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Obama Unveils New Nuclear Doctrine 526

Posted by kdawson
from the backing-off-the-hair-trigger dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that under Obama's new 'Nuclear Posture Review,' released today, the US will foreswear the use of the nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries, in contrast to previous administrations, which indicated they might use nuclear arms against nonnuclear states in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack. But the new policy included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. The problem for Iran and North Korea is that the pledge does not cover them because the US regards them as in non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The new policy will also describe the purpose of US weapons as being fundamentally for deterrence. Some Democratic legislators had urged Obama to go further and declare that the United States would not use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, but officials worried that such a change could unnerve allies protected by the US nuclear 'umbrella.' The president of the Ploughshares Fund said of the new stance, 'It orients US policy towards dramatically fewer weapons and greatly reduced roles.'"
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Obama Unveils New Nuclear Doctrine

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  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:07PM (#31754004)

    The problem with putting conventional warheads on an ICBM is that no one would know for sure that it isn't a nuke until much too late. Technologically, it's possible to launch a missile from the continental US and have it hit a specific house halfway around the world within 3 hours. But if the Russians/Chinese/North Koreans/Iranians think you've just launched a nuke against someone, things could get very dicey, very fast.

  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:18PM (#31754184)

    More like 15 minutes. Well thats what Open Skies is for

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_Open_Skies [wikipedia.org]

    So the US puts all its nukes on B-52s/B-1Bs/B-2/Next Gen Bomber and the signatories like Russia, Ukraine, UK, France, PRC can verify that the nukes are there. So when the SSBN fires an SLBM with 12 convention MIRVs from the middle of the Indian Ocean the Russians don't get too freaked out about it.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:21PM (#31754230) Journal

    If we want to nuke someone, you'd best be sure we'll find a way to show that they're in "non-compliance".

    Nuclear weapons have turned into something of a penis waving contest.
    The people most likey to use a nuke (small states and non-state actors) are the least likely to have more than one nuclear weapon.
    For those people, a US nuclear arsenal of 2,500 is no more intimidating than an arsenal of 25.
    More importantly, the USA is easily capable of using amazingly overpowered "conventional" munitions to respond to such threats.

    Nowadays, about the only reason we need nuclear weapons is if someone says "Bin Laden is in those mountains" and we decide to level the mountains.

  • by Onymous Coward (97719) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:27PM (#31754330) Homepage

    The world really isn't as evil a place as some think it is. And it's not really the "evil" monkeys we need to be afraid of, it's the fearful ones.

    The world would be a less dangerous place if folks could stop being such hair-trigger fearmonkeys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:28PM (#31754342)

    since Iran is in fact fully in compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the NPT, regardless of what the US tries to say. NPT signatories have full right to develop and implement the complete nuclear fuel cycle for the purposes of generating power. NPT signatories are not obligated to submit to inspection of their nuclear facilities at the whim of anyone else. The fact that Iran has repeatedly done so demonstrates a remarkable tolerance on their part.

  • Re:Cold war is over! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:31PM (#31754382) Homepage Journal

    we're no longer fighting states with a homeland, we're fighting a mobile group

    Who are you to say who we're fighting? Maybe we're also in conflict with states that have homelands, and nuclear deterrence is one of the reasons those conflicts have been so undramatic.

  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:48PM (#31754668)

    and what about India, Pakistan, Israel and N. Korea?

    I thought something like that myself when I saw this mention of deterrence:

    The new policy will also describe the purpose of US weapons as being fundamentally for deterrence.

    How does an unjustifiable, pre-emptive, offensive war fit in with a policy based on deterrence? If you want people to leave you alone and decide not to mess with you, not starting a conflict on the flimsiest of intelligence and trying to cover it up later with talk of "liberation" would be a good first step.

    It's a shame that there are petty and childish individuals who would read that and think I just made a statement against Republicans. Naturally it follows that they'd assume I just made a statement in favor of Democrats. Personally, I don't care about the party affiliation of an individual who supports injustice; it's an incredibly useless thing to worry about. It needs to stop happening no matter who is doing it.

    Also, why are most people so reluctant to acknowledge that there is a definite connection between US foreign policy and enemies who hate us? Have they never heard of Iran-Contra? Never read about our use of intellgience agencies to overthrow democratically elected leaders in Iran during the 1950s? Never learned about our operations in South America? We meddle and bully in the most heinous ways and then play the innocent victim when we catch a backlash. Then we act surprised that nothing changes. Of course nothing changes, not when we don't want to take an honest look at what we've been doing.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:58PM (#31754786)

    You are dramatically overestimating the power of nuclear weapons.

