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The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time for Change

By wiredog in Technology
Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:01:28 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a left wing environmentalist organization, has reconstructed the United States Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP), which is the U.S. nuclear war plan. The report is a set of 5 PDF files running about 5.5 megs total, a slide show with target locations, fallout clouds, and fatalities, and an executive summary.


They have created a nuclear war analysis model based upon the ArcView Geographic Information System software. Using this model, and a database of weapons and targets, they have analyzed two scenarios of a possible nuclear strike against Russia:

  • A major counterforce attack on Russian nuclear forces.
  • A countervalue attack on Russian cities.
The counterforce attack would kill 8 to 12 million, the countervalue would kill 50 million.

The executive summary contains 6 recommendations.

  1. Unilaterally reduce U.S. nuclear forces and challenge Russia to do the same.
  2. Clarify the U.S. relationship with Russia and reconcile declaratory and employment policy.
  3. Abandon much of the secrecy that surrounds the SIOP and reform the process.
  4. Abolish the SIOP as it is currently understood and implemented.
  5. Create a contingency war planning capability.
  6. Reject the integration of national missile defense with offensive nuclear deterrent forces.
The report shows, in some detail, the devastating effects that a very small number of weapons could have. This, I think, bolsters the arguments in favor of developing missile defenses. We know the immediate effects that detonating a weapon has on the people at ground zero, this report also shows the downwind effects. It clearly shows that a missile defense system that would stop 10-20 warheads from reaching the US would be very beneficial. Certainly there is no proposed system that could handle a massive first strike, that's what the doctrine of massive retaliation is for. A system that could handle an accidental launch, or a small launch from , would give the US an option other than launch on warning. Launch on warning almost guarantees that an attempted limited strike, accidental launch, or misinterpreted launch (we see what looks like a missile, it's actually a satellite going up, don't laugh, it's happened) will result in a massive second strike.

I find it interesting that the NRDC modeled US strikes against Russia, but not the reverse. Doing that, of course, would work towards convincing people to support missile defense, which the NRDC doesn't want to do.

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The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time for Change | 83 comments (70 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
I know K5 has been slow... (2.33 / 9) (#1)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:38:17 AM EST

...but 12 years behind?

Play 囲碁
First paragraph of the report (3.33 / 3) (#8)
by DeHans on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:42:20 AM EST

"This June 2001 report from NRDC's nuclear program offers an independent assessment of the U.S. nuclear war planning process and the assumptions and logic of the SIOP, or Single Integrated Operational Plan, a Cold War relic that continues to guide U.S. nuclear war plans."

June 2001 is pretty recent imho.

[ Parent ]
An intriguing topic... (3.28 / 7) (#4)
by jd on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:12:28 AM EST

Given that a certain Russian President has now ordered a massive upgrade in their nuclear arsnal to counter the proposed US anti-ballistic missile system.

Things -might- calm down. But, there again, they might not. The dynamics have become wildly unstable again, and pride, greed and arrogance are not going to be factors in calming things down.

I don't know who cursed GWB to live in "Interesting Times", but he seems hell-bent on making that a reality.

Do not jump to conclusions (5.00 / 4) (#6)
by DeHans on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:36:58 AM EST

Given that a certain Russian President has now ordered a massive upgrade in their nuclear arsnal to counter the proposed US anti-ballistic missile system.

He hasn't. He has described a possible reactions to the unilatterally invalidating of the ABM treaty of 1972 by the U.S.:

"President Vladimir V. Putin said today that if the United States proceeded on its own to construct a missile defense shield over its territory and that of its allies, Russia would eventually upgrade its strategic nuclear arsenal with multiple warheads -- reversing an achievement of arms control in recent decades -- to ensure that it would be able to overwhelm such a shield."

"When we hear statements that the programs would go with us or without us, well, we cannot force anyone to do the things we would like them to," he said. "We offer our cooperation. We offer to work jointly. If there is no need that such joint work is needed, well, suit yourself."

[ Parent ]
Not even close (4.50 / 4) (#11)
by trhurler on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:45:00 AM EST

Putin said Russia would, if necessary, respond to a US missile shield with more missiles and multiple warhead missiles. However, this was in the context of talk of just ignoring the Russians rather than working with them, and it was also a load of hot air; Russia can't even afford to maintain the arsenal it has now, much less build it up. They're still not properly paying, feeding, and equipping their army, for crying out loud! The real threat is a buildup by China, which can actually afford to do such a thing. However, China isn't the reason we want missile defense anyway, and China will likely build up its nuclear arsenal regardless of what we do; that's a necessary part of the "superpower" status they crave so much.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Missile defense is a good idea, if... (2.85 / 7) (#13)
by golek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:14:56 PM EST

... the technology is shared among nuclear powers. It is imperative that the US work with the Russians in developing missile shield technology, and I think this is how we will see this play out. What good is it if the US has another option besides launch on warning, while Russia doesn't?

The US and its allies need to foster cooperation with Russia wherever possible. Unfortunately, recent efforts have not been very successful and fiascos like the NATO-Russia standoff in Kosovo don't help at all. I think Russia should be given greater influence within NATO if not full membership. Otherwise, the increasing level of distrust between the NATO and Russia could result in a new Cold War.

Disband NATO (3.33 / 3) (#35)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:42:18 PM EST

Russia and her sattelites are no longer a cridible threat to the European axis that NATO once comprised. The EU should be capable of dealing with any continental threat. There's no reason for NATO to continue.
That being said, I sincerely doubt Russia could afford an NMDS. They're rather expensive.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
NATO increasingly irrelavent, but... (3.75 / 4) (#36)
by golek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:26:42 PM EST

The EU should be capable of dealing with any continental threat. There's no reason for NATO to continue.

Assuming that disbandment of NATO would result in the withdrawl of all US forces stationed in Europe, I wonder if the EU would really get behind this. It would mean that they would have to allocate more funds to provide for their own defense instead of relying on US military power. Those funds will have to come from somewhere; either out of popular social programs or the pockets of EU taxpayers.

I sincerely doubt Russia could afford an NMDS. They're rather expensive.

The US and NATO would have to help them deploy it of course. IMHO, the costs associated with such a program would be greatly outweighed by the benefits to global security.

