Monday, September 12, 2005

The Nuclear Option

Various news organizations have been reporting on a revised pentagon document that outlines scenarios in which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons for a preemptive strike against its enemies. Via The Times UK:

In a significant shift after half a century of nuclear deterrence based on the threat of massive retaliation, the revised doctrine would allow pre-emptive strikes against states or terror groups, and to destroy chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.

Presidential approval would still be required for any nuclear strike, but the updated document, the existence of which was confirmed by the Pentagon at the weekend, emphasises the need for the US to adapt to a world of worsening proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in which deterrence might fail. In that event, it states, “the United States must be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary”.

When it suits their purpose, the Bush Administration is quick to point out that terrorists are “non-state actors,” often operating in small, loosely-organized cells. But this policy treats terrorists like a conventional army, housed within a single state. By what stretch of the imagination are nukes an effective means of targeting terrorists, who, as the recent attacks in London prove, are often living in our own backyard? The whole thing is akin to swatting flies with a wrecking ball.

Can you imagine the collateral damage the U.S. would have to accept if it were to say, drop a bomb on Afghanistan to get a group of terrorists or a weapons stockpile? Can you imagine the reaction in the Muslim world?

The Times reports that “[t]he document’s key phrase appears in a list of pre-emptive nuclear strike scenarios, the first of which is against an enemy using “or intending to use WMD”.” So according to this provision, and based on its bang-up intelligence reports, the U.S. could have dropped a bomb on Iraq back in 2003.

Not to mention that the whole thing looks pretty damn hypocritical, considering that the U.S. is pressuring Iran to scale down its nuclear operations.

--Matthew McCoy