Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stranger than fiction

In the previous post, I brought up the subject of the Indo-American nuclear agreement, one that would allow unfettered development of nuclear weapons by India. And that discussion brought me to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and their report on the state of U.S nuclear forces, 2006. Reading this document is truly a through the looking glass experience. Firstly, a discussion on the composition of the US arsenal is presented, followed by a section on "new war plans."
New war plans. The Defense Department is upgrading its nuclear strike plans to reflect new presidential guidance and a transition in war planning from the top-heavy Single Integrated Operational Plan of the Cold War to a family of smaller and more flexible strike plans designed to defeat today's adversaries. The new central strategic war plan is known as OPLAN (Operations Plan) 8044. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Meyers described some of the planning changes in April 2005 Senate testimony: "[U.S. Strategic Command] has revised our strategic deterrence and response plan that became effective in the fall of 2004. This revised, detailed plan provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies."

One member of the new family is CONPLAN 8022, a concept plan for the quick use of nuclear, conventional, or information warfare capabilities to destroy--preemptively, if necessary--"time-urgent targets" anywhere in the world. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an Alert Order in early 2004 that directed the military to put CONPLAN 8022 into effect. As a result, the Bush administration's preemption policy is now operational on long-range bombers, strategic submarines on deterrent patrol, and presumably intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The entire document describes a world that is as surreal as it is Strangelovian. But now onto a the ICBMs:
ICBMs. In 2005, the Pentagon completed the retirement of the MX Peacekeeper ICBM, after almost 20 years of service. The missile's long and controversial history stretches back to the 1970s, when officials proposed many elaborate basing schemes to try and prevent a supposed "window of vulnerability" from increasing numbers of accurate Soviet ICBMs. By 1979 the program called for the deployment of 200 missiles, hidden among 4,600 shelters (one missile in each cluster of 23 shelters), in a kind of mobile shell-game spread over approximately 40,000 square miles of Utah and Nevada. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan canceled that basing scheme and cut the number of missiles to 100, to be placed in Minuteman missile silos, tacitly conceding that the vulnerability problem could not be solved or never existed in the first place. Two years later, Congress limited deployment to 50 missiles. The first 10 missiles, located at Warren Air Force Base (AFB), Wyoming, were declared operational on December 22, 1986, with the full force of 50 on alert two years later. The Pentagon phased out the MX over a three-year period beginning in October 2002; it deactivated the last missile on September 19, 2005. In the end, billions of dollars were expended to rectify an imaginary strategic vulnerability.
Who is not reminded of George C. Scott's crazed rant about "mine shaft gaps"?


Blogger Matt Phillips said...

Well, as long as they don't get to see the big board...

But, however disturbing the specific instance of it may be, a closer relationship with India is a good thing. We need a two-tier approach to internationalism. Yes, keep working with the U.N. to try to get the lawless to observe international law. Concurrently, make common cause with the world's democracies to make our best values the world's values.

10:44 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Hi Matt,

Yes, indeed, this is the noble prescription and I agree whole heartedly.

But such an agenda is difficult to apprehend, when the US embraces brutal dictators such as Karimov in Uzbekistan, doesn't much fuss about the occasional military coup (Fiji, Thailand), reacts aggressively to democratic outcomes it finds unpalatable (Hamas) and further radicalizes the population with harsh sanctions and, of course, openly defies the UN itself even as it demands others abide it.

Best results will come when the US begins to actually behave in the way it always talks about.

12:36 PM  

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