[ Parent ]

I've never seen any US troops around here... (none / 0) (#82)
by mikael_j on Wed Jul 04, 2001 at 12:11:13 PM EST

Assuming that disbandment of NATO would result in the withdrawl of all US forces stationed in Europe, I wonder if the EU would really get behind this. It would mean that they would have to allocate more funds to provide for their own defense instead of relying on US military power.
Just about all european countries rely on their own military for defense, 'nuf said...

/Mikael Jacobson
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
NATO (3.33 / 3) (#50)
by Merk00 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:51:19 AM EST

The original purpose of NATO is no longer relevant but there have been many attempts to find new missions for NATO. The number one thing that NATO accomplishes right now is keeping the majority of military powers in the world, on the same side. First of all, this prevents wars among those powers and second of all provides a large threat to any of the remaining military powers in the world that starting wars is generally not a good idea. So NATO does have importance even if it's not defending against any defined threat.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

NATO's mission (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by golek on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:34:53 PM EST

I agree with you that NATO can serve a purpose. If there is consensus among members that NATO should continue, and I think there will be, its mission will have to be fundamentally changed. If, as you say, that mission is presently to keep the majority of the world's military power on the same side, NATO is failing miserably. If that is the fundamental mission of NATO, why hasn't Russia been invited to join? Why does NATO extend such invitations to former Soviet satellites; a practice that increases anti-NATO paranoia in Moscow and widens the gulf between Russia and the West? It seems to me that NATO is having a difficult time letting go of its traditional mission. That traditional mission might be irrelavent now, but if they don't refocus, we may soon find that mission to be extremely relavent once again.

[ Parent ]
Why Russia isn't in NATO (3.66 / 3) (#61)
by Merk00 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:17:50 PM EST

An invitation hasn't been extended for four main reasons:

1) There's a gap of several countries between Russia and the rest of European NATO. NATO is moving eastward which could eventually overcome this but the likehood of NATO bringing in any state that would be difficult to access (which makes it harder to uphold NATO members to uphold their treaty obligations) is highly unlikely. It's not just Russia that won't get an invitation because of this.

2) Russia isn't that much of a military power anymore. Russia can barely pay their military. It's poorly trained and poorly equipped at the moment.

3) Russia would probably not join if invited. Russia has had several decades of distrust from the west and that would make Russia joining NATO all that much more difficult. Also, Russia would not appreciate joining under the US hegemony of NATO. Russia remembers her superpower status too much for that.

4) Russia has been guilty of many recent military human rights violations (namely Chechnya). Now, that's not to say that the other members of NATO have a sterling record or even in the recent past have one, but Russia's have been a bit too e and a bit too recent for them to join NATO.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Russia and NATO cont. (4.00 / 2) (#62)
by golek on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:17:24 PM EST

... the likehood of NATO bringing in any state that would be difficult to access (which makes it harder to uphold NATO members to uphold their treaty obligations) is highly unlikely

That didn't stop NATO from extending an invitation to Hungary, a country which shares no common border with any other NATO member. What about Turkey? The only other NATO member in the area is Greece, an enemy.

Russia isn't that much of a military power anymore.

They do still have a huge number of nuclear weapons capable of reaching any target in the world. Regardless of their present fiscal troubles, I think that makes them a substantial military power. NATO is now considering extending invitations to the Baltic states, none of which is especially known for their military strength and/or efficiency.

Russia has had several decades of distrust from the west and that would make Russia joining NATO all that much more difficult.

How does not extending the invitation while constantly extending itself right up to Russia's borders do anything but increase the level of distrust?

Russia would not appreciate joining under the US hegemony of NATO.

Good point. I agree. But at least a gesture would have been made that might conceivably foster more cooperation in the future.

Russia has been guilty of many recent military human rights violations.

Further alienation from the rest of Europe is not the best way to get Russia to improve their human rights record. Of course, that's just my opinion.

[ Parent ]

More on NATO (3.50 / 4) (#65)
by Merk00 on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:12:51 AM EST

Maybe I'm mistaken but I believe that invitations were not given but instead prospective members asked to join. That creates quite a different scenario.

I had forgotten about the fact that Hungary does not have a common border with any other NATO countries but Hungary is strategically located near the Balkan States, which, given their recent troubles, is very beneficial to NATO with the advantage of Hungary not likely going to war against one of the Balkans. Turkey is a member of NATO because of the Cold War. Turkey bordered the Soviet Union and could also bottle up the Black Sea fleet.

Nuclear weapons do not make a military power. They are powerful weapons true, but they aren't weapons anyone wants to use. I don't even think Russia would be stupid enough to use them.

I think I missed another reason NATO stays around: to keep the US involved in Europe. NATO was formed to keep US troops in Europe so that if the Soviet Union started a land war against western Europe, the US would have to participate. The same is true now but in a different sense. Basically, Europe, to some extent, wants the US to stay involved with Europe. They do not appreciate US methods or US hegemony, but they do want the US involved.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Alas the US hasn't been so friendly in times past (none / 0) (#83)
by bee on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 02:37:26 PM EST

I agree that the US should develop this technology and give it away to our nuclear allies, including Russia. The problem is, the rest of the world isn't going to trust the US to do this until it's actually done. Just look at the US's past history on things like encryption technology and computational power, both of which got to the ridiculous level before they were relaxed.

Not that this kind of thing has stopped the US before. Go back 20 years and read the rhetoric about Ronald Reagan and the Cold War; it'll sound awfully similar.

[ Parent ]

not a qualified, objective analysis (4.37 / 8) (#14)
by xdc on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:29:32 PM EST

What good are the NRDC's recommendations if they are based on such a one-sided view of nuclear war? And what makes them so confident they've reconstructed SIOP if it's shrouded in secrecy? And what makes an environmentalist organization qualified to propose nuclear attack offense and defense policy?

What they recommend looks idealistic rather than realistic. Idealism is a noble pursuit, but war/deterrence planning and equipping must be handled from a realistic perspective in order to be effective.

You might want to read (3.33 / 3) (#18)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:53:00 PM EST

Chapters 2 and three, especially the sections relating to USSTRATCOM, the MIDB, NTB, and JRADS.

