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Nuclear Primacy

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posted on May, 9 2006 @ 01:19 PM
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Many people have been wondering why Iran has been so actively pursuing a nuclear capability. Iran possesses more energy resources on hand then they could ever hope to expend in the next 50 years, and is number 2 on the OPEC exporting list.

To some, the obvious choice is a military capability. I agree with this opinion. However, I do not believe that Iran wishes to attack Israel (or any other regional threat) with nuclear weapons. While it is possible that the Iranian leadership may believe that they can act more unilaterally if they possessed nuclear weapons, and do things like openly support Hamas and pro-Shiite forces in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, I do not believe that this is their ultimate goal in possessing nukes.

Do not think for a minute that Gulf War I and II didn’t have a major impact on the minds of the Iranian leadership. They have seen the power projection capabilities of the U.S., and the willingness in which the other Gulf States “fall into line”, and the rapidity in which the U.S. was able to smash the Iraqi armed forces (a task that the Iranian themselves where never able to do). They are a frightened group, and with good reason.

The Iranians have realized, along with the rest of the world, that the U.S. has been gradually moving away from the theory of “mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, and have been slowly but surely been creeping towards the status of unchallenged nuclear power. This new status is being referred to by strategic planners as “nuclear primacy”. Nuclear primacy is characterized by nuclear capable country that has an overwhelming advantage over all other potential adversaries, and could effectively implement a first strike strategy, with little or no risk of an effective counterstrike. The U.S. has always desired to return to this position, return to those happy post-WWII days when only the U.S. had the bomb, and Americans felt safe in their homes, and confident in its foreign policy. As we look around the world today, who is left to challenge the US for military supremacy?

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the nuclear capabilities of Russia have been slowly crumbling over the last 15 years. They are no longer in a position where the can effectively threaten mass destruction of the U.S. and the west, and their forces continue to shrink. The Chinese have never been a credible strategic threat, and mostly spend their defense funding in conventional warfare and naval power projection.

However, the U.S. has been slowly and surely modernizing and reconfiguring its nuclear forces, while at the same time staying within the boundaries and limitation of disarmament treaties. U.S. Navy SSBNs will soon have a precise, hardened-target strike capability, where previously they were used to target mostly urban areas and military depot areas. The effectiveness of USAF stealth aircraft is unquestioned, and recent upgrades to US ICBM’s are increasing their accuracy, payloads, and survivability.

Despite it being advertised as a defense against “rogue nations”, I believe that the recent U.S. work and advances in missile defense is just as important as a shield against a feeble retaliatory strike that is in response to a theoretical US first-strike. When this missile defense capability is fully implemented, it will undoubtedly provide defense against an errant or rogue ICBM. However, it will also be just as effective in knocking out those few “leakers” that escape a potential U.S. first strike.

The balance of world power, with regards to nuclear weapons, is clearly shifting. MAD is no longer viable for Russia, and it has never been one for China, or the other nuclear-capable states. U.S. war planners see the advantage of nuclear primacy, and no doubt it has an effect on U.S. foreign policy. By sharpening our nuclear swords, while simultaneously beating old ones into plowshares, the U.S. is able to maintain it’s dominant lead in world military power and project the image of a leader in arms control.

Iran must see these things, and is probably terrified that the U.S. will act unilaterally against them. To the Iranian leadership, the U.S. is the obvious antithesis of Iranian-bred Shia-Islam, and the U.S. represents and protects all things that the Iranian mullahs declare to be evil. To them, U.S. action against Iran must seem like an eventuality, as the U.S. is slowly but surely going through its list of “bad guys” that must be dealt with. Whether or not this is true is highly debatable. With Iraq defeated and North Korea temporarily contained, Iran probably feels like it is in the “crosshairs”. Iran no doubt feels that their only chance at avoiding a military confrontation with the U.S. is by nuclear deterrence. They have learned that other countries have kept the U.S at bay through the threat of nuclear warfare.

The irony of this belief is that a nuclear capable Iran is exactly the kind of thing that would spark the U.S. into action. Even worse, the new U.S. doctrine of nuclear primacy, coupled with an advanced missile shield, would make the option of nuclear first-strike much more palatable. Other countries had the advantage of developing nukes in parallel with the U.S., or catching the U.S. by surprise. Iran does not have these advantages. The logical solution would be for Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions and garner world support for its causes. It already has a potent weapon, albeit economic, in its massive energy reserves and influence in OPEC. If they were wise, they would use that to their advantage.

The questions that remain unanswered are:

1. With the advent of U.S. “nuclear primacy”, will the U.S. feel free to exercise its foreign policy more unilaterally? Have we already seen this in action?

2. Will third world nations knuckle under and refrain from developing nukes in the face of U.S. disapproval and threats?

3. Will Russia and China ever gain/regain enough power to challenge the nuclear primacy of the U.S.?




posted on May, 9 2006 @ 01:43 PM
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I think that "nuclear primacy" is fiction, in practical terms. Missile defense will never give you a 100% efficiency rate. Or, it will never be known until the actual attack comes. Nobody did a stress test of a working missile defense system with thousands of decoys flying in the US airspace and emplying all sorts of electronic countermeasures.

It is therefore possible that the US will remain vulnerable against an opponent of Russia even in its current sad shape. A preemptive strike won't work because I'm pretty sure they have retained some of their mobile ICBM capability.

The point I'm trying to make is that the US will not be able to attack with impunity. Morover, the moral cost of such action will be unsustainable.



posted on May, 9 2006 @ 02:11 PM
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Originally posted by Pyros
The questions that remain unanswered are:

1. With the advent of U.S. “nuclear primacy”, will the U.S. feel free to exercise its foreign policy more unilaterally? Have we already seen this in action?

With U.S. nuclear primacy comes the descretionary use of either unilateral or multilateral methods in handling crisis and international issues. This also has alot to do with if the current international system is unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar. Arguably, the U.S. has acted unilaterally, per se', but has done so in a multilateral fashion in most cases. Iraq was not a unilateral U.S. action, because if it was, the U.S. would not have had a "Coalition" involved.




2. Will third world nations knuckle under and refrain from developing nukes in the face of U.S. disapproval and threats?

I doubt the entire third world will knuckle under or refrain from seeking or acquiring nukes. The main problem with most third world nations is that they are too busy trying to survive, literally, to spend massive amounts of money in the pursuance of nuclear weapons or systems. Of course, there are others that will foresake their own people and pursue such nuclear-questing activities. I am not sure if Libya would be considered entirely third world, but through acts of disapproval, etc., Libya, in 2003, gave up their pursuance of nuclear weapons.




3. Will Russia and China ever gain/regain enough power to challenge the nuclear primacy of the U.S.?

If in considering future U.S. challenges, I would take either China or the EU over Russia, with Russia playing both sides.






seekerof

[edit on 9-5-2006 by Seekerof]



 
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