Archive for the ‘Nuclear War’ Category


The article Taking disarmament seriously, as with many arms control advocacy pieces, presumes what it sets out to prove.

That doesn’t work for me.  I can’t take disarmament arguments seriously without serious arguments.  Arms controllers tend to be full of “we gotta” while ignoring the “and here’s how we’re gonna” part.

So in the “we gotta” regard, the article attempts to build a sense of crisis regarding nuclear war while attributing the lack of nuclear war to luck, which, sans evidence, is a hard thing to do.  The “we gotta” also always assumes the efficacy of arms control treaties. (more…)


Fidel Castro, once Cuba’s chief judge, jury, and executioner, made an appearance on Cuban television.

Was it real or was it avatarded?  It was real, but does it matter?

Castro pontificated on the middle east, nuclear war, and the United States. His intent was likely to show that he’s not dead yet and to support his fellow travelers in Iran and North Korea.

Where’s the International Criminal Court when you need it?  Probably out writing parking tickets or eating donuts.

The Telegraph says that President Nixon planned a nuclear strike on North Korea in 1969.

Big deal.  The United States has planned for nuclear war with our adversaries since 1945…and I am willing to bet we still do.

Many people plan to lose weight, write a will, exercise regularly, and quit smoking.  Often there are disconnects between planning and doing sometimes for good reasons but often not.

If the axiom failing to plan is planning to fail holds true, Nixon’s planning was reasonable and prudent.

The Washington Post has an article called Lowering The Alert Levels In U.S. And Russia.  The article is a synopsis of a study entitled Reframing Nuclear De-Alert, Decreasing the operational readiness of U.S. and Russian arsenals.  The study was done by the EastWest Institute who partnered with government agencies of Switzerland and New Zealand to produce the project.  Why the Swiss and New Zealanders?  I guess they were the only ones willing to help foot the bill for the effort.

The study is presented in a sufficiently clinical and balanced manner, however one item in particular stands out, and that is the term “hair-trigger” or “hair-trigger alert.”

Both the WaPo article and the study analogize that due to a variety of safeguards, “hair-trigger nuclear systems” are really more like a gun in a holster with the safety on.

Regarding U.S. ICBMs, a much better analogy would be that of a gun in a safe, with ammunition in another safe.  Oh, and the gun owner’s father alone has the combination to the first safe and only the gun owner’s mother has the combination to the second safe.  In other words, it takes many parties to release a U.S. nuclear weapon.

ICBMs are capable of responding rapidly, but they are far from being on a “hair trigger” alert status. 

The security benefits (except to the arms control industry) to the U.S. of reducing operational readiness are far from evident.

David Von Drehle wastes little time in getting to the money line: “As long as a nukeless world remains wishful thinking and pastoral rhetoric, we’ll be all right.”

The persuasive arguement is that industrial-age warfighting has wrought industrial-sized death and destruction on mankind.  But we haven’t had many world wars lately?  What keeps many of today’s conflicts from tipping into massive chaos?

Brace yourself: nuclear weapons.

So far, nuclear weapons have been possessed by rationale nation-state actors and held with sufficient survivability and in sufficient numbers (to prevent the benefits traditionally reaped from suprise).  As such, history correlates decreased death and destruction with the advent of nuclear weapons.

It seems many are more enamored by the idea of a nuclear free world than they are by the observations of history before their existence.

Of course the effects of deterrence are limited.  “Leaders” like Stalin and Mao were still going create death and destruction of an industrial scale, but they did it with their own peoples.

Dude, where’s my unicorn?

While nukes are not our future, they are in our future and will be for a very long time.

Nukes will go away when their value is or approaches zero, which will likely mean when they are made obsolete by anti-nuclear methods yet to emerge or are superseded by superior weapons.

Today, people aren’t calling for a world without flaming buckets of oil launched via catapult for the same reasons–it’s just no longer the best way to storm the castle.

Similarly, instead of being made obsolete, nuclear weapons could have their value greatly reduced by affecting the efficacy of their delivery systems, via viable missile and air defense systems.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who work directly for the President, is not mentioned anywhere in the article, despite the fact he is known to advocate for the Reliable Replacement Weapon, a modernization effort to ensure the viability of our nuclear deterrent. Part of the concept of deterrence is possessing a consequence should deterrence fail. If a U.S. adversary has no fear of the U.S. nuclear enterprise because the weapons won’t work–or because there aren’t any–deterrence is obviously greatly reduced.

For all the purported pushback the President is getting regarding the U.S. going to zero nuclear weapons from “generals in the nuclear chain of command,” only two are mentioned, General Kevin Chilton, the Commander of USSTRATCOM and USAF Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz. Chilton is critiqued for correcting the assertion U.S. nuclear forces are on a “hair trigger,” which those who have experience in the nuclear community know to be untrue. Then, Schwartz is critiqued for agreeing with Chilton. The author suggests these men are somehow disloyal by correcting an error in fact.

The “bolt out of the blue” scenario the author incorrectly characterizes as “launch under attack” is likewise flawed. We have ways of knowing what’s going on well before an adversary gets to the point they would be starting a nuclear war, and it’s called posturing. Tensions would likely take a significant amount of time to reach the point nuclear weapons would be considered and all elements of U.S. power would be put to use to avoid war well before a nuclear attack. Because no rational player wants nuclear war, these parties will be exceedingly reasonable and prudent in taking actions to ensure such a thing doesn’t happen.

In the end, the issue is not nuclear weapons per se, rather the issue is national security. As such, the real question is not “Should the U.S. pursue a zero nuclear weapons cram-down?” but rather “Is our national security best served by a world with no nuclear weapons?”

If the answer is yes, a follow on is “How do all those holding nuclear weapons get rid of them simultaneously?” with the final question being “How do we ensure they never come back?” If the follow on questions can’t be adequately addressed, the goal of a world without nuclear weapons matters not.

As for me, I dream of a world with no cigarettes.

Having reached a not-to-exceed measure of largeness, I have decided to run more. By the way, it is hot here in Alabama. I mean Tarzan couldn’t take it, its so hot. Anyway, I’ve retained an old habit, which is to run with music. Running without music is like farming without tractors. Yeah, you can do it, but it is definitely much more difficult.

So the 1987 Robbie Robertson tune Showdown at Big Sky came up on my shuffle (which not only describes my pace, but also my music machine) and as I listened to the words during a cool-down, I realized Showdown really must be considered as a fully qualified Song of Space and Nuclear War. Although the song is now old enough to drink, Robertson sings insightfully of the era’s soon to end Cold War’s threats including the big bang, the weapons race, darkness at high noon, and the fact any moment could be our last. Finally, he opines on our need for strength, wisdom, and morality–makes me think about Iran and North Korea today. I’d say Robbie’s overall tone was one of concern without being overwhelmed or defeated. Check out the lyrics for yourself.

I had ordered Robertson’s CD back in the day when it was new (I had heard Showdown at Big Sky or seen the video, or something and was attracted to it), and I ordered it as a part of my initial buy in the Columbia House Record (not kidding) Club. It was supposed to be in my first delivery lump of 12 or 13 CDs. They all showed up uneventfully, except for one, the Robertson CD, which was inexplicably empty. I never called or wrote to Columbia House–I didn’t think it would do any good–but the empty jewel box haunted me for years (but not enough to buy another copy). Not too long ago, I bought Showdown off iTunes or Amazon. I have a to-buy list but I’m pretty much ‘bought out.’ The only remaining stuff I want is either not digitized or only sold as an “album.” I still have stacks of albums that I bought just to get one song.