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by Tausch, Arno
12 March 2002 10:52 UTC
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for your records - for any student of the world system, this is a major
story; in Europe we read this with interest!

Arno Tausch

By PAUL RICHTER, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare
contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries
and to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield
situations, according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los
Angeles Times.

The secret report, which was provided to Congress on Jan. 8, says the
Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia,
Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. It says the weapons could be used
in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear
attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical
weapons; or "in the event of surprising military developments."

A partial copy of the report was obtained by defense analyst and Times
contributor William Arkin. His column on the contents appears in Sunday's

Officials have long acknowledged that they had detailed nuclear plans for an
attack on Russia. However, this "Nuclear Posture Review" apparently marks
the first time that an official list of potential target countries has come
to light, analysts said. Some predicted the disclosure would set off strong
reactions from governments of the target countries.

"This is dynamite," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "I can imagine
what these countries are going to be saying at the U.N." Arms control
advocates said the report's directives on development of smaller nuclear
weapons could signal that the Bush administration is more willing to
overlook a long-standing taboo against the use of nuclear weapons except as
a last resort. They warned that such moves could dangerously destabilize the
world by encouraging other countries to believe that they, too, should
develop weapons.

"They're trying desperately to find new uses for nuclear weapons, when their
uses should be limited to deterrence," said John Isaacs, president of the
Council for a Livable World. "This is very, very dangerous talk . . . Dr.
Strangelove is clearly still alive in the Pentagon."

But some conservative analysts insisted that the Pentagon must prepare for
all possible contingencies, especially now, when dozens of countries, and
some terrorist groups, are engaged in secret weapon development programs.

They argued that smaller weapons have an important deterrent role because
many aggressors might not believe that the U.S. forces would use
multi-kiloton weapons that would wreak devastation on surrounding territory
and friendly populations.

"We need to have a credible deterrence against regimes involved in
international terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction,"
said Jack Spencer, a defense analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation
in Washington. He said the contents of the report did not surprise him and
represent "the right way to develop a nuclear posture for a post-Cold War

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Richard McGraw, declined to comment because
the document is classified.

Congress requested the reassessment of the U.S. nuclear posture in September
2000. The last such review was conducted in 1994 by the Clinton
administration. The new report, signed by Secretary of Defense Donald H.
Rumsfeld, is now being used by the U.S. Strategic Command to prepare a
nuclear war plan.

Bush administration officials have publicly provided only sketchy details of
the nuclear review. They have publicly emphasized the parts of the policy
suggesting that the administration wants to reduce reliance on nuclear

Since the Clinton administration's review is also classified, no specific
contrast can be drawn. However, analysts portrayed this report as
representing a break with earlier policy.

U.S. policymakers have generally indicated that the United States would not
use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states unless they were allied with
nuclear powers. They have left some ambiguity about whether the United
States would use nuclear weapons in retaliation after strikes with chemical
or nuclear weapons.

The report says the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in an
Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, or in an attack
from North Korea on the south. They might also become necessary in an attack
by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor, it said.

The report says Russia is no longer officially an "enemy." Yet it
acknowledges that the huge Russian arsenal, which includes about 6,000
deployed warheads and perhaps 10,000 smaller "theater" nuclear weapons,
remains of concern.

Pentagon officials have said publicly that they were studying the need to
develop theater nuclear weapons, designed for use against specific targets
on a battlefield, but had not committed themselves to that course.

Officials have often spoken of the advantages of using nuclear weapons to
destroy the deep tunnel and cave complexes that many regimes have been
building, especially since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Nuclear weapons
give off powerful shock waves that can crush structures deep in the Earth,
they point out.

Officials argue that large nuclear arms have so many destructive side
effects, from blast to heat and radiation, that they become
"self-deterring." They contend the Pentagon needs "full spectrum
deterrence"--that is, a full range of weapons that potential enemies believe
might be used against them.

The Pentagon was actively involved in planning for use of tactical nuclear
weapons as recently as the 1970s. But it has moved away from them in the
last two decades.

Analysts said the report's reference to "surprising military developments"
referred to the Pentagon's fears that a rogue regime or terrorist group
might suddenly unleash a wholly unknown weapon that was difficult to counter
with the conventional U.S. arsenal.

The administration has proposed cutting the offensive nuclear arsenal by
about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 missiles, within 10 years.
Officials have also said they want to use precision guided conventional
munitions in some missions that might have previously been accomplished with
nuclear arms.

But critics said the report contradicts suggestions the Bush administration
wants to cut the nuclear role.

