|"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank
Joined: Feb. 2005
Since it's been thunderstorming here for the past two days, I've been housebound all weekend, and have been spending the time reading through a bunch of declassified documents I found on the web, about US military plans for waging nuclear warfare. Fascinating. among other things, the documents show that:
Eisenhower initiated a policy wherein, under certain circumstances, US military officials recieved thre authority to launch nuclear weapons on their own, without any prior communciation from the President (a policy that later scared the shit out of the US government during the Cuban Missile Crisis -- when Curtis Lemay, among others, argued for a full pre-emptive nuclear attack on the Soviet bloc).
The US also physically moved nuclear weapons into Korea for use, but declined to use them because (1) Truman was opposed to it on political grounds, and (2) North Korea had no large targets worthy of a nuclear strike.
The US also moved and deployed nuclear weapons in several dozen other nations, mostly without that nation's permission or knowledge -- many times in direct violation of treaty.
The military plan for nuclear warfare was known as the Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP). It was updated periodically as new weapons became available. In reading the SIOPs over the years, it becomes apparent that targeting plans were not based on any military need or necessity, but simply used every weapon that became available, by assigning it to SOMETHING.
Originally, SIOP had only two options for any military incident; either no nuclear action at all, or a fullscale all-out attack. The SIOP also drew no distinctions between unfriendly nations --- a regional attack by China on Taiwan, for example, would provoke a fullscale nuclear response not only against China, but against the USSR and all the Eastern European Soviet Bloc nations as well. The SIOP was, literally, all or nothing. Kennedy was the first President to order the plan modified for "flexible response", wherein intermediate grades of nuclear response were possible -- targeting specific countries, for example, or targeting just a portion of the enemy's nuclear weapons capability.
One of the documents presents an estimate of the casualties that would result from several different nuclear options -- including a strike solely against Soviet nuclear weapons sites, and an all-out attack on Soviet cities (the casualties, not surprisingly, were about the same in either case).
The US also gave serious consideration to the use of nuclear weapons during the 1961 Berlin crisis, and to a lesser extent, during the Vietnam War. Unlike in Korea, however, no nuclear weapons were actually moved into physical position for an attack.
During the late 70's and early 80's, members of the joint Chiefs of Staff argued that the nuclear war plans (which were largely developed by the Air Force) were unnecessary overkill, that the plan greatly overestimated Soviet nuclear strength, and that far more weapons were being produced and deployed than were militarily necessary. (Oddly enough, those are the very same points that the antiwar nuclear freeze movement, which I was involved with during the Reagan years, was making.)
Also declassified is a 1994 report on the role of nuclear weapons in the "new world order". It argues that the US should use nuclear weapons unilaterally, without international oversite or permission, against non-nuclear nations, in the "war on terror". (A few months ago, when active plans appeared to be in action for an invasion of Iran, it was leaked that part of that plan was the use of earth-penetrating nuclear weapons to destroy underground Iranian command bunkers and weapons centers.)
For those of us who lived through the Cold War years, it is somewhat surprising that, with Korea making nuclear efforts, both India and Pakistan (who have already fought three wars against each other) both in possession of nuclear weapons, the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel (which is why Iran and Iraq want them), and the current US policy of unilateral use against non-nuclear nations, the probability of the intentional military use of nuclear weapons is higher today than it has been at any time since the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Editor, Red and Black Publishers