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     May 6, 2010
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America's nuclear intentions
By Jack A Smith

This is the conclusion of a two-part report.
Part 1: The Pentagon's game plan

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is of great importance because it concerns the most deadly weapons in the world. The report is overflowing with ambiguity. First it notes that President Barack Obama seeks "a world without nuclear weapons," but that he recognizes it may not be possible "in his lifetime."

Then it notes that after the Cold War "The threat of global nuclear war has become remote, but the risk of nuclear attack has increased" because a terrorist may seek to bring a nuclear weapon into the United States. We assume this does not mean it


is more dangerous today than during the Cold War, but it's not entirely clear.

It probably means that an al-Qaeda operative may enter the US with a nuclear weapon and detonate it. If so, it's odd that the latest NPR does not explain that in the unlikely event a weapon falls into the wrong hands, the chances of a successful nuclear terror attack are exceptionally slight due to complex technical reasons, and the fact that such a weapon has many intricate safeguards. Instead the American people are given one more exaggerated fear to dwell upon.

The New York Times and many websites carried the following comment regarding nuclear terrorism: "Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has written on nuclear history, said: 'The fear of a clandestine nuclear attack on American soil goes back to the very beginning of the nuclear era. There's certainly nothing new here, even if they didn't call it terrorism back in the '50s ... If you consider that the threat has been around for more than 60 years, you don't get overwhelmed by fear'."

One of the memorable descriptions of the Posture Review was supplied by Robert Haddick, editor of the Small Wars Journal, on April 9:
The authors of the ... NPR are attempting to deliver two messages. The first message attempts to show that the US government is making some significant changes to its nuclear weapons doctrine and force structure, changes that bring the world closer to being free of nuclear weapons. The second message asserts that the United States is doing no such thing at all and in fact will remain a fully modernized and supreme nuclear power.
The NPR lists "five key objectives of our nuclear weapons and posture". They are:
1. Preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.
2. Reducing the role of US nuclear weapons in US national security strategy.
3. Maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels.
4. Strengthening regional deterrence and reassuring US allies and partners.
5. Sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.

We shall discuss number one and two, the most important.

"Preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism" is a worthy goal, but the Obama administration's approach to the problem is inadequate and politically motivated. No effort is made in the document to explain why complete nuclear disarmament - the only way to eliminate nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear war - won't even be possible for the next 35 years (Obama's statistically remaining life span), if ever.

The US has been the main obstacle to complete nuclear disarmament during and after the Cold War. The Soviet Union repeatedly called for nuclear disarmament, and even proposed general and complete disarmament of each country's military apparatus, including nuclear weapons. In January 1986, several years before the USSR collapsed from internal political and economic contradictions, President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced another plan - this time calling for complete nuclear disarmament by 2000. Although at times sectors of the US ruling establishment viewed various such proposals favorably, a majority always demurred, as it does today.

If Washington boldly proposed the total nuclear disarmament of all nine nuclear nations under strict UN supervision, it probably would result in a treaty to eliminate the weapons within several years.

In this connection, when the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1970, the several nations in possession of nuclear weapons at the time were supposed to gradually reduce their arsenals to the extent of complete nuclear disarmament. That was 40 years ago, and while there have been reductions in Russian and US stockpiles, the final goal is absurdly distant. It should have transpired years ago.

Obama's effort to halt proliferation cannot possibly be sincere when he refuses to condemn and sanction three of the four countries that have produced a substantial number of nuclear weapons illegally in total violation of the NPT because they are US allies - India, Pakistan and Israel. Instead Obama vents fury, sanctions and the threat of attack upon North Korea, which possesses only a couple of relatively small nuclear weapons.

Most telling of all, however, is the NPR's implied threat to punish Iran with a nuclear attack, even though it does not have any nuclear weapons and repeatedly promises not to produce them. Here is the sentence pertaining to Iran: "The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." Iran is technical violation because of a couple of minor incidents.

Here is how Defense Secretary Gates elaborated on this sentence: "The NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea, because whether it's in declaratory policy or in other elements of the NPR, we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with NPT. And basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category, along with non-state actors who might acquire nuclear weapons."

The phrase "all options are on the table”, which Gates repeated in his next paragraph for emphasis, is standard George W Bush-Barack Obama speak for threatening certain small and weaker countries that displease the White House. Such bullying would never be directed against well-protected Russia.

Robert Parry, editor of the website Consortium News, wrote on April 18: "What is perhaps even more extraordinary about Obama's comments - and the nonchalant response from the US news media - is that the president appears to be exploiting technical disputes to overturn a broader principle that nuclear states should not threaten non-nuclear states with nuclear destruction."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad responded with these words: "Even Bush did not say what Obama is saying."

Tehran is filing a formal complaint with the United Nations, reports an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman who noted that "such remarks prove that the countries which possess nuclear arms are the greatest threat to the global security." Iran strongly supports complete nuclear disarmament. At the Arab League summit in Libya March 28 delegates called for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. They also requested the International Atomic Energy Agency to end technical assistance programs in Israel if Tel Aviv continues to avoid UN inspections.

The NPR's second objective is "reducing the role of US nuclear weapons". This does not mean reducing the number, deployed or in storage, just the role. And there is a very good reason to reduce the role: The US is developing a major non-nuclear alternative. It's called Prompt Global Strike (PGS) and sometimes Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS).

The US government realizes that there are serious problems with using nuclear weapons. Such weapons may be justified as a deterrent to avoid a nuclear exchange because strike and counter-strike would result in mutually assured destruction. But the entire world would object to a preemptive unilateral strike against a non-nuclear state. For instance, had the Bush administration's "shock and awe" terror bombing of Baghdad included nuclear weapons, the global outcry - substantial to begin with - would have been magnified a hundred fold, and the act would never be forgiven by much of the world. Indeed, it would spark proliferation as countries scrambled to build nuclear deterrents of their own, as did North Korea, to forestall a possible nuclear attack.

The document barely mentions Prompt Global Strike (PGS), revealing only that the Pentagon "is studying the appropriate mix of long-range strike capabilities, including heavy bombers as well as non-nuclear prompt global strike". Global Strike usually means nuclear bombs and missile warheads. PGS or CPGS means conventional, i.e., non-nuclear.

Prompt Global Strike relies on high-speed missiles, satellite mapping and other cutting edge military technology to launch a devastating non-nuclear payload from a military base in the US to destroy a target anywhere in the world in less than one hour. The purpose is to resolve the conundrum posed by the global inhibition toward the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, thus greatly strengthening the Obama administration's full spectrum military dominance.

Continued 1 2  

Obama gambles on deterrence
(Apr 26, '10)

1. The Pentagon's game plan

2. General Petraeus' Thirty Years War

3. Pyongyang sees US role in Cheonan sinking

4. Israel, Iran feel the heat

5. China has good reason to stay quiet

6. India nails a dead man walking

7. A glorified divide in Vietnam

8. China leery of Sarkozy's outstretched hand

9. US military's robotic shuttle spooks Iran

10. Conflict or containment in the Persian Gulf?

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, May 4, 2010)


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