Christ, when it comes to multi letter acronyms, the tech industry aint got nothin on the DoD.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]

While someone has to be biased (2.00 / 1) (#20)
by eean on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:13:19 PM EST

I don't think the NRDC has ever faniced itself as unbiased. If everyone was unbiased, decesions could never be made.

Perhaps you correct about war planning, but the NRDC is not exactly the State Department. So making an idealistic recommendation is OK as long as a pratical person makes the decesion.

[ Parent ]
one-sided view of nuclear war. (1.50 / 2) (#23)
by Mertamet on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:47:48 PM EST

That "one-sided view of nuclear war" line really made me chuckle. Are there still people who think that nuclear war is a good thing?

[ Parent ]
Please excuse my poor phrasing. (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by xdc on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:14:55 PM EST

Quoting from the beginning and end of this K5 story:
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a left wing environmentalist organization ... modeled US strikes against Russia, but not the reverse. Doing that, of course, would work towards convincing people to support missile defense, which the NRDC doesn't want to do.
That is what led me to make my admittedly poorly-phrased "one-sided view" remark. I do not advocate nuclear war, nor do I know of anybody who ever has.

[ Parent ]
Advocates of nuclear war (3.83 / 6) (#27)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:21:24 PM EST

The commander of the Strategic Air Command in the 50's and 60's, Curtis LeMay, was an advocate of nuclear war. Bamford's latest book, the books Dark Sun and Making of The Atomic Bomb, and several other recent works, have detailed how he actually lobbied the president for a first strike against the Soviet Union. He was a truly scary guy.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
Nuclear war, no, nuclear power, certainly (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:40:28 PM EST

I wouldn't advocate nuclear war; the conditions that would have made it advantageous even theoretically are long gone, exiting shortly after WWII. However, nuclear power is certainly something I'm an advocate of and that group is against. I don't think we need the arsenal we used to have, but I certainly want enough to dust China from the globe, or any other state that takes a potshot at the US. I'd recommend they follow similar practices if they can afford it. And I certainly would like to have some ability to reduce their capability, no matter how much it hurts their feelings...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
agreed (none / 0) (#80)
by SEAL on Tue Jul 03, 2001 at 10:18:20 PM EST

After a one-over on that report, it is obvious to me that they either made some glaring oversights, or intentionally left out things that were detrimental to their argument.

My background is from the USN side of things. Very few people have knowledge of the targeting packages sent out to our submarines. Reporters don't, I don't, and even the missile tech on the specific sub doesn't have that information. There's a laundry list of procedures for the weapons officer and CO / XO to follow when verifying a new target set sent to their boat. I can say with a great deal of certainty that this would not be found in unclassified sources.

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
[ Parent ]
I'm more interested... (2.50 / 4) (#17)
by Xeriar on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:51:24 PM EST

In what people from other countries (on Kuro5shin) would think of the US having an almost fully effective defense system in place (something only Russia or its more phallic states would have a hope of getting a warhead through).

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
Well... (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by Tatarigami on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:03:08 PM EST

Considering the fact that the US is foremost of any country in matters economic and military at the moment, you might just as well have a big target painted across the continent.

If I was in that position, I'd be watching the skies, too...

[ Parent ]
on the contrary (none / 0) (#78)
by atomic on Sun Jul 01, 2001 at 03:49:59 PM EST

What would a smaller, less powerful country have to gain from bombing the US, if "the US is the foremost of any country in matters economic and military at the moment"? This would be akin to a dwarf kicking a sleeping giant, and the giant stirring a bit in his sleep before rolling over onto it.


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX? that's kind of... ewww." -- mom.
[ Parent ]
Remember it is Missle Defense, not Nuclear Defense (3.00 / 7) (#19)
by eean on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:07:00 PM EST

One thing about MAD, depsite all it's shortcomings, is that it works. It has worked for the last 55 years. A Missile Defense will not work. The optimistic projections for success are 90%. As the report shows, 10% can do a lot. And really, an accidental launch? I think the treat of that is much less then the pressure for buidling more nuclear warheads that missile defense puts on countrys like China. Even if Missile Defense doesn't actually work, it will do that. So Missile Defense does a shoddy job of defense, but puts us closer to nuclear war.

And it would have to be very limited accidental strike for it to be handled by the theorized MD.

Where would we get a small launch from? North Korea, maybe, but they have trying to start peace despite George W. attempts to stop it. Iraq? I would be worried if I was in Israel, but I'm not. They havn't obtained intercontinental missiles yet. Terrorists are probably not going to use missiles.

And it is Missile Defense. There is no rule that nuclear bombs can only be on planes or missiles. Why not in a freight cargo? It wouldn't even have to go through customs and it could take out a whole costal city. Or perhaps it could be planted in a civilian plane.

So, while MD does encourage other nations to obtain more missiles so that they could overwhelm the system, there is no assurance that it actually works.

Accidental launches (4.57 / 7) (#22)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:23:18 PM EST

A few years ago the Russian early warning system saw the launch of a Norwegian weather rocket and interpreted it as a US SLBM launch. The Russians went on alert. Fortunately they figured it out before they launched their counter strike. There have been reports of the US early warning systems doing the same sort of thing. If there was a missile defense system that could handle 10-20 launches then the US wouldn't have to launch as soon as it detected an incoming strike of that size.

Launch on warning is neccessary in the abscence of effective defenses but extremely dangerous. If data is misinterpreted there are only a few minutes to correct the interpretation before the launch order goes out.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]

Why only 10 or 20? (3.50 / 2) (#52)
by eean on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:48:54 AM EST

If Russia or the USA thinks there is nuclear war, why would they only shoot 10 or 20 nuclear weapons?

[ Parent ]
10 or 20 (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by wiredog on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:06:19 PM EST

The limited system assumes that it is responding to the accidental launch of one missile, or <misc-rogue-nation> launching 3 or 4. It would also give some options if only one or two are seen heading in, so that when that weather rocket, or flock of geese, goes off course, we don't automatically launch under the use-or-lose system we have now.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
Please back this up (2.50 / 2) (#33)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:36:10 PM EST

The only other nation with ICBMs, Russia, hasn't been building more missiles and likely won't because they can't afford it, and, frankly, first strike isn't a concern in Russia anymore. China could conceivably build up an arsenal, but, once again, nuclear missiles are hideously expensive to build and ridiculously expensive to maintain, so I doubt we'd see a problem there. The US is standing down its nuclear arsenal, as well. I've never seen a single shred of evidence to support the unfettered arms race argument against an NMDS.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Simple (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by DeHans on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:53:19 AM EST

I've never seen a single shred of evidence to support the unfettered arms race argument against an NMDS.