    Mt St Helens blew with 24 megatons of power. That is close to 2000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb or about 1.8 times more powerful than the biggest bomb the US ever detonated.

    Krakatoa blew with close to 200 megatons of power. That is 4 times more than the largest nuke ever blown and about 13000 times more than Hiroshima.

    With 100 large nuclear weapons we can devastate 100 major cities or utterly destroy a couple dozen major cities.

  • by Lakitu (136170) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:59PM (#31754816)

    North Korea withdrew from the NPT, and Iran has been found to be in non-compliance. They both are valid targets. I would agree with saying Iran is 'becoming' a valid target since it is currently in dispute as to what exactly is going on, but all signs point to a genuine nuclear weapons program or the pretense of having one.

    North Korea also already has a few neighbors that would strongly object. North Korea also has a southern neighbor which would strongly object to Seoul being turned into a parking lot with trucks full of soldiers waving juche propaganda leaflets.

    If North Korean troops start pouring through the DMZ, the US military is going to consider all of its contingency plans to keep its ~150,000+ soldiers from being killed or captured, and there is a 100% chance one of those contingency plans includes using nuclear weapons. In all likelihood it is one of the reasons why it hasn't happened yet.

  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:04PM (#31754878)
    No. You couldn't take the chance. An ICBM/SLBM currently has but one payload - a nuke warhead. You simply could not risk that this is not a conv weapon.

    And its called a "Nuclear Triad" for a reason. Aircraft, sub, missile. Rendering any one leg inoperative still leaves two viable launch platforms. Each delivery mode has its own strengths and weaknesses. Aircraft can be recalled. ICBM's can't be stopped. Subs can't be found.
    Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:17PM (#31755034)

    Because if we default the economy will make the Great Depression look like the good old days.

    *The dollar would immediately crash to record lows as no foreign investors would trust US assets.
    *The US would be unable to borrow additional money, probably at any rate. Who would trust us? Even if we offered up the white house as collateral we could just reneg again
    *Banks, companies, and individual investors hold billions in US savings bonds as long term safe investments. They're considered as good as cash- you can bring one to a bank and they'll pay you on the spot for it with only a service fee. Those would become worth pennies on the dollar. Banks would go bankrupt and be unable to loan, companies would be unable to make payroll. You would be looking at 30-40% unemplyment within a year.

    The US has never defaulted on a national debt in its 230+ year history. It won't start now. We'd be better off jumping back to Eisenhower tax rates to pay interest than in defaulting.

  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:34PM (#31755236) Journal

    China's arsenal isn't large enough to blow the US to oblivion. Only Russia really has that. China has enough to act as an effective deterrent (that happens somewhere between five and 25 warheads, depending on delivery capability and ease of defense of those warheads), as do India, France, Britain, and Israel.

    North Korea is moving in that direction, but because of its significant conventional forces (1.2 million active plus 3.5 million to 4.7 million reserves out of 24 million population), it has a deterrence factor even without nuclear arms. North Korea is in effect one giant military base.

  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shadowbearer (554144) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:40PM (#31755308) Homepage Journal

      True, perhaps - who knows how accurate ICBMs really are nowadays, with modern electronics and guidance? The ones in the know aren't telling, and for good reason. I'd bet a nice sum that modern ICBMs are a lot more accurate than the data anyone in the public has, given the advances in electronics and guidance. I wouldn't be surprised if modern tech has given the ability for 10m accuracy. After all, if we could guide a Apollo capsule returning from the moon to within 10km or so of it's recovery fleet 30+ years ago...

      Cruise missiles are also a lot harder to find - but ICBMs are a LOT harder to destroy before they reach their target.

        Also, if you manage to detect a cruise missile and shoot it down, it's probably going to crash well short of it's target, but even if you manage to destroy an ICBM after it's entered the atmosphere it's almost certainly still going to land on or near it's target. Given that cruise missiles can't deploy submunitions until they are on top of their target, while ICBMs can deploy submunitions after they enter the atmosphere, ICBMs are a lot more likely to hit their target with at least one of their submunitions. Which considering those submunitions can include nuclear warheads kind of makes the point moot if you're not shooting at a hardened target, doesn't it?

