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Subject: second strike
pakistani    3/10/2002 8:01:54 PM
Does having a few subs with the means to diliver nukes constitute having second strike capibility?
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bsl    RE:second strike   3/10/2002 10:06:24 PM
Pakistani, Strictly speaking, in terms of strategic warfare, "second strike" capability refers to the ability to absorb a first strike and still counterattack with enough force to, essentially, destroy the enemy. In American and Soviet terms, a sufficient submarine force to guarantee a secure second strike capability was thought to involve enough to put over a hundred warheads on targets. Now, this was a situation in which each side was a LARGE country with many potential targets. Thus, we see that, to some degree, the measure of the capability relates to the potential enemy. You would need fewer warheads to engage in a second strike against, say, Iraq, than you would need against, say, India. And, to some extent (and, this aspect was always subject to some debate), you need make assumptions as to how much damage you need to inflict to call it a "victory". This turns out, in practice, to involve politics. Depending upon who's calling the shots as to what force structure will be developed, it can range anywhere from the ability to slag a few enemy cities all the way up to the ability to destroy almost every enemy population, economic, and military center. Speaking with complete disregard for the people involved, how many dead Indians do you feel you'd need to claim you won? Some would say that destroying Delhi would suffice. Others would say that you'd need to destroy the fifty largest Indian cities. As long as there was anyone left on the other side who could pick up a gun, and march towards Islamabad, there would be some reason to question if the second strike had been sufficiently large. At absolute minimum, you'd need to both do proportionately as much damage as the first strike had inflicted, but, it's probably better to think in terms of leaving the first strike side in no condition to carry on any level of hostilities against you. IOW, in this matter, we're thinking in terms of the highest level of warfare possible. Not tactical matters, not limited war, not tit-for-tat exchanges which settle nothing. OTOH, essentially, all the work done in the past was done in connection with the Cold War, and really had the US and USSR and, perhaps, the PRC in mind, if only in the background. The possibility for lesser levels of annihilation in context of regional conflicts is far less examined. One could imagine a really horrific exchange between India and Pakistan in which a hundred million people die, but the underlying war is not stopped, the underlying issues not settled, and the whole situation just resets back to the previous condition, with a somewhat smaller level of regional population.
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pfd    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 11:09:22 AM
are you serious?
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Pakistani    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 12:39:11 PM
Forget victory, what I want to know is if destroying Bombay Koltaka Dehli and Ahmadbad with Subs after an Indian strike would constitute second strike? I mean if India or Pakistan or anyone else lost one large city it would be a tradegy and to a rational mind this would be a deterent.
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FalloutBoy    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 2:37:48 PM
Yes, if the subs remained submerged during a nuclear assault and were not destroyed they could launch a second strike. The Soviet Union and the U.S. both used this as a "deterrent" (the U.S. especially to counter a Soviet superioty in tactical nuclear weapons such as artillery shells and small bombs). Fortunately, both India and Pakistan are far from developing horizontal-launch (torpedo-tube) ballistic missiles. An acquisition of this technology by either side could create a tremendous arms race.
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bsl    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 7:32:00 PM
pfd, "are you serious?" If that question was addressed to me, then, yes. That's why one of the earliest works on the subject intended for a lay audience was entitled, THINKING ABOUT THE UNTHINKABLE.
