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Thursday, May 05, 2005


mcnamara on nuclear weapons

robert mcnamara writes in foreign policy on the continuing, perhaps increasing dangers of a nuclear exchange involving the united states.

In addition to projecting the deployment of large numbers of strategic nuclear weapons far into the future, the Bush administration is planning an extensive and expensive series of programs to sustain and modernize the existing nuclear force and to begin studies for new launch vehicles, as well as new warheads for all of the launch platforms. Some members of the administration have called for new nuclear weapons that could be used as bunker busters against underground shelters (such as the shelters Saddam Hussein used in Baghdad). New production facilities for fissile materials would need to be built to support the expanded force. The plans provide for integrating a national ballistic missile defense into the new triad of offensive weapons to enhance the nation’s ability to use its “power projection forces” by improving our ability to counterattack an enemy. The Bush administration also announced that it has no intention to ask congress to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and, though no decision to test has been made, the administration has ordered the national laboratories to begin research on new nuclear weapons designs and to prepare the underground test sites in Nevada for nuclear tests if necessary in the future. Clearly, the Bush administration assumes that nuclear weapons will be part of U.S. military forces for at least the next several decades.
i find mcnamara's case compelling. we nearly impaled ourselves on the nuclear sword in 1962, after less than twenty years in posession of the technology. how many inadvertent or accidental exchanges may have occured before or since are unknown, but they have been manifold and dangerous -- including a 1995 near-launch over a weather rocket.

however, yet more ominous -- and, in my opinion, more sure -- is the eventuality that a madman will (has?) come to power in the united states who does not have the requisite intrinsic morality and respect for both civilization and the power of the weapon to restrain himself from using the weaponry, either under the duress of events or simply as a machiavellian lever in the belief that an advantage can be gained. no weapon mankind has ever devised has gone unused; i'm extremely skeptical that nuclear weapons can continue indefinitely to be the exception to that gravely reliable rule.

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