At this moment, if the U.S. were to initiate a Nuclear attack on Russia (or China for that matter), the Russians can launch their missiles before the missiles from the U.S. strike. This is a large deterrent for a U.S. strike.

If the U.S. has an operational defense shield on the other hand, a counter strike would be stopped by the shield. In that case the Russian missiles form no deterrent on the U.S. to not fire their missiles. The only way to have that deterrent again, is to have missiles capable of bypassing the shield, or so much misilles that the shield is incapable to stop them all.

And that is why a unilaterally developed shield will result in a new arms race.

[ Parent ]
Arms Race (3.66 / 3) (#48)
by Merk00 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:46:19 AM EST

Everyone speaks of a large arms race occuring, but between who? If the US builds a defense shield and Russia starts to build more ICBMs, once the US finished the shield, what else is the US going to build? There's no reason to build more nukes in that case. So the "race" is a a bit one sided with everyone that's against the US building up and the US just sitting there after building their shield.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Why is that OK? (3.00 / 2) (#51)
by eean on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:46:23 AM EST

"race" is a a bit one sided with everyone that's against the US building up and the US just sitting there

Exactly. So the end result is a lot more nuclear weapons. Having a shield gives other nations a responibility to have more nuclear weapons so that the US can't bully them around. Perhaps race is not the best word for it.



[ Parent ]
I doubt it (3.66 / 3) (#56)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:32:43 PM EST

The only countries with adequate knowledge and capability to build up their missile bases and the interest to do so are Russia and China. India has not interest in hurting the US; they hate Pakistan. Now, Russia can't pay its army and its Navy, should it ever sally, would break the country financially. It can barely afford the missiles it has. It certainly won't be building any more, as the missiles it has are not sufficient for MAD, anyway, so there goes its need for such. A huge component of Russian MAD was its submarine force, which is largely not at sea anymore because they can't afford it. I really don't understand why Putin insists on pressing this issue; a war with the US is not something he need worry about at all.
Now, China will probably attempt to go toe to toe with the US on this one, but likely by building a NMDS of their own, not more weapons, as they don't even have as many as Russia right now and certainly can't assure MAD in an exchange. Once again, the enticement to build a huge arsenal of extremely expensive weapons isn't there, no matter what the US does.
Nuclear missiles require thousands of workers to maintain. They are ungainly, expensive, fragile, and fiddly. The rocket is, well, a rocket, and prone to failure. The fuel is caustic and cryogenic. The skin is so thin that if a ratchet were to be struck against it, it could very well cause an explosion. Modern high-efficiency warheads are unbelievably complex, with this thing doing that thing and striking that thing over there, all in a nanosecond. The things are hideously complex to build, and radioactives must constantly be refreshed. Deuterium and Tritium both decay over time, so any multi-stage bombs will have to be refilled every so often. Of course, radioactives and deuterium and tritium require enormous amounts of care in the handling. All of this adds up to levels of maintenance unequaled anywhere else on the planet. You can't just build a missile and put the button in. You need thousands of highly-skilled people to run the thing. That's the real reason neither China nor Russia wants us to build this thing; doing so would make their already insufficient missile stores even more insufficient, and neither has any plans of upgrading their force anytime soon. For the US, it is a chance to leapfrog the others in the historical game of one-upmanship that is what countries have been doing since the dawn of time.
Anyway, I believe both China and Russia to be in posession of more empty rhetoric than real threat.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Missiles (5.00 / 2) (#57)
by wiredog on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:00:19 PM EST

The fuel is caustic and cryogenic. The skin is so thin that if a ratchet were to be struck against it, it could very well cause an explosion

Modern ICBMs and SLBMs (SS-2x series, Minuteman, and Trident) are solid fueled. The rockets are very easy to maintain and also very robust.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]

"by building a NMDS of their own"? (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by _Quinn on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:04:29 PM EST

Don't you think that a part of the reason Russian and China are so enoumoursly pissed about US plans for a NMDS is that neither of them has the money or expertise to build one? Come on, it's questionable that the US has both!



-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
You're right (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:20:36 PM EST

Unfortunately, in the game of nuclear war, the weapons don't actually have to work; they merely need to pose a threat. However, since China is the only country with a comprehensive network capable of spotting and tracking B-2s, I wouldn't put it past their technical capability to build a crude NMDS. We're certainly not building a complex one...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
tracking b-2s? (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by _Quinn on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:58:01 PM EST

Do you have information on how they implemented this system? (Is it the `sychronized radar sites' idea which I first read about in a techno-thriller by Dale Brown?) I hadn't heard about it, so I'd like to know where you did. Thanks.

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
I believe it was on NPR (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:09:40 PM EST

Essentially, the idea is pretty simple: turn every transmitter in the country into a radar, put in a lot of little receivers and a large central processing station, and voila, you can tract a swallow's flight, let alone something like a B-2, which, like all other stealth craft merely has a low cross-section, not necessarily low-reflectivity (yes, I know there are elements of low-reflectivity in stealth design, but not enough to overcome multiple-source radar). What this means is that it is relatively trivial to note that there are seven hundred separate angles to which the return of a butterfly comes back, and a real butterfly wouldn't return like that, so one can assume such a locus is an actual stealth craft.
Perhaps this is what the book describes; I'm not familiar with it...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Yup. (4.00 / 2) (#67)
by _Quinn on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:15:54 PM EST

   That was pretty much the system he described, except he went on in some (probably ficticious) detail about how hard it was to make sure that the reciever didn't automagically squelch returns from different transmitters (synchronizing them) -- apparently radars throw away alot of the data they get as `uninteresting' -- and converting the multiple butterflies into one B-2 in close enough to realtime to provide uplink tracking to a SAM.

   Thanks.

