Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

America’s Nukes

Posted by Gerald on June 22, 2007

The Atlantic has an article in the newest issue dealing with America’s nuclear arsenal and the growing possibility of a new arms race.  The article details how America’s nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities have improved since the end of the Cold War.  US missiles are much more accurate than their Cold War predecessors.  B-2 bombers give more flexibility to the delivery of weapons.  US warheads are much more powerful now (for example, the article notes that most of the Navy’s nuclear submarines have been re-equipped with the more accurate Trident II missiles and most of those missiles carry 455 kiloton warheads in place of older 100 kiloton warheads.)  There has also been extensive research into non-nuclear weapons with increased yields.  China, meanwhile, has about 80 warheads and only about 16 missiles capable of hitting targets in the US – and those are slow-to-launch liquid fuel missiles.

The authors argue that this has created a huge strategic imbalance with the Chinese and that the imbalance creates a real temptation for a US administration facing a confrontation with China to take very aggressive action.  US “counterforce” capabilities mean it is possible to launch a pre-emptive strike that could destroy China’s entire ICBM arsenal while inflicting relatively minimal casualties (perhaps as low as 6000 people.)  The desire of the Chinese to even this imbalance creates the possibility for an arms race and increasing tension between the US and China.  The question then becomes whether continuing to maintain this sort of coercive capacity when dealing with the Chinese is worth the distrust and tension its existence will create.  Thus, might it be worth lessening the US advantage in hopes of easing future tension?

I found two things mildly terrifying as I read this article.  First, our beloved Vice-President (from his position of NOT being in the Executive Branch) has been harping on the fiendish Chinese menace for awhile now.  Add this to the temptations that the article’s authors mentioned (pre-emptive strikes, etc…), and all I can do is pray that there won’t be any problems with China during his watch.

The other thing, the one that REALLY that terrifies me, is how all of this fits with the “Bush Doctrine” – i.e., that the US stands ready to smash anyone we suspect might become a threat someday.  A frightening picture starts to emerge.

The immense military capacity under the administration’s control, and the temptation to use it for “clean” strikes.

The administration’s promotion of a doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The administration’s frequently demonstrated lack of concern with international law, or even Constitutional restraint.

The willingness of those surrounding the President to use war as a tool for domestic political advancement.

The evangelical certainty these men have in their own rectitude.



One Response to “America’s Nukes”

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