Is the US Military Preparing Us for Starting a “Limited” Nuclear War?
–by John Lewallen <avoidingnuclearwar.com>
The June 11, 2019 public release of Joint Publication 3 72 “US Joint Operations Nuclear Strategy”
http://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3_72.pdf is a terrifying escalation of US nuclear war threat. This plan to integrate “limited” nuclear weapon use with “conventional” US warfighting, with the assertion that nuclear weapons may be used in any conflict involving the US, its allies or partners, makes a nuclear war risking catastrophic attack against the US homeland much more likely.
Coming now, with active military confrontations between the United States and Russia, China, and Iran, and an ongoing war on North Korea involving the US and United Nations, it amounts to a threat to use “limited” nuclear war against these nations. Without strong opposition from the US Congress and an informed public outcry, I’m afraid our military leaders will believe they have enough public support to escalate threat of nuclear war on many fronts.
The following facts and analysis are intended to inform and stimulate people to study this strategic statement which explicitly makes nuclear weapons the foundation of US strategy “to preserve peace and stability by deterring aggression against the US, our allies, and our partners.” The document clearly states that the President has sole command of nuclear strategy and operations, and goes to great lengths to assure that the President will have reliable command and communication means to direct an ongoing nuclear war at all phases. It revives long-debunked theories based on the idea that a phased escalation of nuclear war would cause an enemy to surrender, rather than launching a nuclear counter-strike.
In brief, it is a blueprint risking national suicide and global omnicide (destruction of everything), based on a fantasy world where nuclear weapons are limited and controllable, and human beings follow the rules set by the nuclear attacker.
To me, the craziest thing about this “US Joint Operations Nuclear Strategy” is that it continues to drive the US toward a nuclear field of battle, the only domain of war where the US is at a catastrophic disadvantage, and possibly could see its whole nation and civilization destroyed at the blink of an eye, for no reason at all. A sane nuclear posture would see US “hawks” and “doves” working together to de-escalate nuclear threat, support treaties limiting nuclear weapons, and move toward a complete ban on nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Bombs are Instruments of All-Destroying Suicide, Not Weapons of War
There are no “limited” nuclear bombs. Modern thermonuclear weapons have unlimited destructive power. Fission weapons such as were used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 are now used as triggers to detonate thermonuclear weapons. A single nuclear missile strike could cause tens of millions of casualties, with uncontainable consequences of deadly radioactivity and firestorms threatening “nuclear winter,” years of global darkness caused by stratospheric debris.
President Trump is the first president to face the fact that a single nuclear bomb detonated in space could damage or destroy global computerized civilization with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). His directive calling on government agencies to protect US electronics from nuclear EMP will take some time to carry out, and may be impossible to achieve. Nations on the US “adversaries” list, notably Russia, China, North Korea, and possibly Iran, are fully prepared to wipe out US electronic civilization with a nuclear EMP strike. This threat is indefensible, and would surely become possible if any of these nations believe US nuclear attack against them is imminent. Here the only sane US option is an end of nuclear confrontation and the beginning pf peace talks, such as President Trump started with North Korea.
Nuclear weapons now are “The Great Equalizer.” Now there are nine nuclear-armed nations who can threaten catastrophic damage with a single nuclear weapon. Peace conversion of the nuclear-industrial complex will take awhile to achieve, but really is the only survival option for all of us.
The Omnicidal Illusion of Limited Nuclear War
The key elements of “US Joint Operations Nuclear Strategy” are concepts of how to fight “limited” nuclear war developed over many decades by a small group of strategists. The best book describing these strategies and the men who made them is Fred Kaplan’s The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford University Press, 1983) All current nuclear strategists would do well to read Kaplan’s exciting, fully documented history of attempts to make a rational weapon of war out of an uncontrollable apocalyptic bomb. Most notable are the Berlin Crisis and Cuban Missile Crisis” of the 1960s, when even the key architects of “limited” nuclear war, knowing they had huge superiority over Soviet nuclear forces, drew back from the brink of using nuclear weapons. There will never be a time when one, just one, nuclear weapon might slip by the best defenses after surviving the most destructive attack, risking the death of millions or even the destruction of computerized civilization.