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
The clever part (4.00 / 2) (#68)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:50:26 PM EST

The Chinese system appears to be source-independant; in other words, receivers track radio emissions, such as TV stations, as well as commercial and military radar installations independantly of them, so they develop a baseline of radio scatter, eliminating the need to try to find a particular frequency. If you have a sufficiently complex histogram or scatterplot of all radio emissions on all bands and use that as a baseline to compare incoming radiation to, you can make a tracking station that can't be found and will survive the loss of *all* its major radar broadcast stations, although at reduced effectiveness. This led my roommate in college to joke about the 'broken-door microwave-oven radar system', which is entirely feasible: have the populace break the doors on microwave ovens and shine them all over the sky, since its the backscatter you primarily need...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
But why India? (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by Just Swing It on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 08:19:27 PM EST

The only countries with adequate knowledge and capability to build up their missile bases and the interest to do so are Russia and China. India has not interest in hurting the US; they hate Pakistan.

That assumption is not quite correct. Here is a brief summary of why each nation acquired their arms:

  1. The US began their arsenal in order to not have to invade Japan to cause an end to World War II. It decided to rebuild its stockpile after WWII to make sure kept had an edge over the Soviet Union
  2. The Soviet Union built nukes because they feared the US nuclear policy. They began mutual assured destruction (MAD).
  3. The UK and France acquired arsenals to protect themselves against the Soviet Union in case the Soviets nuked them, and the US didn't want to get involved.
  4. Israel acquired nukes (from the US) to further assert its military superiority in the Middle East.
  5. PR China acquired nukes just in case Russia became an unfriendly neighbor.
  6. North Korea built nuclear missiles in case the US decided to nuke them for South Korea's sake.
  7. India acquired nukes not because they hate Pakistan, but because they're not on friendly ground with PR China.
  8. Pakistan built nukes to counter India, because India hates Pakistan more than they fear PR China.
  9. R China acquires nukes (from the US) to make sure PR China doesn't nuke them.
  10. Iraq acquires nukes because Israel has them.

You may ask What's the difference between PR China and R China? I only see one big thing named "China" on the map. PR China, The People's Republic of China, is the China we've come to know and (maybe not) love. It's communist government claims ownership of mainland China, along with a few coastal Islands, including Taiwan Island. It also claims to be its territory waters 200 miles off its coast. It cannot force its juristiction on Taiwan Island, but it still claims ownership.

R China, or the Republic of China, claims all that PR China does, along with present-day Mongolia. Their democratic government has control only of Taiwan Island.

When the communists were revolting in China, it owned all that R China now claims. The royal family fled to Taiwan Island, and claimed rule from there. The communists set up their government in mainland China, but had to give up Mongolia, because they could not maintain control of it. Eventually, the dynasty controlling Taiwan Island was replaced by the present democratic government.

The international community almost uniformly recognizes the communist government as the head of China and Taiwan Island. A handful of tiny nations recognize R China as governing Taiwan Island, but neither the mainland or Mongolia as being under their control.

China sees Taiwan as a "renegade province," and R China states it will unite with Beijing if Beijing adopts a democratically-elected government.
1/((sin x)^2*cos x) - (cos x) / (sin x)^2
[ Parent ]

That's a bit naive.. (4.50 / 2) (#77)
by DeHans on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 04:27:06 AM EST

If the US builds a defense shield and Russia starts to build more ICBMs, once the US finished the shield, what else is the US going to build?

Picture this scenario:
  • America builds shield
  • Russia and China upgrade to Cluster Nukes which will bypass the shield
  • America improves shield
  • Russia and China improve cluster technology, number of missiles, stealth technique, whatever
Repeat last two items 'till infinity. An arms race is not only two sides increasing the number of arms, it can also consist of continually upgrading defense and ofense capabilities.

Apart from that, how much money do you think is needed before the States have an operational shield?? In the defense budget shown yesterday by the governement $600 billion is allready reserved for the shield. That money cannot go to health care, education, wellfare, whatever.

And *that* is the real trouble with an arms race, less money to spend on the important stuff.

[ Parent ]
ICBMs (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by Merk00 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:46:41 AM EST

In addition to Russia, China and India also have ICBMs. China got them from a combination of buying from the Russians and stealing from the US and India got them from buying from Russia.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Expensive is not much of a deterrent (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by eean on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:07:06 PM EST

Russia pretty much destroyed their economy by building up the military so much, including ICBMs. This makes it hard to justify the claim that expense is going to stop nuclear proliferation.

And no, you are correct that Russia will not be building up their supply of nuclear weapons since they already have enough to overwhelm anything we build. This doesn't mean, however, that having a missile shield will not be bad for our relations with Russia.

China I see as the biggest threat. They are going to be sending a person in space pretty soon, I don't see why they wouldn't want to build ICBMs. Especially because the missile shield could (albeit not very well) protect the US from their small arsenal.

Also, I find it interesting that you didn't ask about nuclear weapons, but ICBMs. In my mind, any nuclear weapons are bad, no matter how they are delivered. I think a missile shield could led to development and building of alternatives to missiles, as I mentioned in the parent message.

Instead of building a defense shield we should stop pushing around non-nuclear nations, like Yugoslavia. If you look at the Kosovo bombings in the context of the rest of our foreign policy, which often looks the other way at humanitarian abuses, it was random. This tells the world that they had better get weapons of mass destruction, or else.

What kind of evidence are you looking for? If I was a leader of another country, I would want to be able to overwhelm any shield the US puts up. What's the evidence that it would lead to nuclear proliferation?

[ Parent ]
We agree on one thing (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:21:56 PM EST

The US does need to quit pushing around foreign nations. That is one thing I can easily agree with you on. What other countries do in their spare time isn't any concern of ours.
What I'm looking for is concrete evidence that building a missile shield will lead to nuclear war, as was intimated by the previous post. Proliferation, possibly, but I doubt it. Even we can't afford to build up our missile arsenal.
I agree that a NMDS won't help a bit against a suitcase bomb, and, to a certain extent will be more of a security blanket, but it would reduce the chances of an accidental launch, wherein the US sees a launch, doesn't know what it is, and worries it might have to retaliate. This has happened quite a bit. However, a shield would allow the US to relax unless it was a massive launch, which can be none other than a nuclear strike, anyway...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Rhetoric (2.50 / 2) (#69)
by briandunbar on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 12:50:17 AM EST

To your comment that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) works (and thus, that because it has worked it will always work)

MAD requires that each side maintains excellance in it's systems. I'm willing to bet that the US will have continued excellance in their systems, but I'm not willing to bet my life on it, and I'm more than not willing to bet my life that a Russian system will continue to function as well as it always has.