      I suspect that the only thing preventing the US military from deploying orbital kinetic kill vehicles right now is launch costs. R&D would be cheap next to the cost of deploying a system that could hit any target in the world on a couple hours notice.

      SB

  • by maeka (518272) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:54PM (#31755490) Journal

    More importantly, the USA is easily capable of using amazingly overpowered "conventional" munitions to respond to such threats.

    While I agree strongly with most of what you have said, I think you're a bit mistaken here.

    If North Korea were to start shelling Seoul, little in our arsenal short of nuclear weapons would be capable of taking out their heavily entrenched artillery before the south suffered horrific losses. (And I mean horrific. NK is believed to have 10,000 tubes aimed at Seoul. "Optimistic" losses start at numbers never seen before in history.)

    Conventional weapons have largely met their match against fixed fortified positions. Pouring another few feet of reinforced concrete is a very cheap countermeasure and will always be so. Many of Iraq's bunkers needed round after round of bunker-busters to penetrate - dropping N+1 down N's hole. This takes a significant amount of time. One needs to wait for the dust to clear, to assess exactly where the penetration took place, and then to attempt the second strike. Time is not on the US's side in most the standing nuclear scenarios.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:08PM (#31755662)

    I just found this article in my Gmail RSS bar and I thought it was interesting to see the comments on Obama's new nuclear policy.

    I am really surprised of the concept you guys have about Venezuela. I mean, honestly I laughed a bit when reading this. I am from Venezuela, I live here, and seriously, this president, and this country is not going to attack anyone. Do you think a small country, where people don't have constant water supply, or a good electric power infrastructure will attack a huge world potency like the United States of America?

    I'm telling you, it just wont happen. This is not like an arab country where people would fight for their beliefs. If we launch a stone to US ground, and you guys send a bunch of last generation jets and soldiers with last generation weapons and suits, we'll get crushed in less than 24 hours. We don't have technology, we don't have the soldiers, we don't have the will, and we don't a reason to do that.

    I honestly don't know what is being broad-casted on US TV, but we are no threat to the US. There is no war to be fought. We just have a president that talks WAY too much.

  • Re:Try harder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @06:50PM (#31802636) Homepage

    "Balance of power" during the Cold War consisted of the Soviet Union arming and funding communist insurgencies, coups and outright invasions, and the US desperately trying to contain the spread, until around 1980.

    Oooh! Scarrry communists! They're teaching children to read in Nicaragua and kicking out our corporations in El Salvador! Quick, someone rape and kill some nuns! [wikipedia.org] For freedom!

    By the way, if you're afraid of the Nicaraguan Army, you're a coward. [chron.com]

    Negotiation with a sovereign nation with an elected government is quite different from dictating to a puppet regime that came to power in a coup.

    Is it different from overthrowing a democracy in Iran in 1953 [wikipedia.org] and installing the Shah? Or funding coups throughout central and south America and in fact, all over the world? [wikipedia.org] Is it different from hand-picking Saddam Hussein to rule the Ba'ath Party [wikipedia.org], support his rise to power, removing him from the State Sponsors of Terror in order to arm him with chemical weapons [wikipedia.org], and then claim America had nothing to do with it when he stops following orders?

    Your best evidence is that the Ford administration and subsequent administrations are guilty of not caring enough about East Timor. Not caring enough does not equal support.

    You're a fucking liar. Again.

    Here's the source document: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB62/doc4.pdf [gwu.edu]

    Here's the important text:

    SUHARTO: I would like to speak to you, Mr. President, about another problem, Timor... in the latest Rome Agreement the Portuguese government wanted to invite all parties to negotiate... Fretelin has declared it's independence unilaterally... if this continues it will prolong the suffering of the refugees and increase the instability in the area... We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.

    FORD: We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.

    KISSINGER: You appreciate that the use of US made arms could create problems... It depends on how we construe it, whether it is in self interest or is a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly, we would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return. This may be there would be less chance of people talking in an unauthorized way... We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.

    FORD: It would be more authoritative if we can do it in person...

    KISSINGER: If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the president returns home.

    There's a cable called "Plans for Indonesian Invasion of East Timor" that is still classified which Kissinger received before this conversation occurred.

    A more appropriate spectrum would be 'totalitarianism' and 'freedom', with people like me coming down on the side of 'freedom', and "leftists" like Chomsky coming down on the side of totalitarianism.

    You're an apologist for depraved violence as long as the person holding the gun is wrapped in an American flag and saying some nice words that you don't really comprehend. The only difference between you and a sovi

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