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America has nuclear offensive strategies, but not defensive ones

The Hidden Defect In U.S. Nuclear Strategy That Could Spell America’s Doom, The National Interest, 18 Oct 16 

“………aside from a very minimal collection of radars and interceptors on the West Coast designed to deal with North Korea, America has no strategic defenses.

What it has is offenses — about 1,500 nuclear warheads distributed in hardened silos, stealthy submarines and long-range bombers. These forces are known as the nuclear “triad;” along with flying command centers, secure communications satellites and aerial-refueling tankers, the triad is designed to make any act of nuclear aggression potentially suicidal for the perpetrator. The plan is to respond proportionately to any level of nuclear aggression, and make that plan abundantly clear to any nation that might contemplate an attack.

The assumption is that no sane leader would deliberately launch an attack knowing the retribution that would follow. That seems logical enough, but think about the other ways a nuclear exchange might occur. What if we find ourselves facing an irrational adversary with nuclear weapons? What if the other side is rational, but suffers a mechanical failure in its command system? What if it misreads U.S. intentions in a crisis such as war in Eastern Europe? What if parts of its nuclear arsenal are seized by elements intent on fomenting war?

These are not just science-fiction scenarios. The Russian early-warning network of satellites and ground-based radars is so fragile that it could easily fail, or result in mis-interpretation of threat data. If Moscow seriously thought it was under attack, it would be strongly incentivized to launch quickly before its weapons were destroyed on the ground. That might well signal the end of American civilization,…….

If Washington had spent as much money over the last 15 years on protecting our homeland as it has spent on trying to fix Afghanistan, America would be well on its way to having defenses against nuclear attacks — no matter how or where they originated. Instead, the United States remains vulnerable to the one threat that could destroy our civilization before sunset. This may be the greatest strategic mis-calculation in history, and the next president needs to focus on correcting it.

Loren B. Thompson is Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-hidden-defect-us-nuclear-strategy-could-spell-americas-18083?page=2

October 19, 2016 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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