"This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than
deterring them," said Cirincione. 

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
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By WILLIAM M. ARKIN, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, in a secret policy review completed
early this year, has ordered the Pentagon to draft contingency plans for the
use of nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, naming not only
Russia and the "axis of evil"--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea--but also China,
Libya and Syria.

In addition, the U.S. Defense Department has been told to prepare for the
possibility that nuclear weapons may be required in some future Arab-Israeli
crisis. And, it is to develop plans for using nuclear weapons to retaliate
against chemical or biological attacks, as well as "surprising military
developments" of an unspecified nature.

These and a host of other directives, including calls for developing
bunker-busting mini-nukes and nuclear weapons that reduce collateral damage,
are contained in a still-classified document called the Nuclear Posture
Review (NPR), which was delivered to Congress on Jan. 8.

Like all such documents since the dawning of the Atomic Age more than a
half-century ago, this NPR offers a chilling glimpse into the world of
nuclear-war planners: With a Strangelovian genius, they cover every
conceivable circumstance in which a president might wish to use nuclear
weapons--planning in great detail for a war they hope never to wage.

In this top-secret domain, there has always been an inconsistency between
America's diplomatic objectives of reducing nuclear arsenals and preventing
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, on the one hand, and the
military imperative to prepare for the unthinkable, on the other.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration plan reverses an almost
two-decade-long trend of relegating nuclear weapons to the category of
weapons of last resort. It also redefines nuclear requirements in hurried
post-Sept. 11 terms.

In these and other ways, the still-secret document offers insights into the
evolving views of nuclear strategists in Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's
Defense Department.

While downgrading the threat from Russia and publicly emphasizing their
commitment to reducing the number of long-range nuclear weapons, Defense
Department strategists promote tactical and so-called "adaptive" nuclear
capabilities to deal with contingencies where large nuclear arsenals are not

They seek a host of new weapons and support systems, including conventional
military and cyber warfare capabilities integrated with nuclear warfare. The
end product is a now-familiar post-Afghanistan model--with nuclear
capability added. It combines precision weapons, long-range strikes, and
special and covert operations.

But the NPR's call for development of new nuclear weapons that reduce
"collateral damage" myopically ignores the political, moral and military
implications--short-term and long--of crossing the nuclear threshold.

Under what circumstances might nuclear weapons be used under the new
posture? The NPR says they "could be employed against targets able to
withstand nonnuclear attack," or in retaliation for the use of nuclear,
biological, or chemical weapons, or "in the event of surprising military

Planning nuclear-strike capabilities, it says, involves the recognition of
"immediate, potential or unexpected" contingencies. North Korea, Iraq, Iran,
Syria and Libya are named as "countries that could be involved" in all three
kinds of threat. "All have long-standing hostility towards the United States
and its security partners. All sponsor or harbor terrorists, and have active
WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs."

China, because of its nuclear forces and "developing strategic objectives,"
is listed as "a country that could be involved in an immediate or potential
contingency." Specifically, the NPR lists a military confrontation over the
status of Taiwan as one of the scenarios that could lead Washington to use
nuclear weapons.

Other listed scenarios for nuclear conflict are a North Korean attack on
South Korea and an Iraqi assault on Israel or its neighbors.

The second important insight the NPR offers into Pentagon thinking about
nuclear policy is the extent to which the Bush administration's strategic
planners were shaken by last September's terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon. Though Congress directed the new
administration "to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear forces"
before the events of Sept. 11, the final study is striking for its
single-minded reaction to those tragedies.

Heretofore, nuclear strategy tended to exist as something apart from the
ordinary challenges of foreign policy and military affairs. Nuclear weapons
were not just the option of last resort, they were the option reserved for
times when national survival hung in the balance--a doomsday confrontation
with the Soviet Union, for instance.

Now, nuclear strategy seems to be viewed through the prism of Sept. 11. For
one thing, the Bush administration's faith in old-fashioned deterrence is
gone. It no longer takes a superpower to pose a dire threat to Americans.

"The terrorists who struck us on Sept. 11th were clearly not deterred by
doing so from the massive U.S. nuclear arsenal," Rumsfeld told an audience
at the National Defense University in late January.

Similarly, U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said in a recent
interview, "We would do whatever is necessary to defend America's innocent
civilian population .... The idea that fine theories of deterrence work
against everybody ... has just been disproven by Sept. 11."

Moreover, while insisting they would go nuclear only if other options seemed
inadequate, officials are looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role
in the kinds of challenges the United States faces with Al Qaeda.

