Dangerous Doctrine: How New U.S. Nuclear Plans Could Backfire

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The National Security Strategy announced by President George W. Bush in 2002 departs boldly, in some respects, from previous U.S. policy. It declares that the United States has a moral duty to use its unique military and political strength to establish a new liberal democratic world order. Concerned that the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment may no longer work, and that "if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," Bush announced in the National Security Strategy a new "preemption doctrine" against such threats.

Earlier, in 2001, the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) addressed the nuclear aspect of the issue. It presented a new U.S. strategic military doctrine to achieve, among other missions, proactive counterproliferation--the use of military force to prevent or reverse proliferation. The "Bush doctrine" called for new nuclear weapons to meet these missions, arguing that smaller nuclear weapons could reduce collateral civilian damage and make U.S. use of nuclear weapons more "credible," therefore deterring hostile nations or even dissuading opponents from acquiring WMD.

However, the analysis offered in this article indicates that the new weapons concepts advanced to date seem to have little to do with deterrence of a nuclear (or other WMD) attack on the United States or its allies. Instead, they appear to be geared toward a warfighting role, which could ultimately undermine rather than enhance U.S. security.

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