Keep this in mind. 100 years after the French produced Napolean, they produced the generals who designed the Maginot Line.


Feed the poor, eat the rich!
[ Parent ]

Maginot Line (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by anonymoushero on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 03:02:26 AM EST

I'm sick of seeing the Maginot line denigrated.

It *worked*.

Even with new blitzkreig tactics, Hitler had to go all the way around it. The failure was in geopolitics, and not extending the line against a friendly country (that would be overrun).

Granted, it was a fixed defense, and eventually would have been succumbed to changes in technology, but it worked for the purpose it was designed for - and probably would have worked for another 50 years without the added stimulus to military technology that WWII provided.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
MAD Only For Known Opponents (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by SEWilco on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 10:32:10 PM EST

MAD only works when you know all your opponents and can realistically assure them of destruction.
  • MAD does not work against a country which believes it can survive a nuclear attack. Would a Himalayan government consider nuclear weapons as much of a threat as the government of a flat country that was 30 miles/kilometers across?
  • MAD does not work against a country which is not considered a threat.
  • MAD does not work against idiocy or madness.
  • MAD assumes governments make reasonable decisions. Is there anyone who believes that governments always make reasonable decisions?
  • MAD also does not work against a nuclear truck bomb in Denver, particularly if one cannot find who did it.


[ Parent ]
interesting anecdote (3.50 / 8) (#24)
by cory on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:48:26 PM EST

I have a former boss who, in a previous life, worked for a certain government agency that was concerned with security on a national level, though he never did say which agency. Anyway, one of the tasks he worked on there was to work how to clean up the effects of a nuclear strike against a major city. He quit after he realized he was making suggestions about how best to dispose of over a million corpses in a month (when you get that many dead bodies laying around, diseases like dysentary become more of a threat than fall out). He said the nightmares just weren't worth the salary.

Cory


Probably FEMA (3.66 / 3) (#29)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:38:22 PM EST

That's the sort of stuff they do. Plan for disaster recovery. I think Civil Defense was moved from DoD to FEMA some years ago. They are one of the lead agencies in preparing for terrorist attacks.

They have a big facility, the Mount Weather EAC, between Winchester and Leesburg in Virginia. It was a secret facility until a 727 flew into the mountain. Must make the people near there happy, having a primary target in the back yard.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]

Offensive vs. defensive capabilities (4.11 / 9) (#28)
by lordsutch on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:25:48 PM EST

One thing that is important in understanding the SIOP (and nuclear balance-of-power) is the difference between offensive and defensive capabilities. Offensive capabilities are believed to destabilize deterrence, while defensive capabilities stabilize deterrence. However, the definitions of "offensive" and "defensive" capabilities are not intuitive.
  • Offensive: counterforce strike capability; defensive capabilities against countervalue strikes.
  • Defensive: countervalue strike capability; defensive capabilities against counterforce strikes.
The theory of MAD rests on the need for a nation targeted in a first strike to be able to mount a credible countervalue response. If the USSR were able to eliminate all of the U.S.'s countervalue weapons in a first strike, the U.S. could not have mounted a credible response.

Thus, a defensive weapon preserves the ability to destroy the opponent's cities and means of production, while an offensive weapon promotes the destruction of that capability.

Whole graduate courses have been taught on this stuff, but it is important background for understanding why a working, 100% effective missile defense system would almost certainly lead to a (very-one-sided) nuclear war.

Linux CDs. Schuyler Fisk can sell me long distance anytime.

Well said (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by golek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:11:47 PM EST

The theory of MAD rests on the need for a nation targeted in a first strike to be able to mount a credible countervalue response.

Well said. To add to your point, what we have now is a high level of redundant offensive weapons systems (that is, weapons that can be used in an offensive capacity) which serve to make a successful first strike impossible. Wouldn't it be a good thing if we could replace some of those offensive systems with systems that are exclusively defensive in nature?

... a working, 100% effective missile defense system would almost certainly lead to a (very-one-sided) nuclear war.

If that system were shared with the other side in exchange for agreements that reduce existing stockpiles of offensive weapons while keeping each side's deterrent intact and credible, wouldn't we all be better off? Moreover, such a system, if shared, would give everyone protection from an accidental war, protection we now lack.

[ Parent ]

Logical discontinuation (2.50 / 2) (#32)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:32:28 PM EST

You start by stating that defensive strikes are essentially countervalue; fair enough, requires a large number of large-yield area-effect weapons. Then you say offensive capability is largely counter-force, requiring, of course, even more smaller weapons in the mix to hit hardened bunkers.
Then you posit that defensive weapons preserve the ability to destroy the opponent's cities while offensive weapons promote the destruction of that capability, which is, I think, somewhat incorrect. Then you proceed to conclude that a missile defense system would result in a nuclear war very quickly, which is a total logical discontinuation.
First of all, defensive weapons do not preserve the ability to destroy, they offer the ability to destroy. The defense is in the destruction. Defensive weapons are on submarines and in hardened bunkers. They are not first-strike weapons. Offensive weapons do promote the destruction of that capability, though rather badly.
However, having a nuclear missile defense system will not logically result in a nuclear war. There is still no reason to launch on the side that does not have the system for the quite simple reason that one thing MDS does is significantly reduce first-strike capability, while current generations can't reduce MAD significantly. Hence, the enemy, at least in the current system, still has a defensive postuer; he simply has no more offensive posture, thus ensuring the owner of the MDS more security.
Should the MDS be 100% effective, it will render the enemy's entire arsenal useless. This is a good thing, as it increases the owner's MAD capability significantly, as well as providing first-strike capability, essentially giving them complete dominance in the world of ICBMs. Suitcase bombs are still a problem...
Now, to look at the US, who is trying to build such a system: the US had nuclear first-strike capability right after WWII, and could have easily used it to gain power but did not. Whether or not others believe it, the very real reason the US wishes to build an MDS is not an interest in ruling the world; that is easier through the dollar than the bomb, anyway; it is an interest to improve the security of the American people. An MDS will reduce threat to the US at the expense of the enemy, whomever that may be. I, personally, am satisfied that the US will not use it to engage in first-strike, as the US has had plenty of opportunity to do so already and has not done so.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Cold war tactics (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by bored on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:37:27 PM EST

the US had nuclear first-strike capability right after WWII, and could have easily used it to gain power but did not.

