NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?

Bush's nuclear plan:
Dr. Strangelove revisited

by Michelle CIARRACCA and William D. HARTUNG

Even the Great Communicator would have had a hard time explaining how planning to use the deadliest weapon on earth could possibly reinforce the message that killing civilians is wrong and that the United States is more civilized than its terrorist adversaries.

(March 14, 2002) Almost two decades ago, President Reagan unveiled his Star Wars scheme with the intention of rendering nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." Today, the word coming from the Pentagon's recently released Nuclear Posture Review is that nuclear weapons are here to stay.

If the recommendations from the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review are carried out, the declared purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons could change from a tool of deterrence and a weapon of last resort to a central, usable component of the U.S. "anti-terror" arsenal.

Even the Great Communicator would have had a hard time explaining how planning to use the deadliest weapon on earth could possibly reinforce the message that killing civilians is wrong and that the United States is more civilized than its terrorist adversaries.

By increasing the kinds of situations in which the United States might employ nuclear weapons, from launching them "against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack" to retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, the Bush nuclear posture dramatically lowers the threshold for using these weapons.

While President Bush talks of the need to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the Pentagon report stresses the need to develop a so-called mini-nuke to have new capabilities "to defeat emerging threats, such as hard and deeply buried targets" and "to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage."

The review does recommend reducing the number of operationally deployed nuclear weapons in the United States from 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200. However, reducing and destroying may not be the same thing. The number of warheads that would be dismantled and the number that would become part of the "active reserve stockpile" – a phrase worthy of Stanley Kubrick's fictional nuclear strategist, Dr. Strangelove -- has not been disclosed. This discrepancy drew immediate criticism from Russia and threatens to further delay nuclear reductions that have been stalled for almost a decade. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in a recent meeting with U.S. officials in Washington, asked, "Can such a reduction be considered a real one?"

The review suggests shifting U.S. strategic forces from the Cold War triad of ICBMs, bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles to a triad of forces that includes both non-nuclear and nuclear strike capabilities. In theory, any force structure that relies less on nuclear weapons and more on conventional bombs should be a step in the right direction.

But the practical impact of the Bush administration's emphasis on usable nuclear weapons and a costly missile-defense system will be to launch a new, multisided nuclear arms race.

The Bush administration has already announced its intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Its decision to find missions for nuclear weapons is arguably a violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well. The United States and other major nuclear powers signed the treaty, which compels them to take rapid steps to eliminate their nuclear arsenals in exchange for a pledge by non-nuclear nations to forswear the nuclear option.

Recognizing that they are already being targeted, countries like Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya are likely to try to get nuclear weapons in a hurry so as to have some semblance of deterrence against a U.S. attack. And Russia and China -- which also made the list -- are not likely to reduce or renounce their own nuclear arsenals in the face of this new threat. With Washington intent on a multibillion dollar missile-defense plan that could, if it worked, nullify some of their weapons, and with Washington showing a reckless readiness to use its nuclear weapons first, China and Russia will have every incentive to maintain and build up their nuclear stockpiles.

Commemorating six months since the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush said, "Terrorist groups are hungry for these weapons and would use them without a hint of conscience." The logical response to this fear should not be to build more nuclear weapons, but to take concrete steps toward eliminating nuclear weapons before they are used again in some future conflict.

Reagan signed off on the first major reductions of the nuclear age and warned that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. Bush, who thinks of himself as a Reagan disciple, is now spelling out new circumstances for fighting such a war. The security of our nation and the world would be far better served if Bush would follow Reagan's lead and sign off on the first major nuclear reductions of the 21st century.

_ . _

Michelle Ciarrocca is a research associate and William D. Hartung is a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute (www.worldpolicy.org) at the New School in New York City. Hartung is the author of "And Weapons for All" (HarperCollins, 1995). They can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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