A Nuclear Knife Aimed at America’s Heart
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A Nuclear Knife Aimed at America’s Heart

NewsMax | March 25, 1999
By Joel M. Skousen

In November 1997, President Clinton signed a top-secret Presidential Decision Directive (PDD-60) directing U.S. military commanders to abandon the time-honored nuclear deterrence of "launch on warning."

Ironically, this was done in the name of "increased deterrence." Every sensible American needs to understand why this reasoning is fraudulent at best and deadly at worst. First, some background.

The impetus to change U.S. strategic nuclear doctrine came on the heels of Clinton’s demand to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in early 1997 that they prepare to unilaterally reduce America’s nuclear warhead deployment to 2,500 in eager anticipation of the ratification of the START II disarmament treaty. This pact has yet to be ratified by the Russian Duma.

Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, responded that he couldn’t comply, since the U.S. military was still operating on a former Presidential Decision Directive of 1981 to prepare to "win a protracted nuclear war." A winning strategy couldn’t be implemented without the full contingent of current nuclear strategic warheads.

According to Craig Cerniello of Arms Control Today (November/December 1997 issue), "the administration viewed the 1981 guidelines as an anachronism of the Cold War. The notion that the United States still had to be prepared to fight and win a protracted nuclear war today seemed out of touch with reality, given the fact that it has been six years since the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Certainly, the apparent collapse of the Soviet Union is the linchpin in every argument pointing toward the relaxation of Western vigilance and accelerated disarmament. Indeed, it is the driving argument that is trumpeted constantly before Congress, U.S. military leaders, and the American people.

Almost everyone is buying it -- even most conservatives who should know better. However, the most savvy Soviet-watchers can point to a host of evidence indicating that the so-called "collapse" was engineered to disarm the West and garner billions in direct aid to assist Russia while inducing the West to take over the economic burden of the former satellite states.

But the most ominous evidence is found in defectors from Russia who tell the same story: Russia is cheating on all aspects of disarmament, and is siphoning off billions in Western aid money to modernize and deploy top-of-the-line new weapons systems aimed at taking down the U.S. military in one huge, decapitating nuclear strike.

Contrast this with the Clinton administration’s response. Incredibly, while still paying lip service to nuclear deterrence, Assistant Secretary of Defense Edward L. Warner III went before the Congress on March 31, 1998, and bragged about the litany of unilateral disarmament this administration has forced upon the U.S. military:

Warner noted the "success" the Clinton administration has had in recent years, which has:

# Eliminated our entire inventory of ground-launched non-strategic nuclear weapons (nuclear artillery and Lance surface-to-surface missiles).

# Removed all nonstrategic nuclear weapons on a day-to-day basis from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft bases.

# Removed our strategic bombers from alert.

# Stood down the Minuteman II ICBMs scheduled for deactivation under Start I.

# Terminated the mobile Peacekeeper and mobile small ICBM programs.

# Terminated the SCRAM-II nuclear short-range attack missile.

In January 1992, the second Presidential Nuclear Initiative took further steps which included:

# Limiting B-2 production to 20 bombers.

# Canceling the entire small ICBM program.

# Ceasing production of W-88 Trident SLBM (submarine-launched missile) warheads.

# Halting purchases of advanced cruise missiles.

# Stopping new production of Peacekeeper missiles (our biggest MIRV-warhead ICBM).

"As a result of these significant changes, the U.S. nuclear stockpile has decreased by more than 50 percent," Warner enthused.

All of this has been done without any meaningful disarmament by the Russians.

The Clinton administration would counter this charge by citing the "successful" dismantling of 3,300 strategic nuclear warheads by Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, and the destruction of their 252 ICBMs and related silos -- all paid for with U.S. taxpayer funds to the tune of $300 million per year. But the real story is otherwise.

Yes, Americans paid for the dismantling of these systems -- the oldest and most out-of-date in the Soviet inventory. They were scheduled for replacement anyway, so the U.S. taxpayer ended up saving the Russians over a billion dollars, allowing them to use this and other Western aid to develop and build new systems, coming on line right now. But that isn’t all.

What the administration doesn’t say is that they allowed the Russians to reclaim all the nuclear warheads, and paid them to recycle the usable material into new, updated warheads. We didn’t diminish the threat at all. We only helped them to transform it into something more dangerous.

Thus, the Russians still maintain a more than 3-to-1 advantage over the United States in both throw-weight and nuclear delivery vehicles. That disparity is widening dramatically with the Clinton administration’s unilateral disarmament while at the same time encouraging the Russians to proceed not only with the deployment of 500 new Topol-M missiles (which are mobile-launched and therefore difficult to target), but to put three MIRVed warheads on each missile instead of the treaty limit of one warhead -- for a total deployment of 1,500 warheads.