Accordingly, the NPR calls for new emphasis on developing such things as
nuclear bunker-busters and surgical "warheads that reduce collateral
damage," as well as weapons that could be used against smaller, more
circumscribed targets--"possible modifications to existing weapons to
provide additional yield flexibility," in the jargon-rich language of the

It also proposes to train U.S. Special Forces operators to play the same
intelligence gathering and targeting roles for nuclear weapons that they now
play for conventional weapons strikes in Afghanistan. And cyber-warfare and
other nonnuclear military capabilities would be integrated into
nuclear-strike forces to make them more all-encompassing.

As for Russia, once the primary reason for having a U.S. nuclear strategy,
the review says that while Moscow's nuclear programs remain cause for
concern, "ideological sources of conflict" have been eliminated, rendering a
nuclear contingency involving Russia "plausible" but "not expected."

"In the event that U.S. relations with Russia significantly worsen in the
future," the review says, "the U.S. may need to revise its nuclear force
levels and posture."

When completion of the NPR was publicly announced in January, Pentagon
briefers deflected questions about most of the specifics, saying the
information was classified. Officials did stress that, consistent with a
Bush campaign pledge, the plan called for reducing the current 6,000
long-range nuclear weapons to one-third that number over the next decade.
Rumsfeld, who approved the review late last year, said the administration
was seeking "a new approach to strategic deterrence," to include missile
defenses and improvements in nonnuclear capabilities.

Also, Russia would no longer be officially defined as "an enemy."

Beyond that, almost no details were revealed.

The classified text, however, is shot through with a worldview transformed
by Sept. 11. The NPR coins the phrase "New Triad," which it describes as
comprising the "offensive strike leg," (our nuclear and conventional forces)
plus "active and passive defenses,"(our anti-missile systems and other
defenses) and "a responsive defense infrastructure" (our ability to develop
and produce nuclear weapons and resume nuclear testing). Previously, the
nuclear "triad" was the bombers, long-range land-based missiles and
submarine-launched missiles that formed the three legs of America's
strategic arsenal.

The review emphasizes the integration of "new nonnuclear strategic
capabilities" into nuclear-war plans. "New capabilities must be developed to
defeat emerging threats such as hard and deeply-buried targets (HDBT), to
find and attack mobile and re-locatable targets, to defeat chemical and
biological agents, and to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage," the
review says.

It calls for "a new strike system" using four converted Trident submarines,
an unmanned combat air vehicle and a new air-launched cruise missile as
potential new weapons.

Beyond new nuclear weapons, the review proposes establishing what it calls
an "agent defeat" program, which defense officials say includes a "boutique"
approach to finding new ways of destroying deadly chemical or biological
warfare agents, as well as penetrating enemy facilities that are otherwise
difficult to attack. This includes, according to the document, "thermal,
chemical or radiological neutralization of chemical/biological materials in
production or storage facilities."

Bush administration officials stress that the development and integration of
nonnuclear capabilities into the nuclear force is what permits reductions in
traditional long-range weaponry. But the blueprint laid down in the review
would expand the breadth and flexibility of U.S. nuclear capabilities.

In addition to the new weapons systems, the review calls for incorporation
of "nuclear capability" into many of the conventional systems now under
development. An extended-range conventional cruise missile in the works for
the U.S. Air Force "would have to be modified to carry nuclear warheads if
necessary." Similarly, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should be modified to
carry nuclear weapons "at an affordable price."

The review calls for research to begin next month on fitting an existing
nuclear warhead into a new 5,000-pound "earth penetrating" munition.

Given the advances in electronics and information technologies in the past
decade, it is not surprising that the NPR also stresses improved satellites
and intelligence, communications, and more robust high-bandwidth
decision-making systems.

Particularly noticeable is the directive to improve U.S. capabilities in the
field of "information operations," or cyber-warfare. The intelligence
community "lacks adequate data on most adversary computer local area
networks and other command and control systems," the review observes. It
calls for improvements in the ability to "exploit" enemy computer networks,
and the integration of cyber-warfare into the overall nuclear war database
"to enable more effective targeting, weaponeering, and combat assessment
essential to the New Triad."

In recent months, when Bush administration officials talked about the
implications of Sept. 11 for long-term military policy, they have often
focused on "homeland defense" and the need for an anti-missile shield. In
truth, what has evolved since last year's terror attacks is an integrated,
significantly expanded planning doctrine for nuclear wars.

William M. Arkin is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School
of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an adjunct professor at
the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is also a
consultant to a number of nongovernmental organizations and a regular
contributor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to

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