As one reads the coolly confident plans for a limited nuclear war, constantly controlled by the President, a winnable war which follows the laws of war and minimizes casualties, it is well to keep in mind the conclusion of Kaplan’s book amid the nuclear strategists of the Reagan administration.
“In the absence of any reality that was congenial to their abstract theorizing,” Kaplan concluded, “the strategists in power treated the theory as if it were reality. For those mired in thinking about it all day, every day, in the corridors of officialdom, nuclear strategy had become the stuff of a living dreamworld….It was, after all, only rational to try to keep a nuclear war limited if one ever broke out, to devise plans and options ahead of time that might end the war quickly and favorably, to keep the scope of damage not too far out of tune with the importance of the political objectives over which the war was declared to begin with. Yet over the years, despite endless studies, nobody could find any options that seemed practical or made sense.
“In 1946, in the beginning, Bernard Brodie wrote, ‘Everything about the atomic bomb is overshadowed by the twin facts that it exists and that its destructive power is fantastically great.’ The story of nuclear strategy, from that moment on, has been the story of intellectuals—not least of them, for many years anyway, Brodie himself—trying to outmaneuver the force of those axioms, trying to make the atomic bomb and later the hydrogen bomb manageable, controllable, to make it conform to human proportions….They contrived their options because without them the bomb would appear too starkly as the thing they had tried to prevent it from being but that ultimately it would become if it ever were used—a device of sheer mayhem, a weapon whose cataclysmic powers no one really had the faintest idea how to control. The nuclear strategists had come to impose order—but in the end, chaos still prevailed.”
Key Elements of JP3 72,”Joint Operations Nuclear Strategy”
“National Security Strategy of the United States of America: This presidential document states that nuclear weapons are the foundation of our strategy to preserve peace and stability by deterring aggression against the US, our allies, and our partners.” (pages I3 and V)
Comment: This suicidal strategy bases national defense on bombs so uncontrollably destructive they can never be used, and extends a “nuclear umbrella” to deter any attack against US “allies and partners” which commits the US to use nuclear weapons in conflicts over which it has no control.
President Trump, who has complete command and control over nuclear strategy according to JP3 72, should immediately announce that the US has no intention of ever being the first to use nuclear weapons in conflict, and does not offer nuclear protection to all allies and partners.
US Congress should assert its constitutional responsibility over war declaration to declare that the US has no intention of fighting any “limited” nuclear war. Both House and Senate should move quickly to enact the one-sentence law to establish the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, now introduced as H 921 by Rep. Adam Smith, and S272 by Senator Elizabeth Warren, which reads: “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”
The rest of us are invited to join me in declaring that we refuse to be used as helpless hostages in the war of nuclear threat, and demand a complete conversion of the nuclear-industrial complex to free human resources to deal with urgent human problems.
Chapters on “Nuclear Forces and Support Structures” and “Planning and Targeting” assert that a diversity of nuclear weapons and scenarios for their use permits the US “the capability of escalating or de-escalating the level of conflict” (page II 1)
Comment: These plans enter the dangerous dreamworld where nuclear weapons are controllable, not what they really are, instruments of all-destruction. The US should reverse its recent history of abandoning arms control treaties, and join the worldwide movement to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Emphasis is on presidential control over all nuclear strategy, and command of nuclear operations at all phases. Focus is on the vital maintenance of a reliable communication system to enable presidential command in a nuclear war environment.
Comment: “US Joint Operations Nuclear Strategy,” now available to anyone in the world, seems to make the US President the hottest nuclear target in the world. If the whole strange architecture of nuclear weapons completely dependent on indefensibly vulnerable electronics breaks out into the global battlefields, there’s going to be cyber mayhem and nuclear EMP mayhem. Our civilization may be collateral damage, but the US President, as sole and indispensable commander, may be the first target, or even the target of a pre-emptive strike by a nation believing it faces imminent nuclear attack by the US.
Public awareness and outcry has convinced US Presidents not to use nuclear weapons several times in the past. Now it’s our turn. Consider the consequences if we get this one wrong. Peace will prevail if we inform the president and public.