Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine

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The Washington Post reports the Pentagon has drafted a revision to the doctrine for the use of nucear weapons to incorporate the Administration’s “preemption strategy.” That is, a doctrine for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

The draft, dated March 15, would provide authoritative guidance for commanders to request presidential approval for using nuclear weapons, and represents the Pentagon’s first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush preemption doctrine. A previous version, completed in 1995 during the Clinton administration, contains no mention of using nuclear weapons preemptively or specifically against threats from weapons of mass destruction.

When do they think the need to use nuclear weapons preemptively would arise?

The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using “or intending to use WMD” against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.

Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an “imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy.”

Has congress had anything to say about all of this?

[Continuing directly.] That and other provisions in the document appear to refer to nuclear initiatives proposed by the administration that Congress has thus far declined to fully support.

Last year, for example, Congress refused to fund research toward development of nuclear weapons that could destroy biological or chemical weapons materials without dispersing them into the atmosphere.

The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for “attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons.”

But Congress last year halted funding of a study to determine the viability of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator warhead (RNEP) — commonly called the bunker buster — that the Pentagon has said is needed to attack hardened, deeply buried weapons sites.

Hmmm. So what does congress have to say about this now?

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has been a leading opponent of the bunker-buster program, said yesterday the draft was “apparently a follow-through on their nuclear posture review and they seem to bypass the idea that Congress had doubts about the program.” She added that members “certainly don’t want the administration to move forward with a [nuclear] preemption policy” without hearings, closed door if necessary.

A spokesman for Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said yesterday the panel has not yet received a copy of the draft.

And what does Hans M. Kristensen — “a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council . . . who has specialized for more than a decade in nuclear weapons research” — have to add to the discussion?

“This doctrine does not deliver on the Bush administration pledge of a reduced role for nuclear weapons,” Kristensen said. “It provides justification for contentious concepts not proven and implies the need for RNEP.”

Washington Post: Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan

The Document: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

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