There has been a great deal of talk on these boards about nuclear threats to the United States, and the US response. While I had my own understanding
of the US response, I decided to research this topic a bit to see if I was wrong. While this post has little to do with the nuclear response to
terrorist use of nuclear weapons, you may find it interesting.
There are two postures that the US tends to take concerning nuclear weapons.
, aka Mutually Assured Destruction: rather self explanatory and is the primary posture that took us through the Cold War in
more or less one piece.
: nuclear weapons are just another option for war along the escalation ladder. There is nothing particularly wrong with
flexible response as long as it is remembered that a nuclear response should only be used against a threat that cannot be neutralized by conventional
These two postures actually mingled in a way as to deter superpowers from engaging in conventional war as well as nuclear war, as one could lead to
the other depending on which rulebook the other team was playing by on a given day.
I think we all know by now, in matters of use of military, pre-emption has become a default strategy for the U.S. But, what you may not be aware of is
that the U.S. has adopted a nuclear posture of flexible response.
Here is some light reading from early 2004. Some may have already read them.
Rethinking the Unthinkable: Nuclear Weapons and the War on Terror
Unthinking the Unthinkable: U.S. Nuclear Policy and Asymmetric Threats
Now that we are all up to date on US Nuclear Posture, we come to the technology portion of my title.
If you read the links I gave you closely, they mention "missile defense" in a vague way. In my search for information, I discovered this article:
Anti-missile laser test successful
Now, this talks about a technolgy that isn't due to be operational until 2006 or so. Which is quite some time away, and wouldn't effect short term
decisions. But, if you read that article closely, way down at the bottom you would have read:
A multibillion-dollar ground-based system for detecting and destroying missiles fired from a country like North Korea is due to be declared ready
for operation by the end of next month.
That article was dated 12 Nov 04. The end of next month is 31 Dec 04.
That would effect short term policy if it is true. So, I looked to verify the facts.
Ground-based Midcourse Defense
First Boeing Ground-based Midcourse Defense Interceptor Emplaced
Fifth Boeing GMD Interceptor Placed in Silo at Alaska Site
It certainly seems as if it is plausible that the system will be complete by the end of the year, depending on the number of missiles in the
What does that mean to you?
It means many things to me. The first an most important, is that the US would no longer be concerned with intercontinental launches of less than say
10-15 (possibly more) nuclear delivery vehicles.
Now you might say this is a good thing. But, remember all that I mentioned thus far, specifically pre-emptive
What does this mean for the world?
Fear of assured response has always been a deterant to the use of the flexible response strategy. An active ICBM defense will create a reduction of
fear of the use of nuclear weapons, as assured response by smaller nuclear nations would no longer be a deterant to the use of nuclear weapons against
This change in the "feasibility" of flexible response, will likely change the way the US negotiates with nuclear capable countries which are seen as
a threat in the "War of Terror." The US will be able to negotiate from a position of relative security and strength, regardless of the nuclear
missile capabilites of the opposition. Add to that the willingness to use pre-emptive force, and I fear the results.
[edit on 17-11-2004 by Raphael_UO]