alert in '91. We were not there playing pretend. We were there to USE the nukes when called to do so.

    It wasn't some abstract idea, it was real. Very real. There IS call to use nukes in more than simply a situation following a ballistic nuke attack on the USA or its allies. It WOULD be appropriate and utterly defensible to use nukes against a country that hit us with chemical or biologicals. Any such country foreits it right to exist.

    The Soviets/Russians have always had a pragmatic view on the use of nukes. It is about time WE did too. Nukes are just weapons.

    How is using a single nuke different than dropping hundreds of HE bombs? Both can lead to the same level of destruction. It matters not if a target was destroyed by a nuke or HE, it is destroyed and there is no distinction. Destroyed in destroyed - unless you go with overkill. Of course it would be different if you used a multikiloton weapon against a small target that could have easily been handled by a load of precision conventionals. If, on the other hand, true deep devestation of a target is called for, then it IS valid to use the right tool for the job, and if that means nuke, so be it. You don't allow an enemy to get away with something simply because you think there should be some mystical, unpassable wall barring the use of a nuke.

    If you can produce a nice, "clean", little nuke then fine. It may be the ONLY way to properly destroy a deep bunker with the LEAST amount of risk to our troops AND with reduced collateral effect.

    Would you be against use of Fuel-air explosives against massed troops? They are conventional weapons yet they have the same localized thermal and pressure effects as a small nuke. Somehow a nuke with the SAME effects would magically be a no-no? Logically...WHY!? There is no logic nor rationality to your knee-jerk response. No doubt, you didn't actually read any of the articles, just the headlines or excerpts from which you automagically develop a Pavlovian reaction against it without thought. In any case, the DETAILS of the plans are unknown to you. None of these articles are THE actual plans - the DETAILS and actual facts remain unknown to you. But no doubt, even if they were known to you, you wouldn't actually SEE them and would maintain your Pavlovian response to anything with the nuke-word in it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2002 @06:42PM (#3139616)
    including an amphibious assault on Vancouver Island. It's the military's *job* to have such plans ready, just in case some crazy thing happens that necessitates their use. Not having them is just irresponsible.

    Ever since the 19th century Prussian wargames (Kriegspielen) that got the forrunner of Germany ready to try to take over Europe twice in the following century, modern militaries with General Staffs and professional strategists have had the job of solving problems: the Pacific War, according to Admiral Nimitz, was won by the War College in the twenty years *prior* to Pearl Harbour. The island-hopping strategy was invented a decade before, not generated ten minutes after December 7, 1941.

    I'm a Canadian trial lawyer, but many of my clientele are military, and we like to discuss past and present military issues, particularly with several of my clients now stationed overseas.

    Having such strike plans means that politicians don't have to pull a plan out of their pants in an emergency. And with response times down to minutes for the last half century, believe me, anything can become an emergency.
  • by dgroskind ( 198819 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @08:12PM (#3140009)

    I was personally surprised not to see a tac-nuke strike on Tora Bora for this reason; a tenet of deterrent policy had been that a large-scale assault on mainland America would result in maximum retribution.

    First, the nuclear deterent was aimed at countries with nuclear weapons. Second, the 9/11 attack was not large scale in any usual sense of the term. Third, the Al Qaeda troops at Tora Bora was not the sort of concentration for which tactical nuclear weapons are effective. Fourth, there are several villages in the area that would have been destroyed by a nuclear explosion. Fifth, Tora Bora [] is within 10 miles of the Pakistani border, which would certainly have received some of the fallout.

    More important, the wider implications of using a nuclear bomb would have enormous and would certainly have alienated the America's allies. I can't believe that most world leaders wouldn't have been very surprised if the the U.S. had used a nuclear weapon in Afghanistan.

    The Army and Marines would be expected to run through the immediate results of nuclear strikes in some cases, so its easy to see why they don't like it very much!

    ...which is another reason to be surprised if a nuclear weapon had been used in Afghanistan.

  • USA.

    Besides, who needs nukes when you have thermobarics? All the terror of mini-nukes, none of the fall-out, and you get a chemical poison-gas weapon as a pleasant, non-Hague Convention side-effect...

    The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique--and unpleasant.... What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs.. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents.The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique--and unpleasant.... What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs.. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents.
    Defense Intelligence Agency, "Fuel-Air and Enhanced-Blast Explosive Technology--Foreign," April 1993. Obtained by Human Rights Watch under the US FOIA

    The effect of an FAE explosion within confined spaces is immense. Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs,and possibly blindness.
    Central Intelligence Agency, "Conventional Weapons Producing Chemical-Warfare-Agent-Like Injuries," February 1990. Unclassified document.

    Because the "shock and pressure waves cause minimal damage to brain is possible that victims of FAEs are not rendered unconscious by the blast, but instead suffer for several seconds or minutes while they suffocate."
    Defense Intelligence Agency, "Future Threat to the Soldier System, Volume I; Dismounted Soldier--Middle East Threat," September 1993, p. 73. Obtained by Human Rights Watch under the US FOIA

    Source [] for these quotes.
  • by TheBracket ( 307388 ) on Sunday March 10, 2002 @09:35PM (#3140293) Homepage
    First, the nuclear deterent was aimed at countries with nuclear weapons

    Almost correct. The nuclear deterrent was initially intended to deter nuclear attack, but in recent years (read post mid-1980s), successive Administrations have expanded the implied threat; massive chemical or biological attacks (arguably worse than a small nuclear strike) would be included, as would direct attacks on the homeland. Deterrence as a concept benefits from clarity; however, if you can convince people that you are sufficiently serious, lesser deterence threats may also work. The risk of that strategy is that you appear to "cry wolf", and after the first time that you don't use a nuclear weapon in response to an apparent breach, you lose considerable credibility.

