Australian news, and some related international items

America’s military leaders reassure their staff ”We will win a nuclear war!”

US defense to its workforce: Nuclear war can be won, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Alan KaptanogluStewart Prager | February 2, 2022  Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev once said that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and five major nuclear weapon states, including the United States, repeated this statement earlier this year. Yet many in the US defense establishment—the military, government, think tanks, and industry—promote the perception that a nuclear war can be won and fought.

Moreover, they do so in a voice that is influential, respected, well-funded, and treated with deference. The US defense leadership’s methodical messaging to its workforce helps shape the views of this massive, multi-sector constituency that includes advocates, future leaders, and decision makers. It advances a view of nuclear weapon policies that intensifies and accelerates the new nuclear arms race forming between the United States, China, and Russia.

The 23-chapter Guide to Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Great Power Competition provides an excellent and representative case study for examining this critical messaging. This guide is published by the Louisiana Tech Research Institute, which provides support for the US Air Force Global Strike Command. It is written by nuclear arms experts for the approximately 30,000 members of the US Air Force Global Strike Command and the “700,000 total force airmen who engage in the profession of arms.”

All of the authors have direct or indirect connections with the nuclear weapons complex or associated think tanks, and several of the authors have held senior positions with the Air Force Global Strike Command, US Strategic Command, and other national security agencies in the US government. The guide’s messaging is comprehensive but dangerously skewed.

The guide centers around a new reality—the aggressive development of nuclear arms by Russia and China that is intensifying a new Cold War. Nuclear arms treaties—an important tool for limiting arms races—are brushed aside as functionally pointless since, according to the guide, Russia will cheat and China won’t come to the bargaining table.   In one passage, the guide claims “it is unlikely that these countries would be foolish enough to engage in a strategic arms race with the United States, and, if they do, they will lose.” Yet much of the remainder of the document analyzes all the ways in which China and Russia are advancing their capabilities beyond US capabilities. These threatening developments are then used to justify the rapid and expensive modernization of the US nuclear weapon complex, while many historic nuclear arms agreements wither away, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Iran nuclear deal.

What follows are some of the misrepresentations, an omission, and a questionable policy in the guide:

Misrepresentation: A nuclear war can be fought and won. That the US military considers scenarios under which nuclear deterrence fails is unsurprising. But in the event of limited nuclear war, the United States has plans in place to “beat” its adversaries. …………………

Omission: The reality of nuclear war. In this more-than-400 page guide, only three pages are devoted to a rather anodyne description of the devastating harms of nuclear weapons. ………..

The guide does not mention the well-documented human toll of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The guide does not discuss the full horrors of the “day after” a nuclear exchange. Nor does it address the potentially civilization-ending effects of climate change and nuclear winter from the resulting firestorms. …………………

Misrepresentation: Nuclear weapons keep the peace. The guide credits nuclear weapons and US nuclear superiority with the era of “long peace”—the absence of major wars between superpowers since 1945. As such, it posits that, the more US nuclear weapons, the better……………… 

The guide does not note that the world came very close to a potentially catastrophic nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It singularly portrays US nuclear weapons as a benefit for humankind.

Misrepresentation: Nuclear weapon mistakes and accidents never happen. Indeed, the guide does not mention the many well-documented false-alarms and close calls of nuclear detonation from technical or human error that could have led to catastrophe. It does not acknowledge the dangers posed by the imperfect humans who control the nuclear weapons and infrastructure. It does not mention that intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) crew members were caught cheating on exams or that the Joint Chiefs’ of Staff unanimously recommended an invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis. Nor is there mention of the harms caused by nuclear testing to many communities.

The guide portrays the United States as if it is in perfect control of its nuclear weapons operations.

Questionable policy: A nuclear triad is necessary. The guide argues strenuously that the United States would be less secure without all three legs of its nuclear triad consisting of warhead-equipped submarines, aircraft, and land-based missiles…………………

Lastly, this scenario assumes that NATO allies would not bother to use any of their several hundred nuclear warheads after an adversary destroys a significant portion of the US homeland.

The guide dismisses critiques of the ICBM force, including the accompanying launch-on-warning and use-them-or-lose-them postures that increase the danger of accidental nuclear war.

The authors seek perpetual US nuclear superiority. They dismiss the option of minimal deterrence—keeping only a minimal complement of nuclear weapons primarily to provide a second-strike capability—as not viable. According to the guide, the United States must not only possess a second-strike capability but the potential to fight and win a limited nuclear war against any adversary. ……………..

 To be clear, the authors are considering a scenario in which at least several hundred nuclear weapons have been used on both the US and adversary’s homeland. Hundreds of millions of people are likely dead, modern civilization might have collapsed, and nuclear winter might soon starve another few billion people. What exactly is worth bargaining for in this scenario?

Finally, the guide notes that “[t]he United States has never been content with a mere second-strike capability.” In this context, “[t]he United States” appears to refer primarily to US military and government institutions; the majority of the US public favors a minimal deterrence policy, and an overwhelming majority support the phasing out of ICBMs, according to a recent poll.

…………….  defense messaging justifies a vigorous and expanding nuclear arms force, exceptionalizes the United States, and blames downsides on Russia and China. If service members received more thoughtful messaging about nuclear deterrence and preparedness, their efforts to think critically might help them understand—in the profound ways that Reagan and Gorbachev once understood—that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

February 3, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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