This does not mean that very serious consideration was given to using it before the US lost the edge. John Von Neumann, was apparently a big advocate of early/first strike plan. Pick up a copy of Prisoner's Dilemma/John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb. Part of the reason the US probably didn't attack was the assumption that more time was needed before the issue could/should be pressed. First the US wanted to get more bombs, apparently for quite a few years the number of useable bombs was in the single digits. Secondly everyone thought it was going to take decades for the soviets to duplicate the work. Apparently when the soviets tested their first bomb there was a big push to force the issue. Of course at that point we apparently still had less than 100 bombs. With yields they way they were in the early 50's a 100 bombs ware significantly less that what would have been required to guarantee absolute victory.



[ Parent ]
Such a war (2.66 / 3) (#42)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:48:53 PM EST

This was never a realistic possibility. Witness McArthur's attempt to use the bomb in Korea and subsequent rebuffing. At that point, the strategic imperative existed, the ability certainly existed, yet the president chose not to. That fringe groups endorsed the idea of bombing Russia as a first-strike is not in dispute; however, the US at large would not stomach such an undertaking. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one would be hard pressed to even find air crews willing to drop the bomb without serious provocation. Japan had provided such provocation.
It is interesting to note that we used our two bombs in WWII. We could and did make more rather quickly, but after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we had no more...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
2 quick bombs... (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by anonymoushero on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 02:57:58 AM EST

Not that interesting.

Say you're constructing some new engineering marvel that's completely untested. Say an alien contact device from plans beamed down from space (Contact).

What do you do?

You build two, or start the process to build two. Second one being only slightly behind the first in schedule, and hopefully learning enough from mistakes, or new theory to actually work. It's always a bonus if you can get the first one to actually work.

In the case of H&N maybe they had three on rack, or H was the 2nd one, and N was proof-of-concept for a new type of bomb.

There's an interesting list of underground tests we did on bombs from 50s -> 1993 on one of the government servers. In Nevada alone we had ~800-900 tests over those years. And in a book by one doctor (I can find the link if anyone's interested), he claimed that everyone in the lower-48 had been exposed to enough radiation fallout to equal 1-3 medical X-rays over the course of 1-2 years. Some sections of Utah and other places had enough to eventually win damages versus the government, and if you were drinking milk from some of the land areas where boviness were bio-concentrating those toxins... well, sucks to be you.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Effect of MDS on opponent's arsenal (3.00 / 3) (#45)
by sigwinch on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:29:05 AM EST

Should the MDS be 100% effective, it will render the enemy's entire arsenal useless.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. In that case the enemy would just pack their warheads in an activatable material such as cobalt and irradiate the whole world. The only use for a unilateral missile defense is to handle a limited or accidental missile attack.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

huh? (3.75 / 4) (#46)
by physicsgod on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:40:53 AM EST

Is it just me or wasn't one of the assumptions we've been operating under the last 50+ years is THE OTHER GUY DOESN'T WANT TO COMMIT SUICIDE! That's the whole point behind MAD, if you attack us you might as well aim your nukes at your own cities.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Re: huh? (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by sigwinch on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:03:12 PM EST

Is it just me or wasn't one of the assumptions we've been operating under the last 50+ years is THE OTHER GUY DOESN'T WANT TO COMMIT SUICIDE!
When you're facing 2000 incoming MIRVs, there's no such thing as suicide. You are definitely going to be destroyed within 30 minutes. The only question is whether you can destroy the opponent. My point was that even with unilateral perfect missile defense, MAD still exists, because both sides can still destroy each other. Here's the scenario:
  1. U.S. has perfect missile defense.
  2. Russia has no missile defense.
  3. U.S. launches preemptive first strike against Russia.
  4. Russia detects inbound missiles and determines they will be annhilated.
  5. Russia detonates cobalt bombs.
  6. Russia is killed by cobalt bombs and inbound nukes.
  7. U.S. is killed by fallout.
A missile defense system doesn't fundamentally change the attempted conquest gambit: MAD is still as strong a deterrent as ever.

At the same time, a missile defense system provides increased stability. It allows its owner to ride through a limited strike, as from an accidental launch, or from the Dr. Strangelove scenario. If you have an MDS, you can afford to always ride through a limited missile attack as a matter of policy, which is a very good thing.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

You ignore one detail (3.25 / 4) (#37)
by trhurler on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:46:27 PM EST

Your conclusion, that "a working, 100% effective missile defense system would almost certainly lead to a (very-one-sided) nuclear war", has a very serious problem.

Namely, it is only true if the two "sides" have no trust in each other whatsoever; the premise you conveniently neglect to mention about MAD theory is that it was conceived in a time when the perceived relationship between the US and the former USSR was one of implacable hostility and complete mistrust.

The US could have a perfect missile shield(which is not what it is proposing to develop and deploy, that being just as well since it is impossible,) and there would still be no war. Why? Because the US doesn't want a nuclear war, and doesn't presently have any real worry about anyone else starting one either.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Geh (4.57 / 19) (#38)
by trhurler on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:56:02 PM EST

I just looked through this report. Not only is it unlikely to actually look much like the actual SIOP, but more importantly, they deliberately make assumptions that are ridiculous in order to make things look worse than they are.

For instance, their slide show includes the entire population of Moscow being wiped out in a counterforce strike against a nearby missile field. Too bad they had to assume everyone in the city was outside and stayed outside during the attack, and too bad they had to assume the weapons deployed against the missile field were dirtier than any the US has ever fielded. Details, details... (In fact, for those who don't know, the US has and continues to improve upon the cleanest nuclear weapons in the world, because as you decrease residual radiation, you both decrease the amount of fuel you need moderately and also increase yield. This is a sort of "efficiency" metric for nuclear weapons. Our modern weapons are cleaner than any of the projections these idiots are using would suggest, much less their real doom-and-gloom figures.)

For instance, their "plans" are the old Eisenhower style "massive attack" plans, rather than the detailed "hit them where it hurts and leave as much else alone as possible" plans of recent decades.

