Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nuclear Attack Now Only Option in Some Cases, U.S. General Says

A couple of years ago, I learned about the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and signed up for its news updates at Global Security Newswire. Typically, these e-mail alerts alerts end up in an inbox for later reading.

Last Friday, and completely by chance, I opened the alert, and this headline popped out at me: Nuclear Attack Now Only Option in Some Cases, U.S. General Says

The full article is available here.

Why hadn’t I seen this alarming news anywhere else?

With trepidation I read the article, which opens with, “The United States has made little progress in developing a conventional ‘prompt global strike’ capability, leaving the military few options short of a nuclear attack in certain scenarios,” the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, James Cartwright, said yesterday.

James Cartwright is responsible for the global command and control of U.S. strategic forces, including full spectrum global strikes, space operations, computer network operations, information operations, strategic warning, integrated missile defense, global Department of Defense Architecture Framework, and specialized expertise to the joint warfighter.

On March 8, Cartwright testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Committee that a major threat must be addressed at intercontinental ranges immediately, and there is no option except for a nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

Having read several of Cartwright’s speeches (a recent one is available here) in conjunction with the March 9 Global Security Newswire article, it was clear that the startling pronouncement regarding a nuclear attack as the only option is intended to put pressure on members of Congress to approve placement of conventional warheads on Trident missiles now armed with nuclear weapons.

According to the February 2 Global Security Newswire alert, “Critics of the plan argued that converted Tridents could be mistaken for nuclear weapons and produce an atomic response from nations such as China and Russia.”
Whether the announcement that a nuclear attack is the only option currently available was intended to prepare us for the eventuality of using nuclear weapons or to pressure Congress into a plan that would replace nuclear weapons with conventional weapons on missiles, I expect the media to cover this story.


steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...


Steve, Bonnie's friend, here.

After I posted, I realized it was way way too long. Here's the short version.

Bonnie sent me a link to your blog, which is how I'm here. Very interesting stuff!

Your topic for the day -- the atomic strategy of the US -- reminded me of the cold war. Your title, "Nuclear Attack Now Only Option in Some Cases" far from being unusual, actually sums up the official policy of the US and the NATO nations throughout Europe during the cold war: the overwhelming hordes of Russian conventional armies (and now I'm sure the same people would say Chinese armies) can only be kept at bay with nukes.

In fact, if there were no cases in which nukes are the only option, there would be no strategic justification for them at all -- which is what more and more people have come to believe over the past few decades. However, amongst those in the US who plan for Armageddon this is still a relatively heretical idea.

I searched for a typical expression of the 1950s nuclear deterence concept and found this sterling example on the Department of State website:


about official US and NATO opposition to a Polish proposal to keep nukes out of Central Europe - in 1957. Interesting reading.

Gail Jonas said...

Steve, I agree that using nuclear weapons is, and always has been, on the table. Yet it doesn't appear to me that the public gets many reminders of this.

As I read Cartwright's speeches, he repeatedly spoke of a nuclear attack as an unacceptable option.

However, his message to Congress is that you'd better pass the conversion to conventional warheads on the Trident missiles....or else.

Thanks for taking the time to post a thoughtful comment.