“Davy Crockett bomb” by U.S. federal government – Immediate source: Chuck Hansen, The Swords of Armageddon: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Development Since 1945 (Sunnyvale, CA: Chukelea Publications, 1995).. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Well now this is interesting:
It reports that as defense secretary for the elder Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney commissioned a study of how many tactical nuclear weapons would be needed to take out an Iraqi Republican Guard division, if necessary. (The answer: 17.)
Before we get excited, two things:
- Commissioning a study is a necessary but not nearly sufficient step toward preparing to use such weapons. DoD commissions all kinds of studies that fundamentally amount to intellectual exercises, rather than practical preparations.
- US warfighting doctrine for most of the Cold War envisioned using tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Soviet conventional formations as they invaded Central Europe.
The most interesting story here may be about how tactical nukes find their way out of US warfighting plans. In retrospect, the idea of using tactical nukes to wipe out forward Iraqi Army formations sounds absurd. At the time, US Army planners had included tactical nukes as a default assumption for defeating just that kind of formation. The circumstances were much different, of course; we knew that the Soviets had nukes (and the Iraqis did not), we expected that the Soviets would use tactical nukes (which the Iraqis didn’t have), and we assessed Soviet forces as vastly more formidable than Iraqi. But it’s not obvious that these differences should have weighed so heavily against the use of such weapons against the Iraqis.
It’s also worth noting that the United States could have used tactical nuclear weapons against Iraqi forces under circumstances that were, more or less, compatible with the demands of the Law of Armed Conflict. Go ahead and drop 17 150 kt weapons on Iraq, along the border where elite Iraqi formations were deployed during the Gulf War, and you’ll find that it’s very easy to avoid killing any civilians, or causing significant damage to any civilian property of infrastructure. The question of whether using such weapons is disproportionate to the military advantage gained depends, at least to some extent, on an evaluation of the likely effectiveness of both US and Iraqi armored formations, which was open to some debate in early 1991.
To my mind, the fact that the US rejected the use of tactical nukes in warfighting in the early post-Cold War is the best evidence we have for the existence of the “nuclear taboo.” We refrained from using nukes against deployed Iraqi forces in 1991 not because they wouldn’t have been useful, and not because they were inconceivable within existing US doctrine, but because of some combination of a) concerns over international response, and b) the idea that nuclear weapons were transgressive in a way that other extraordinarily advanced and lethal weapons systems were not. That Cheney appears to have led the way on conceptualizing the use of such weapons within the USG is probably a point in favor of this “transgressive” interpretation.
“George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait” Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
In “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush,” author Jon Meacham quotes Bush as saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld were too hawkish and that their harsh stance damaged the reputation of the United States, the cable news network said.
Speaking of Cheney, who was vice president under President George W. Bush, the senior Bush said: “I don’t know, he just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” according to the report.
Cheney served as defense secretary during George H.W. Bush’s 1989-1993 presidency.[ed. emphasis]
“The reaction (to Sept. 11), what to do about the Middle East. Just iron-ass. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East,” Bush told Meacham in the book to be published next Tuesday.
Bush believes Cheney acted too independently of his son by creating a national security team in his own office, and may have been influenced to become more conservative by his wife and daughter, Lynne and Liz Cheney, the report cites the biography as saying.
On Rumsfeld, secretary of defense for most of the two terms served by his son, Bush is even more critical. He is quoted as saying: “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the President,” referring to his son.
“I’ve never been that close to him anyway. There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that. Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow,” he was quoted as saying in the biography.
Rummy did not serve in the GHWB administration, so that part, at least, makes sense. You would have hoped, though, that the Elder Bush would have communicated some of these reservations to his son, in a timely manner. Perhaps he can have a word with Jeb without pushing him into a months-long spiral of despair?
Well, who needs health care anyway? Just try not to get sick.
Also looking forward to Bevin doing a Scott Walker on Kentucky’s higher education system.
“WuZhen-5 under the wing of an aircraft carrier – 2” by Flavio Mucia (AMB Brescia) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambbrescia/5943710801. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.
My latest for the Diplomat takes a look at a recent report on China’s acquisition of dual use technology from US companies:
A recent report in the New York Times detailed the many connections between U.S. technology firms and their Chinese counterparts. The report suggested that many of the companies that U.S. firms regularly deal with have their own relationships with the Chinese military.
The articles, inspired by a report from the intelligence firm Blue Heron on IBM’s dealings with China, highlight the tensions between maintaining security over American dual-use technological innovations and staying abreast of the global technology market. While the report does not indicate that IBM has violated the U.S. system of export control, it does imply that the system lacks capacity to properly monitor interactions between U.S. and Chinese companies.
