the Gulf War, Iraqi officials told us that they didn't dare consider
using chemical weapons against U.S. troops, because President Bush
had threatened massive retaliation for such an attack.
Baker had reportedly told Tariq Aziz the words are worth
savoring "If Iraq uses non-conventional weapons, the
U.S. will respond massively and overwhelmingly in a manner from
which it would take Iraq centuries to recover."
thought that meant nuclear retaliation. Silly them.
administration officials including the president himself
went on to say afterwards that they never would have considered
such a thing.
in his memoir recounts telling Dick Cheney, after the then-secretary
of defense asked him to explore nuclear options: "Let's not
even think about nukes. You know we're not going to let that genie
loose." (This is just another example of how Powell is incapable
of thinking in anything other than clichés, but that's a
topic for another day.)
As the war
on terrorism develops, we may well wish that we had a credible nuclear
threat again. A nuclear deterrent is of limited utility against
truly stateless terrorists, but it could come in handy when confronting
states that seek and possess weapons of mass destruction.
everyone learned from the Gulf War is that the way to keep a site
safe from U.S. airpower is to dig really deep (bin Laden is applying
this lesson in a crude way in his attempt to hide in caves, including
perhaps the Tora Bora complex that proved resistant to conventional
bombing during the war with the Soviets). Winston Churchill's bunker
in London during World War II was about 10 feet deep. Rogue states
are now digging hardened bunkers hundreds of feet deep.
Once you get
far enough down, even our most fearsome bunker-busting conventional
bomb isn't good enough to do the job. Only a nuke will do.
could be useful in other situations as well.
Let's say we
have intelligence that says within a month Saddam will have a nuclear
bomb that he can fit atop an ICBM, so that decapitating his regime
immediately seems imperative (this is not such an outlandish scenario,
since the consensus of elite opinion seems to be that we should
wait to do something about Saddam until he is in exactly such a
position). Shouldn't it at least be an option to give six hours'
notice, then eliminate central Baghdad and all its underground facilities?
Both of these
scenarios taking out deeply buried weapons sites, decapitating
a regime have something in common: The warheads we stocked
up on during the Cold War would be mostly inappropriate for the
task. We have a wide mix of nuclear weapons: huge city busters,
tactical nukes that are delivered by cruise missiles, etc.
But we still
need one more: a truly deep-burrowing nuke designed to penetrate
before sending its shock waves straight down into the earth, while
minimizing fallout above ground. (A nuke in the current aresenal
has been jerry-rigged it's called the B61-11 to try
to suit this purpose, but probably is not adequate to the task.)
We should set
about getting this "earth penetrator." President Bush
could simultaneously breathe new life into the credibility of our
nuclear option and create a potentially important new tool of U.S.
power by announcing a crash program to develop and test a nuke appropriate
to the new international environment.
rap is that the U.S. will adopt a nuclear configuration that makes
sense for us, regardless of the feelings of other countries and
the strictures of outdated arms-control agreements. So what would
be wrong with eliminating several thousand nuclear warheads and
adding, say, 100 new, deep-burrowing warheads?
the chances of their use would be extremely slim. Even a small,
deep-burrowing nuke would be a very blunt weapon possibly
violating the rules of war by unnecessarily killing noncombatants
and creating nasty complications like radioactive clouds potentially
floating across borders.
But even if
it were never used, developing such a weapon would send an unmistakable
message about America's seriousness and resolve, and put the nuclear
option back in play in a way that otherwise might not be possible.
It certainly might get the attention of Iraqi officials again
if not Saddam himself, then maybe some of his top generals.
of course, be howls of protest if President Bush announced a program
to develop a new nuke. But the biggest lesson of September 11 is
that is a dangerous world and that we should always plan for the
worst, even if that means ignoring polite conventional wisdom. Amid
all the howls, the American people would be with the president,
and more importantly the world would take notice.
Lewis makes a very interesting point in the new NR. He
argues that what the Arab states really want in the Mideast peace
process is a more vigorous U.S. imperial role: A "misunderstanding
affects the perception of and the desire for an American role as
`honest broker' in Middle Eastern disputes, notably the Arab-Israel
conflict. Here there is an important distinction to be made between
the roles of facilitator and mediator. In the secret bilateral negotiations
and agreements between President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister
Begin of Israel that preceded Sadat's public declaration, the King
of Morocco and President Ceausescu of Romania rendered valuable
services in arranging meetings and ensuring the necessary secrecy,
but played no part in the actual peace process. Mediation is another
matter. The role of mediator can be both honorable and useful, and
the United States has, on occasion, rendered signal service to the
warring parties. But on the whole they are likely to do better when
they meet face to face, preferably in secret. With a superpower
mediator, the parties will tend to negotiate with the mediator rather
than with each other. This is specially relevant to the Israel-Palestine
conflict, where the ultimate issue is the survival or destruction
of a nation. Any arrangement short of this is seen as temporary
and provisional. On the basic issue, clearly, there is no possibility
of compromise or even of meaningful negotiation. In this context,
the call for an American role can only mean a call for decision
and enforcement for a truly imperial role."