    Second, the 9/11 attack was not large scale in any usual sense of the term.

    Agreed; I wish more people would figure this out. On the other hand, I know for a fact (from discussions with government employees) that the nuclear option was considered in the aftermath of 9/11. I also know that many of my former colleagues desperately wish to move towards a policy that permits nuclear use in difficult conventional circumstances; Tora Bora would have qualified if conventional bombing had proved less effective.

    Third, the Al Qaeda troops at Tora Bora was not the sort of concentration for which tactical nuclear weapons are effective.

    That may be true, but I very much doubt it. The fact that FAEs and other large conventional munitions were used (repeatedly) argues against you here: the USAF wanted to bring as much explosive yield as they could to the region. It is likely that careful use of nuclear munitions could have made collapsing many of the tunnels much easier - and a sudden, sharp shock as opposed to gradual erosion might have made it considerably harder for the Tora Bora defenders to escape en masse.

    Fourth, there are several villages in the area that would have been destroyed by a nuclear explosion. Fifth, Tora Bora [] is within 10 miles of the Pakistani border, which would certainly have received some of the fallout.

    I've lumped these two together, because they are basically restatements of the same argument. Your argument assumes that air-burst tactical nuclear weapons are any worse than the fallout from an FAE. They aren't - in fact, you are much more likely to want to live downwind/downriver of a TNW airburst than an FAE airburst. Modern TNW minimize the size of their fireballs, while maximizing blast overpressure. This has the effect of placing immense pressure against the target while leaving almost no fallout. If you are in direct line of sight of the explosion, you may be irradiated by prompt radiation - but this generally doesn't stick around. Except when dealing with neutron bombs (and then only against armoured vehicles), prompt radiation is not the primary killer: blast overpressure is. Residual radiation is always a problem, which is why you try and ensure that the fireball doesn't touch the ground. I strongly recommend that you read The Effects of Nuclear Weapons(*), a publically available text explaining how nukes really work; most of the fallout scare comes from fearmongering by antinuclear lobbies. Even the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - very dirty designs by modern standards - didn't render those areas uninhabitable for long (rail service resumed in Hiroshima a few hours after the nuclear attack, for example).

    The point about the Army/Marines having to pass through an area that recently received a nuclear weapon is well received, although the truth is that they would not have much to worry about.

    Your other point - that world leaders would be further alienated from the United States in the event of a nuclear use - is somewhat valid. That said, the current Administration seems to derive pleasure from eroding international norms (in fact, many refuse to accept the existence of such concepts - the realism school gone mad, if you will). Yes, some world leaders would have been surprised by US nuclear use - but not as surprised as you might think. Speculation was rife in the international press that the US would go nuclear shortly after 9/11, and I think a lot of world leaders were resigned to the US doing "whatever it takes" in Afghanistan. In fact, a nuclear use might have sent an important message with regard to US policy in regard to the "war on terrorism". I personally wouldn't support using nukes to send a message, but it would not surprise me, either.

    (*) - Citation: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, Ed. Samual Glasstone, US Department of Defense, published by the US Atomic Energy Commission, 1962. Additionally, I would recommend looking up the various translated (declassified) former Soviet papers on TNW doctrine. You find them in university libraries. The Soviets were quite advanced in their studies of TNW, mainly because they were less squeamish about them than the West, so its good reading - equivalant NATO documents are harder to find, but they do exist. If you are really interested, check out back-issues of Proceedings (Navy), and the works of the Institute for Strategic Studies. These will lead to many more texts, but I don't really have time to type in the entire bibliography from my Master's thesis. :-)

  • by SanGrail ( 472847 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @04:48AM (#3141669)
    Well, it'd almost be nice if this was a flame, but it's probably a typical example of how most people have no idea what's going on in this region.

    So, am I going to correct that massive information deficit with just one post?
    You gotta be kidding!

    Ok, random facts:
    Why are the 'Occupied Territories'/'Disputed Territories' known as the 'Occupied Territories'/'Disputed Territories'?
    Because the UN has been saying since 1967 that Israel should withdraw from them. df []

    Why do many Palestinines dislike the US?
    You could just read this: lobe.html []
    Basically, the US is funding Israels occupation:
    - Israel gets about a third of US foreign aid
    even though
    - Israel's GNP is higher than Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza combined. []
    (actually, most of the US's aid goes to military uses [] )

    What is one of the reasons Palestinians dislike Ariel Sharon?
    He was Minister of Defence during a 1982 Palestinian massacre... gah, just look here: news2001/amnesty100301.html []

    About 3 times more Palestinians have died in this conflict than Israelis. About a quarter of them, children.
    The Palestinians have vastly less land available to them, they are poorer - many are living in refugee camps, after all.

    And blah, here's more. eduardoCohen.html []

    And "Will somebody please think of the Children!?" []
    Ok, so that's not actually funny...

    I could say that it's kinda atrocious how one group of people are treating another, considering they know how it is to be treated that way, and worse.
    But I'd be living in Lah-lah land. People are not that nice, fair, or decent.

    And yay, there's probably some people who will have gotten to this bit, and already decided I'm "a bad guy" so they can ignore me.

    But it's not that simple.
    It's a war, with all the nasties of a civil war.
    It's in the best interests of Fundamentalists on both sides to continue the conflict, as it works helluva good in the popularity ratings.

    Each side is gonna say the other side is THE BAD GUYS, because that's how wars work.
    If you don't believe it, people don't want to fight them.

    Currently, the Palestinians are getting the worse end of the stick, but Israelis are not "THE BAD GUYS" either.
    It's just people - working, eating, caring for their children, getting on with life - on both sides, but until you realise that, there won't be peace.

    A completely non-revolutionary idea, but still true.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.