Dr Strangelove lives!

Issue 

By Kevin Sanders

Two unnervingly hawkish Pentagon documents prepared for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acquired recently by Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act, positively seethe with gung ho enthusiasm for a nuclear brawl, revealing a mind set unchanged since the darkest days of the Cold War.

Until now, the documents, a 1992 report called "Stratplan 2010" and a more detailed 1993 version called "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations", have remained classified. They provide the military chiefs with instructions on how and when to use nuclear weapons.

These documents are no mere thinking options. They are, as they say, "authoritative". In the preface to the Joint Chiefs, the documents state, "If conflicts arise ... this publication will take precedence".

The opening paragraphs give no hint of any short-term or long-term plans for nuclear disarmament. The documents assert flatly, "Credible and capable nuclear forces are essential for national security ... The potential aggressor must believe the United States could and would use nuclear weapons to attain its security objectives."

Further, the documents encourage a display of popular enthusiasm for using nuclear bombs to "demonstrate the national will to use nuclear weapons if necessary".

As for wimpy US peaceniks who may feel uneasy about incinerating cities full of civilians and unleashing nuclear radiation to poison future generations with cancers and genetic abnormalities, the Pentagon documents warn in a particularly sinister sentence, "Public affairs measures must also be taken to minimise the possibility that public concern over the conflict might develop into mass panic upon implementation of US readiness measures".

No details are given of what "public affairs measures" the Pentagon has in mind. (We recall, however, that Oliver North and his gang at the Reagan White House were working on a secret plan to suspend the Constitution in certain "crisis situations" in order to carry out mass arrests and deportation of US citizens. No information has ever been made available on those plans or whether they have ever been rescinded.)

Although there is, here and there in the Pentagon documents, a hint that nuclear war may be uncomfortable and difficult to control if it should escalate into a global exchange of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs as the documents call them), the Pentagon planners foresee no great difficulties in ending a conflict involving "relatively constrained use of a limited number of nuclear weapons". This attitude of "Aw shucks, let's not be timid about dropping a few nuclear bombs in a little nuclear war" permeates the reports.

Perhaps the most revealing and disturbing examples are to be found in the language of the report dealing with the recommendations for occasions on which the planners think nuclear bombs should be used. At one point the report notes. "Nuclear warhead options are attractive against hard targets". Attractive? To whom?

A few sentences later the cheery enthusiasm for launching a nuclear strike appears again when the report notes, "The most appealing concepts focus on nuclear warheads with very small yields ..." Yes, sir, those little nukes sure are appealing. Make great Christmas gifts, too.

Nor do the Pentagon planners overlook the possibility of exploiting the deadly effects of nuclear radiation released by the bombs. In a section dealing with what the report perkily calls "special effects", it recommends designing nuclear bombs with enhanced short-term radiation to maximise lethality on enemy troops. Hey, another great idea. Why didn't we think of it before?

The report also finds "attractive" convertible weapons that can be used on several kinds of delivery systems, rockets, planes, ships and so on. The blithe tone of the reports nowhere shows the slightest awareness of the gravity of consequences of the actions they recommend. They are grotesquely unreflective documents that betray the mad Strangelovian thinking that still grips the US military planners.

Even more disturbing is the fact that these documents are intended as projections for war situations up to the year 2010. So while the administration is talking about further cuts in nuclear arsenals beyond Start II, and officially endorses the general principles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to move swiftly to complete nuclear disarmament, the Pentagon is at work behind the scenes finding scenarios in which nuclear "special effects" can be developed to create "attractive" and "appealing" opportunities for nuclear war.

The documents should be required reading for judges of the World Court in preparation for their coming hearings on the request for an advisory opinion on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons.
[From War and Peace Foundation, New York.]