For instance, their fallout fields are based on ridiculous models that assume that radioactive fallout is all of a kind; in truth, the rate of decrease of exposure with respect to distance from detonation is a lot higher than their projections indicate, because most of the most dangerous fallout is also the heaviest, and settles out much more quickly than the rest. The end result is that even their ridiculous assumptions stated above would not wipe out the whole population of Moscow; in order to do that, we'd have to literally use a combination of air and groundburst weapons on the city itself, and even then a few would survive.

I could go on, but I've already demonstrated that these people are out to further an agenda rather than to tell the truth, so why bother?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

"Clean" bombs (tangent warning!) (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by bunsen on Tue Jul 03, 2001 at 05:45:14 PM EST

While it is true that modern nuclear weapons are much cleaner in and of themselves than older designs, the fallout from a burst at or near the ground (which would be necessary to knock out most missile silos) doesn't depend all that much on the dirtiness of the bomb. Most of the radioactive material in fallout comes from neutron activation of dust and soil near the blast, which is then sucked up by strong convection currents. Not very much can be done to reduce the neutron emissions of a bomb without correspondingly reducing its yield, so a clean bomb can produce nearly as much fallout as a dirty bomb of the same yield. In addition, most of that dust is composed of light elements, which won't settle as quickly as heavy fission fragments.

I'm not saying the report isn't biased, or that their science is perfect (especially the bit about everyone being outside). I think my point was that both arguments must be taken with a significant amount of granular NaCl.

---
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

Someone set up us a bomb? (1.61 / 18) (#39)
by Orion Blastar on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:42:12 PM EST

All your nuke are belong to us!
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
boy, talk about conflicted. (3.00 / 2) (#44)
by physicsgod on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:59:55 AM EST

Noone is more sick of AYB than I am, but you have to admit this *is* on-topic, if at least tangentally.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Strangelove (2.33 / 3) (#72)
by marx on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 07:07:02 AM EST

I just watched Dr. Strangelove on TV. It makes this whole discussion seem very obsolete. If you haven't seen it, see it!

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here - this is the War Room!"

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.

Why this is bunk. (4.46 / 13) (#73)
by labradore on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 04:13:28 PM EST

There are a number of reasons that the NRDC's conclusions are wrong.

  1. The analysis is based on the assumption that enviornmentalists are good military planners. While it is true that precise aim is not necessary when annihilating your enemy with nuclear-type weapons, military strategy is best left to those who have devoted their lives to studying and preparing for war. The correct priority is winning and surviving a war, not saving the earth.
  2. The report's authors (and most anti-anti-missile defense advocates) assume that a single enemy will attack and that the enemy will limit his attack to the use of nuclear weapons. One reason the US needs to maintain more than the "minimal" arsenal of nuclear weapons is because it is very hard to be sure that the older (many are more than 20 years old) warheads will still work properly and it is very likely that an enemy that initiates a nuclear offensive will have disabled or distroyed many of the weapons that we have in place before they launch their own missiles.
  3. One of the arguements against our development of a missle defense system is that we have no potential enemies with credibly threatening missle arsenals. It is correct that no potentially hostile states have credible missile capability right now. However, we know that missile building technology is spreading rapidly around the world. By the time we can impliment a system that begins to work many more states will have working intercontinental ballistic and guided missiles.
Many liberal civilians underestimate the value of supreme military power and misjudge the intent of the world at large. The natural isolation and safety that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans provide for our mainland is one of the chief reasons that the U.S. has ascended to become the center of the world's economic and military power. We have had nearly 200 years to develop our resources without the threat of foriegn invasion. However, Americans are no longer an isolated population. Our livelihood depends on trade and our citizens and (for better or worse, our) corporations have trillions of dollars invested in development of and trade with nations outside our natural sphere of influence (North America). We must protect our citizens and investments abroad.

To that end, the U.S. military must be present throughout the globe and have the ability to project overwhelming force anywhere that our allies and investments are threatened. Our military maintains worldwide dominance by operating installations throughout the world and operating fleets of ships and aircraft that can bring superior force to bear as fast as possible when conflict arises or becomes eminant. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If we are to lead the world into an era of worldwide cooperation, openness and freedom, then our nation must be the bedrock upon which that is built. We can allow no nation or individual to subjugate foriegn populations. Foremost we must protect ourselves and then our allies, and then those nations which harbor the seeds of liberty, openness and democracy.

Missile defense will not only cover our homeland but just as importantly it will protect our assets, our allies and our partners in trade. It is part of the unwavering and rock-solid enforcement of is the only way to gain the trust and respect of the peoples and nations of the world. In this way we must act as an elder brother to those nations which have not yet gained the strength, stability and maturity to govern themselves such that every citizen lives in lands of freedom, opportunity and peace. If we do not play this role in chaning the world then peace may never reign. Worse still, if we allow dictatorship or inequity to grow in number and power, our future generations may find themselves in a world immersed in conflict, terror and war.

Look outside the (US) box. (2.75 / 4) (#74)
by tekk on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:28:43 AM EST

> The correct priority is winning and surviving a war, not saving the earth.

I beg to differ, because that very strongly depends on where you live. For example, I live in Poland and I don't really want to get nuked just because there's a lot of missile-loving half-brains in the USA and f. Soviet Union. From my perspective, you can all bomb the hell out of each other as long as you don't bother me and don't destroy the planet we all live on.

That's why I'd very much like to see a total reduction of nuclear weapons. With a gun or a granade you can't destroy half the world by accident, with nuclear weaponry it's possible.

As aside I always wonder, why would people think, that armies and wars are so important. The war machine depends on itself -- if there are no armies, there are no wars! Poor (and rich too) countries spend billions of dollars on something, that has no other use, than damaging itself... Kind of stupid when you think about it.

-- [tek.] a brand new way to peel an orange.
[ Parent ]

Response to Bunk (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by plara31480 on Wed Jul 04, 2001 at 07:36:00 AM EST

That weas extremely well put. I enjpoyed reading that. I agree wholly with you view, the NRDC has no idea when it comes to military strategy or what we will face during a crisis. Thier unrealistic views of missle deployment and defensive measures have no merit whatsoever.

[ Parent ]
The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time for Change | 83 comments (70 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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