Remember when the Bush administration lashed out spastically at Iraq in a supposed response to the 9/11 attacks? Donald Rumsfeld, you’ll remember, started bringing up the Iraq option in the early hours after 9/11, because Iraq had all the “good targets,” while Afghanistan didn’t have any. It took a while, but eventually he got his way.
So I’m sure you’ll be comforted to know that the same strategic geniuses who brought you that disaster are laying the groundwork for an even bigger one. From the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus: Pentagon revises nuclear strike plan.
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
The document, written by the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.
A nuclear strike seems really, really unlikely to deter al Qaeda. But having squandered our available supply of blood and treasure in Iraq in a hitherto-vain attempt to
neutralize Saddam’s WMD build a stable, democratic, pro-US government erect an Islamic theocracy that at least doesn’t serve as a failed-state breeding ground for anti-US terror, what is the Bush team going to do the next time it decides that some nasty government is developing weapons of mass destruction in defiance of our wishes?
That’s right. We’re going to nuke them. Note that this has some very big advantages over invading and occupying: It’s cheap. It doesn’t require significant manpower, or a longterm commitment. And it renders the underlying justification more or less immune to falsifiability: Yup, there were WMD there; we’re sure of it. We had solid intelligence. It was a slam dunk. And you’d be seeing evidence of those WMD today, except that their vaporized, irradiated atoms are currently intermingled with those of the former inhabitants of the area, and are drifting through the upper atmosphere.
If the US were to do such a thing, it would pretty much hand al Qaeda the larger strategic victory bin Laden has been dreaming of for years.
Way to go, guys.
Update: See also this interesting item from Jonathon Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution: Let’s all chip in to buy these guys a thesaurus.