|You may find this somewhat interesting.______________________________The Return of Nuclear War
Strategic Studies Institute
Army War College
International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000
As the Cold War ended pundits proclaimed a “postnuclear“ era. 1 Edward Luttwak postulated the political implausibility of U.S. guarantees that have been offered against non-nuclear attack and stated that the political plausibility of extended deterrence against non-nuclear attacks was diminishing in “one setting after another.” 2 He assumed this trend would increase in scope, especially as NATO’s conventional military power grew. Gary Guertner wrote that,
Nuclear weapons have a declining political-military utility below the threshold of deterring a direct nuclear attack against the territory of the United States. As a result, the post-cold war period is one in which stability and the deterrence of war are likely to be measured by the capabilities of conventional forces. 3
The most striking aspect of these prophecies is how wrong they were. Current trends have begun to justify those who argued that proliferation is our most serious threat. 4 But the developing situation mandates going beyond merely stopping proliferation. Many governments are increasing their reliance upon nuclear weapons to deter non-nuclear attacks and as warfighting weapons even in small-scale wars. Far from losing utility, nuclear weapons appear to have increased utility. Even in the United States, the scope for nuclear use has grown during the 1990s. 5 This trend to envision nuclear weapons for warfighting in scenarios other than nuclear attack is also undoing several other “sacred cows” of international security studies.
One of these ‘sacred cows” is the “major war is obsolete” school. It argues that the idea of major war between the great powers is increasingly obsolescent and strongly relates that development to the nuclear taboo. 6 Another victim of this trend is the argument that that proliferation is a declining threat, or that new nuclear states will probably not use these weapons except for deterrence. 7 This trend also makes Kenneth Waltz’s linked argument that more nuclear states are really better even more questionable. 8 And, of course a third victim of this trend is a cornerstone of deterrence, i.e. the long-standing American belief that nuclear weapons have no discernible military-strategic utility other than to deter a nuclear attack. Therefore defenseless nuclear powers will deter each other from attacks. 9
Instead it seems that Colin Gray correctly warned that the nuclear taboo — and implicitly the taboo against using any weapon of mass destruction (WMD) — may be broken much more easily than we assume, once someone uses such weapons. 10 For example, in Russia’s war in Chechnya, the Chechens resorted to chemical weapons and Russia used what it considers to be WMD, fuel-air explosives, and cruise missiles. And Saddam’s use of gas against the Kurds went unpunished. 11
This trend towards nuclearization disproves these prophecies. It tells us that too much American writing on military strategy is excessively ethnocentric and plain ignorant of foreign conditions. It demonstrates the absurdity of substituting theory for close observation of empirical facts. It also highlights one of the most disturbing features of writing on arms control, nuclear war, and proliferation. Namely, such writing far too often ignores new developments in contemporary warfare and strategy. Thus much of the writing on China rather complacently assumes that nothing China can do in the foreseeable future can alter the fact that, “with the proper mix of U.S. forces in the region, rimland and maritime Asia will always have the ability to “trump” Chinese projection attempts.” 12 This approach neglects how fundamental changes in strategic geography due to the nuclearization and “missileization” of China and other Asian states pose rising threats to U.S. allies and interests in Asia. 13
The trend to operationalize nuclear weapons transcends the proliferation debate. Not only new or would-be nuclear states are nuclearizing and then weaponizng for operational scenarios. China, Russia, and the United States are also doing so. Therefore the undoubted slowdown in non-proliferation is not just due to a lack of U.S. leadership or the work of benighted politicians, as some partisans of the cause tend to argue. 14 These disturbing threats to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) regime must be related at least in part to trends in contemporary warfare.
This does not mean we should now embrace nuclear proliferation. Rather we must realize that nonproliferation campaigns, however well-meaning, will fail unless they can account for visible trends in modern warfare. As Iraq, North Korea and previous pro