Along the Tracks

Friday, March 15, 2002

Posture posturing

The big hoo-hah getting batted around right now is, of course, the Pentagon’s classified Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was leaked to the media. Normally sound and circumspect minds sometimes get hot and bothered when nukes are the topic; those already out in left field go apoplectic. It’s hard to believe the defenders and detractors of the NPR are talking about the same document. See for yourself by checking out Mackubin Thomas Owens compared to Mary McGrory. I see Molly Ivins fired off a few spitballs of her own in Thursday’s syndicated column in the Bryan Times. Frankly, I think it’s good we plan for the unthinkable. In case Ivins, McGrory or anybody else missed it, something unthinkable just happened six months ago. Fortunately, George Tenet and the CIA had the basis of a response plan in place. We executed it well, and now Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist sanctuary (if not yet entirely cleansed of terrorists).

I also believe the Bush Administration deliberately leaked the NPR. Sure, they knew they’d catch a manure-spreader load of cow cookies over its content, but they get that on one subject or another everyday anyway. The real purpose of the leak was to let the Axis of Evil know we not only don’t want them using weapons of mass destruction, we have a plan in place to hit them hard if they should try. That is called deterrence.

Also, the suggestion that our nuclear arsenal should include smaller, more targeted “bunker busters” is intelligent policy for the world in which we live. As things stand today, if an Axis country were to use a weapon of mass destruction against the United States, we would have an all or nothing choice: Either nuke the offending nation, killing hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of innocent civilians while probably allowing the real culprits to escape; or absorb our losses and invite further attack. A better plan would allow the U.S. to strike the stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with small nukes, limiting the collateral damage and the aftereffects of radiation. A secondary but important benefit would be the ability to hit the bunkers of the leaders themselves, assuring their destruction as well. Once again, our capabilities would add to the deterrent effect.

Despite what the howlers claim, the Bush Administration does not want to use nuclear weapons, and by thinking through what situations could result in their use - and letting the Axis know - the president reduces the likelihood we will ever need to use them.

Evil growing

My very first blog on this Web column concerned questions why North Korea was included in Bush’s “Axis of Evil.” I said North Korea may very well be the most immediate threat to the American homeland after terrorism. Indications are they have enough fissile material for two nukes; we just aren’t sure if they know how to make a bomb. Today, again at National Review Online, Rich Lowry writes on a Monday congressional briefing where an intelligence expert suggested North Korea has two fully-functional nukes, and has had them since the mid-1990s (thanks again, Slick Willy). North Korea is also very close to perfecting a missile capable of hitting the continental U.S. Once they’ve reached that point, the scenario I mentioned in my first blog - blackmailing America to allow their takeover of South Korea - has an opportunity to come into play. By including them in the Axis, Bush served notice that we will see this coming and will not allow it, providing some hope of a diplomatic solution before we are under the nuclear gun.

According to Lowry, the congressional briefing also included the disturbing possibility that Iraq and Iran might be within as little as three years of possessing intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could deliver chemical or biological weapons as deadly as a nuke.

This is serious business, and it is at least in a small way comforting to know our president takes it serious, and intends to do something about it.

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