Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Not Nuke 'Em All?

I wouldn't have thunk it. I've long been a fan of Nina Tannenwald's argument that a strong taboo exists against the use of nuclear weapons, even as countries scramble to acquire them for symbolic reasons. But according to Democracy Now: "Military Chiefs Assert First-Strike Nuclear Option for NATO":

"A group of former top military commanders in NATO countries including the U.S. are calling on their governments to insist on the right to pre-emptive nuclear attack. In a new manifesto, the former army leaders—including ex- joint chiefs of staff chair General John Shalikashvili —say NATO should maintain that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument.” The group says this is in part because there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world.” The proposal is likely to be reviewed at a NATO summit in April.
Evidence that the Bush Doctrine is actually contagious? This would represent an grim and dangerous weaking of the nuclear non-first-use norm. Important to watch and see what happens in April. And a good opportunity for global civil society to mobilize in opposition?

Meanwhile, FP's Passport Blog reports the following complaint by President Musharraf regarding the media framing of his country's nukes:
"We are a nuclear state, and it is just unfortunate that we are seen to be unstable; that our nuclear assets can fall into wrong hands, into the hands of the terrorists... this is an Islamic bomb that Pakistan has. I really don't understand why the world calls it an Islamic bomb, and why there is no Hindu bomb, or a Jew bomb, or a Christian bomb, or a Buddhist bomb. Why is this bomb an Islamic bomb? I don't understand. And the man on the street in Pakistan does not understand this.
He makes a good point, eh? Particularly since Pakistan is only a Muslim-majority country, not an "Islamic" theocracy. The correct corrolary being not "Christian" bomb to describe the US/UK arsenals but rather "Liberal Secular Godless Bomb."



nolocontendere said...

Yeah, that announcement from the NATO honchos came and went with nary a flutter, in more sane times they would have been excoriated far and wide. But I think it's a direct consequence of psychotic mass murderers in our face, day after day for years screaming war and righteousness and torture until most people are numb and dumb enough to just accept it as normal.

hank_F_M said...


I thought that the right of first use has been policy since, um 1945.

I know that in the 1980’s, it was policy for reasons like preserving the national existence of the US or a NATO ally, or to prevent a massive military defeat. It was printed in black and white in unclassified official US Army textbooks with references. (Alas, thrown out when I transferred to the Retied reserve.)

When did it change?

Diodotus said...

I'm not talking about US policy. I'm talking about an international normative understanding, reflected in things like the ICJ's judgement and various GA resolutions. US policy almost always lags behind international norms. Superpower perogative and all that. What's of most concern here is that a multilateral body is making the same argument openly.

hank_F_M said...


Sorry I misread your comments. You are right.

I found the

Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World Renewing Transatlantic Partnership © 2007 Noaber Foundation Dorpstsstraat 14 6741 AK Lunteren “Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World Renewing Transatlantic Partnership”

The offending paragraph, page 96-97

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate instrument of an asymmetric response – and at the same time the ultimate tool of escalation. Yet they are also more than an instrument, since they transform the nature of any conflict and widen its scope from the regional to the global. Regrettably, nuclear weapons – and with them the option of first use – are indispensable, since there is simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world. On the contrary, the risk of further proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible. This development must be prevented. It should therefore be kept in mind that technology could produce options that go beyond the traditional role of nuclear weapons in preventing a nuclear armed opponent from using nuclear weapons. In sum, nuclear weapons remain indispensable, and nuclear escalation continues to remain an element of any modern strategy.

While this is put in the context of an extreme resort, the overall context is preemption with conventional weapons against terrorists and similar groups including non-state actors in what seems to me to be a very trigger happy mode.

At one point the compared elements of their proposal to the bombing of Serbia, which they acknowledged may not have been legal.

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