“Jin (Type 094) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine” by CSR Report RL33153 China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress by Ronald O’Rourke dated February 28, 2014 – United States Naval Institute News Blog. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
My latest at the National Interest takes a look at developments in China’s SSBN program:
By the end of this year, China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs, or “boomers”) may take their first deterrent patrols. How does this change the balance of power in the Pacific?
The NRO crowd reaches out to the Jacobin crowd:
No one thinks attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left is likely to turn the most liberal Democrats into Republican voters. But Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, said the goal was simply to erode what should be her natural core of support.
“It can diminish enthusiasm for Hillary among the base over time,” he said. “And if you diminish enthusiasm, lukewarm support can translate into lackluster fund-raising and perhaps diminished turnout down the road.”
This year, Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a right-leaning political technology firm, who handled Mr. Romney’s digital operation and has worked with groups like America Rising and American Crossroads, laid out the strategy in a memo to several clients. “There was a hole to fill in the market,” he said, and if Democrats were not willing to challenge Mrs. Clinton, Republicans could do it themselves.
“We were seeing people on the left who were interested in content about Hillary Clinton, and that there would be opportunities for groups to share this information with Democrats on the left,” Mr. Moffatt said.
To reach these groups, Mr. Moffatt had a plan: using micro-targeted advertising units on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
You’d love to think that this kind of thing won’t work. But… y’know.
…to clarify a touch; Henwood et al are clearly independent of the GOP, but they’re directing their efforts at the same audience that the GOP is trying to reach. And I’d love to think that this kind of thing won’t work, but we have in living memory examples of folks who thought heightening the contradictions would be a good idea.
Y’all probably missed out on the real excitement Tuesday afternoon:
Northrop Grumman Corp., maker of the B-2 stealth bomber, landed the long-awaited contract to develop the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation bomber.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based contractor led a team that beat out another headed by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Watch for the losing bidder to immediately protest the award and delay the program by at least three months.
The $21.4 billion initial contract calls for Northrop to develop the first 21 production aircraft, along with related engineering and manufacturing work. The planes are scheduled to be ready for operational flights in 2025.
The service has said it wants to buy between 80 and 100 new bombers at no more than $550 million apiece to replace its aging fleet of B-52 Stratofortresses made by Boeing Co. and a least a portion of its B-1 fleet.
The $550 million price tag is a joke, of course. It’s probably for the best that Northrup Grumman won the competition; means that not everything is in the Lockheed basket, saves some jobs in the aviation industry long-run, etc. As I suggested earlier, the real key to
success avoiding particularly catastrophic failure will be to limit the ambition of the program; the USAF is going to want everything, which will undoubtedly lead to bloat, etc.
Also, everyone seems convinced that no one in the US government is sensible enough just to call the damn thing the B-3.
For at least a bit, the Shakezula we all know and love will be guest posting at LGM. Please grant her every courtesy blah blah blah etc.
Some thoughts on what the defense reform might look like in practical terms:
As Bryan McGrath has observed, the fundamental problem with American procurement and strategic planning, at this point, lies in our inability to think beyond the static division of resources between the four services. While Bernie Sanders supporters often decry the unwillingness of the United States to shift military spending towards social services, we remain far more capable of exchanging strategic bombers or aircraft carriers for schools, than for each other. We can reallocate resources within services, or allocate resources away from the military, but we cannot reallocate resources across services. And this is the foundation of strategic disaster.
“F-35 EOTS” by User:Dammit – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 nl via Commons.
My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the US refusal to export to Korea four key technologies associated with the F-35:
The four technologies in question are the active electronically scanned radar, the infrared search-and-rescue systems, the electro-optical targeting pod and the radio frequency jammer. Reports indicate that Korea will attempt to develop the latter two technologies indigenously, and the former two in cooperation with foreign (non-US) industry. The remaining technologies are certainly relevant to the future of the South Korean military industrial complex, and hundreds of American engineers are expected to soon begin work with their Korean counterparts.
So where does this leave the U.S. and South Korea? The decision has produced a firestorm of criticism in Seoul, some directed at the United States, and some directed at a government which looked unprepared for the highly likely eventuality of a DoD veto. The KF-X program is in trouble; it was intended to provide 120 fighters for South Korea (and another 80 for Indonesia) between 2025 and 2030. As Dev Majumdar notes, it is unlikely that South Korea will be able to develop all of the relevant technologies (or acquire them from other sources) in a timely fashion. The DoD decision could lead to a cancellation of the entire F-35 deal, which would leave Korea without a fifth generation fighter for the foreseeable future.
“HMS Iron Duke (1912)” by User Morven on en.wikipedia – Downloaded from http://www.cyber-heritage.co.uk/hmsdrake/. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
My latest at the National Interest takes a look at the setting of the stage for Jutland:
The naval war between Germany and the United Kingdom was more complex and multifaceted than is commonly understood in public memory of the First World War. This article looks at where the two great navies stood 100 years ago, and how the approached the problem of figuring out how to destroy one another.