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The Christian Science Monitor September 14, 2005

Pentagon draft plan calls for preemptive use of nukes

Critics say plan is designed for possible attack against Iran.

By Tom Regan

The Pentagon has drafted a revised plan to allow for US military commanders in the field to ask presidential approval to use nuclear weapons in order "to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction." The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the plan would also allow for the use of nuclear weapons to destroy "known" enemy stockpiles of "nuclear, biological or chemical weapons."

To deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, the Pentagon paper says preparations must be made to use nuclear weapons and show determination to use them "if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use."

The draft says that to deter a potential adversary from using such weapons, that adversary's leadership must "believe the United States has both the ability and will to pre-empt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective." The draft also notes that US policy in the past has "repeatedly rejected calls for adoption of 'no first use' policy of nuclear weapons since this policy could undermine deterrence."

GlobalSecurity.org, a leading global intelligence firm, also has a copy of the document on its website. The draft plan's executive summary outlines four key goals:

The US defense strategy aims to achieve four key goals that guide the development of US forces capabilities, their development and use: assuring allies and friends of the US steadfastness of purpose and its capability to fulfill its security commitment; dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations that could threaten US interests or those of our allies and friends; deterring aggression and coercion by deploying forward the capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and imposing severe penalties for aggression on an adversary’s military capability and supporting infrastructure; and, decisively defeating an adversary if deterrence fails.

The India Monitor notes that the plan changes the 1995 guidelines on the use of nuclear weapons which "made no mention of using nukes pre-emptively or specifically against threats from WMDs."

Reuters reported Saturday that the document also covers the use of nuclear weapons is several other scenarios.

Other scenarios envisioned in the draft doctrine include nuclear weapons use to counter potentially overwhelming conventional forces, for rapid and favorable war termination on US terms, to demonstrate US intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter enemy use of weapons of mass destruction, and to respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction supplied by an enemy to a "surrogate." The document said "numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal)" and about 30 countries have programs for weapons of mass destruction.
Writing in Arms Control Today, Hans M. Kristensen of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that the new "aggressive posture" on nuclear weapons may actually undermine what the US aims to achieve.
This nuclear dogma is by no means new to deterrence theory, but the new nuclear doctrine fails to explain, even illustrate, why deterrence necessarily requires such an aggressive nuclear posture and cannot be achieved at lower levels without maintaining nuclear forces on high alert. A deterrence posture can also be excessive, with capabilities far beyond what is reasonably needed. Threatening nuclear capabilities may in theory deter potential enemies but may just as well provoke other countries and undercut other vital aspects of US foreign policy. The end result may be decreased security for all.
In an article in the Asia Times, independent journalist Jim Lobe interviews Ivan Oelrich, of the Federation for American Scientists, who says one of the things that concerns him about the plan is the way that it conflates several different levels of threats into one form of WMD threat.
"What we are seeing now is an effort to lay the foundations for the legitimacy of using nuclear weapons if [the administration] suspects another country might use chemical weapons against us," he said. "Iraq is a perfect example of how this doctrine might actually work; it was a country where we were engaged militarily and thought it would deploy chemical weapons against us."
Philip Giraldi, former CIA analyst and member of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote in The American Conservative last month that Vice President Dick Cheney's office has requested the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to draw up a plan to respond to another "9/11 type attack on the US."
The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.
According to The Washington Post, the document is "expected to be signed within a few weeks by Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, according to Navy Cmdr. Dawn Cutler, a public affairs officer in Myers's office."


Copyright 2005, The Christian Science Monitor