Monday, September 12, 2005


The Bush administration wants to use nukes on terrorists. According to a draft [PDF] of their "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" which has been leaked to the internet, the US should aim to deter not just governments, but also "nonstate (non-government) actors" (terrorists), from using WMDs - and that

deterrence may be directed at states that support [terrorists'] efforts as well as the terrorist organization itself.

And if deterrence fails, "the United States must be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary". So, if the ultimate nightmare happens, and a terrorist cell gets its hands on a black-market bomb and manages to detonate it, the US proposes to nuke some random country as revenge. The insanity of this policy, in a world where terrorists are actively trying to provoke a "war of civilisations" between Islam and the West, ought to be obvious to all.

As for the idea of deterring terrorist organisations, the logical flaw is right there in the Joint Chiefs' own list of "what the opposing actor must believe" if deterrence is to be successful: that they have something left to lose. That works on governments, if you don't back them into a corner - but on people willing to blow themselves up? Again, it is simply insanity to believe that people who are willing to die and who show no concern whatsoever for innocent lives can be deterred by threatening to kill them a million times over. It's insanity to believe they can be deterred in any way whatsoever. Instead, you need to focus on finding and catching them - not on threatening to murder even more bystanders purely for revenge's sake.


I don't know what's more dangerous. A nuclear bomb in a suitcase with no returan address or George Bush.

Posted by Stephanie : 9/12/2005 12:13:00 AM

Bush. Terrorists don't have nukes (at least as far as we know - but the fact that one hasn't gone off anywhere is an encouraging sign); he does. And he wants to actually play with his toys.

Quite apart from the ethics of threatening nuclear collective punishment, this policy is simply stupid. It positively encourages people to think of the US as an evil empire which rules by fear; at minimum it makes it politically impossible for other governments to cooperate with the US - and it may actively encourage terrorism, or at least the passive support necessary for terrorists to operate. It's grossly counterproductive - but that's what happens when you make policy with your dick rather than your brain.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/12/2005 12:56:00 AM

9/11 caused by Sunni extremists. No Iraqi involvement. An implied reason for attacking Iraq.

Hypothetical terrorist incident caused by Sunni extremists. No Iranian involvement likely. An implied reason for nuking Iran.

President Bush is not really concerned with reacting to actual attacks. They are just political cover so he can move down the neo-con target list.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2005 04:14:00 AM

1) It is a mistake to think terrorists are just insane.

They dont want the outside world to mobilize they just want the islamic world to mobilize - rather like germany in world war two while the other countries were relitively idle. Remember they want to win the clash of civilizations and there is no potential victory in having all of your people killed by nuclear weapons.

Anyway - the islamic terrorists in particular are trying to bless you with authoriarian islam not just hurt you - so everyone dying is a defeat for them as much as for you.

2) if the US starts geting hit by nukes expect rationality to go out the window.

Posted by Genius : 9/12/2005 07:38:00 AM

That is so horrible. Let's hope for all of our sakes the US turns away from Bush and these sorts of policies.

Posted by Amanda : 9/12/2005 08:38:00 AM

For heaven's sake, did you actually read the bloody thing? Or just the headlines? And may I remind you how grateful most of the western world was for the two occasions when the US has actually used nuclear weapons?

- fuddrucker01

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2005 12:43:00 PM

Genius: I agree, it is a mistake to believe that terrorists are insane. They have goals, and they pursue rational plans to achieve them. However, we should also remember that those who murdered 3000 people four years ago were not afraid to die in pursuit of those goals, and in light of this, the idea that terrorist organisations could themselves be deterred makes no sense.

Fuddrucker: yes, I did. While I don't like nuclear weapons, I think that deterrence has generally worked in the past. But it doesn't follow that it will also work against non-state actors.

As for the past, even if the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable, it would not follow that what the US is proposing here is.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/12/2005 01:50:00 PM

"how grateful most of the western world was for the two occasions when the US has actually used nuclear weapons" ?!
The world was grateful the war ended. The nukes (particularly the first.. the second was rather more gratuitous) were the (small) final chapter of a massive conventional war.
The elation felt at the end of hostilities doesn't mean there weren't also severe misgivings at the dropping of the bombs.
That's a helluva lot different than saying the world was grateful that nuclear weapons were used.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/12/2005 02:41:00 PM