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bsl    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 7:42:22 PM
Pakistani, The underlying logic of deterrence deals with *preventing* use, at all. There is a parallel area of study dealing with *use*. Necessarily, these two overlap. It's all subsumed under *strategic warfare*, in the ***modern*** sense of the term. Generally speaking, when the military commissions studies, or does them, internally, the discussion addresses both use and preventing use. In some cases, when civilians do the work, they eschew use and stick to deterrence, which is a very good sign that the work ought be ignored since it's not only politically motivated, but slanted to prove a predetermined political point. The sad fact is that if the weapons exist, they may be used, and it's only the credible threat that they CAN be used which creates the conditions for deterrence to work. And, once you have working weapons, one would best take seriously the notion that they can be used. There is a whole subset of academic work predicated on the thesis that any use, whatever, of nuclear weapons under any circumstances is unacceptable and that any use, at all, under any circumstances, would represent a defeat for *both* sides. Again, these people are to be ignored. They are writing political polemics. Certainly, an Indian and a Pakistani city destroyed would be a horrific thing. Fine. Now what? If you're not prepared to seriously address that question, you're just ignoring possibilities you find distateful, and that's a bad way to face life. To your question, if one side attacks, first, any response is a "second strike", by definition. A first strike, is self explanatory. Most of the theoretical work dealing with this came in context of an assumption that virtually ANY first strike would be designed to try to destroy the other side's ABILITY to retaliate, since it was considered self evident that a country which was the target of a nuclear weapon would respond in kind, if it could. It was pretty well also considered self evident that where one side did NOT have such an ability, it had lost any military confrontation in which it's enemy was prepared and able to use nuclear weapons against it. Again, this all was done in the context of the Cold War when the "enemy" was always discussed with the USSR in mind.
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bsl    RE:second strike   3/12/2002 7:49:40 PM
FB, It's all a bit mixed up, as the details did change, over time. At various moments, America considered using nuclear weapons in a strategic fashion to counter battlefield use, to counter a purely conventional breakthrough in Europe, to answer a first strike against the American mainland. When the submarine force was created, the missiles carried were not really precise enough to use against hardened targets. They were good enough to strike airfields, or battlefields, and, certainly, cities. That's changed, in more recent years, and one of the issues in arms talks in the 80s involved the possibility that our submarine force was becoming capable of a first strike against land based targets. I'd say the Pershing missile was our answer to late era battlefield problems, rather than the submarine force, though. As far as I know, the preference was to reserve the submarine force as the ultimate strategic second strike force, although it was certainly possible to delegate a single sub for tactical matters. Not really the right weapons, though. I think all the sub-launched missiles were MIRVed, which meant that you could launch a single warhead at a time. Not positive about this. Working from old memories.
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pfd    RE:second strike   3/13/2002 11:26:11 AM
Yes but thinking the unthinkable has been a bankrupt concept since it's initiation. When I first got into the idea I too delved into the concepts of the economists turned strategists. When I wanted a REAL answer, I asked the military and politicals. The answers were very far apart. Pragmetism coupled with humanity. Fun facts and goofy ideas cannot run a railroad. Moral corruption can not be a policy. Sure it's fun in 'cocktail talk' but it can't buy us a future. ...or a cognitive policy.
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bsl    RE:second strike   3/13/2002 8:02:52 PM
pfd, Nice run of indignant adjectives. In fact, this line of strategic thought WAS what guided national policy for half a century. I'm certainly not saying the NSC retyped a Kahn book and put their names on the bottom. But, the principles, the way of looking at things WERE used. The method of analysis, even the language actually used both in the Executive and Legislative branches grows right out of the work of places like the Hudson Institute. It works both ways, actually, and some of the academics started as insiders in State, Defense, and the NSC in the 1940s, and 1950s. If you're saying that there were important people who never completely bought all the theoretical work, then you're correct. If you're saying it's nonsense which had no impact, then you're wrong. It was far and away the most important source of ideas. Period. So much so that anyone who stuck their head up and tried to argue as if deterrence theory was invalid tended to marginalize themselves by that, alone. I'm not guessing, either. I studied with some of the people inside during the 40s and 50s.
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kjetski    RE:second strike   9/24/2003 3:27:02 PM
Forget victory, what I want to know is if destroying Bombay Koltaka Dehli and Ahmadbad with Subs after an Indian strike would constitute second strike? I mean if India or Pakistan or anyone else lost one large city it would be a tradegy and to a rational mind this would be a deterent. Yes but is either side rational?
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