Not counting the presumed minimum 4,000 to 6,000 warheads in the current Russian inventory, these 1,500 new warheads would overwhelm a measly 200-interceptor ABM system in North Dakota -- which the Clinton administration is insisting should NOT be deployed before 2005. I wonder why?

With our 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs scheduled to be decommissioned in 2003, that gives the Russians or Chinese a wide-open window for attack, should they choose to exercise their first-strike, nuclear-decapitation option.

So much for the "new realism" of the Clinton disarmament team and their assertion that Russia poses no threat. Judging strictly by public data from establishment sources (which is always understated due to Moscow’s heavy shroud of secrecy) the Russian threat is much greater than it ever was, both in quantity and quality of strategic nuclear forces. This is thanks, in part, to ongoing technology transfers by IBM and other defense contractors with the knowing participation and encouragement of this administration.

Now let’s take a close look at this presumed "increased deterrence" the Clinton Department of Defense is promising. The administration claims its brand of deterrence is still based on the "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) concept -- a truly appropriate acronym.

This is the presumption that, since both sides have an overwhelming capability to destroy each other, that no sane leadership would engage in nuclear war. Let’s examine this closely. MAD could only stand as a viable assumption if:

# Both sides had sufficient weapons and delivery vehicles to inflict total devastation.

# Neither side had an effective anti-ballistic-missile system.

# Neither side had electronic jamming capability on its incoming ICBMs.

# Neither side had hardened shelters protecting its population and leadership.

These assumptions clearly do not exist today:

First, we barely have enough nuclear warheads to take out the Russian arsenal as presently constituted if we used them all at once (which no sane military commander could afford to do, leaving him with no reserves). Russia, on the other hand, has enough to devastate our entire strategic forces and still retain 60 percent of her weapons in reserve, for a prolonged conflict.

Second, we have no ABM system to protect against ICBMs at all. Our dumbed-down and slowed-down Patriots are theater weapons (built to conform to the flawed ABM Treaty) and can barely catch slow, low-flying Scud missiles, let alone ICBMs that coming screaming in from space at 6 to 12 kilometers per second. The Russians have (in violation of the same ABM Treaty) a nationwide system of ABMs tied to phased-array radars and satellite guidance systems.

Third, we have no electronic jamming on our missiles to help them penetrate the Russian ABM system, and the Russians claim their newest Topol-M missiles do have such a capability. Whether or not this claim is a bluff is immaterial. The fact is, they are building new, high-tech missiles and our technology is 10 years old and stagnant. We are not developing or building anything new. This aspect can only worsen as time goes on.

Fourth, our civilian population is totally unprotected, while a large portion of the Russian cities have public fallout shelter facilities. New bunkers are being constructed for the Russian leadership despite the economic hardships the people suffer. This should tell us something about Russian leadership intentions.

Is this Mutually Assured Destruction? Hardly. It equates to United States Assured Destruction! In every category of deterrence, we are disarming and stagnant, and the Russians are building and deploying. There is, in fact, only one type of deterrence that is capable of somewhat balancing the scales: the nuclear response doctrine of Launch on Warning.

Launch on Warning takes advantage of the fact that long-range ballistic missiles take time to arrive on target -- up to 25 minutes, depending on where the missiles are fired from. If the Russians were to launch a first strike, our satellites would detect and confirm that launch within seconds. In a Launch on Warning doctrine, our missiles (if on alert status) could be launched before the Russian or Chinese missiles hit our silos. There is also time to retarget our missiles so that they are not wasted on Russian silos that are now empty.

Thus, one of the great advantages for a Launch on Warning doctrine is that it allows the nation that launches second to have an advantage over the nation that launches first. The one to launch first wastes a certain number of its missiles on our silos that are now empty. By contrast, our missiles (utilizing real-time targeting data from satellites) strike targets that are still viable.

Now that is deterrence -- a deterrence that we presently do not have due to PDD-60.

Clinton national security aide Robert Bell proudly proclaimed to a group of disarmament advocates, "In this PDD, we direct our military forces to continue to posture themselves in such a way as to not rely on Launch on Warning -- to be able to absorb a nuclear strike and still have enough force surviving to constitute credible deterrence."

This is patently preposterous. Respond with what?

We have no mobile missiles to avoid being targeted. We have already unilaterally agreed to keep over half of our ballistic missile submarines in port at any one time, so they can easily be targeted. After all, we don’t want our Russian "allies" to feel insecure!

All of our Navy and Air Force strategic forces are incapable of withstanding a nuclear strike. Even the remaining Trident subs on patrol would be unable to respond when communication links and satellites are downed in a first strike.

PDD-60 removes all alternate submarine launch codes so that our subs cannot fire without direct communication with the president. Those vital communications links will assuredly not survive a massive first strike. When you tell the Russians we are going to absorb a first strike, you induce them to make sure they hit us with everything necessary to make sure we cannot respond.

This is not deterrence. This is suicide.

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