The President has released his new Nuclear Posture Review.  Every time I think I’ve seen the most amateur and naive possible misstep by this administration, they pull something new to astonish me.

For several decades it has been the US policy to treat nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threats as one. That is, from our perspective, a nuke is a slime is a bug.  A key part of our policy of deterrence has been to respond to any Weapon of Mass Destruction attack with a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Since we have no biological or chemical weapon capability, that meant of course that our response would be nuclear. Now, this might seem to be a pretty unambiguous policy. But the fact is, it was far more grey than one would first think.

For instance, while a large scale nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the continental US would almost certainly trigger a nuclear response, there were a goodly number of scenarios where our potential adversary would NOT know what our response would be. As an example, if Saddam Hussein had used non-persistent chemical weapons against our forces in the field during Desert Storm (and we were certainly convinced he might like that option), would the US be willing to retaliate against a population center? Would we perhaps nuke a Republican Guard division in the field?  What would our response be? No one knows. Our response was ambiguous, partly because we, as a nation, don’t like to think about these things, and partly because we can’t really know what our response would be until actually faced with such a situation.

But that strategic ambiguity has a purpose. By not knowing how we can be pushed, adversaries don’t know where the line is. They are less likely to take steps at the lower end of the scale that might result in a response they aren’t willing to suffer.

Instead, now, our President has just announced to the world that a catastrophic attack can be launched against us with no nuclear response. A potential adversary might just decide that it could ride out a conventional response to a WMD attack.  This removal of ambiguity has eroded our safety.

What really confuses me is I can see no “upside” to this announcement beyond feeding the President’s ego.

More thinking on the topic by CDR Salamander, Neptunus Lex, Drew over at Ace’s, and Jenn at ACS.

14 thoughts on “**Facepalm**”

  1. What’s the point? If the US is attacked or our forces in the field are attacked with WMD then public outrage would change all this POTUS’s kumbayah bullshit in a heartbeat or else he would have to be the target of a whole lot of flak and even should he use nukes in a reposte he would still be held responsable for setting the stage where an enemy could hit us without fear of reprisal in kind.
    Obama, POTUS (PBUH) is just making a statement that he cannot back up, again!

  2. I believe the main thing to come of this is a nuclear armed Japan, Taiwan and assorted other allied nation who had depended on a US Nuclear umbrella to protect them from an atomic attack by their enemies.
    “How is causing more countries to arm with nukes helping against nuclear proliferation?”

  3. On your first point, I’d rather not close the barn door after the horse bolts.

    On your second, that’s very much on target.

  4. You are surprised by this? I’m not. He actually said he would do this back in the campaign. It might be the one promise he has kept. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl32Y7wDVDs&feature=player_embedded)

    Does no one in the administration read history? Perhaps someone should take a look at what happened when Acheson misdrew the line and excluded Korea from what we would defend. Oh wait, that’s right. They’re too smart to look at history’s lessons.

  5. Bill, as far as this administration is concerned, history began in January, 2009. Nothing before has any consequence.

  6. I was speaking to a friend about this and he related an example (metaphor?) that sounds about right.
    Matt Dillon Marshal of Dodge city makes a statement that says he will not shoot anyone who is not armed with a peacemaker but one who is armed with a peacemaker who breaks the law and then fires on the Marshall and the citizens of dodge or attempts to burn down Dodge then Matt will use his peacemaker and shoot back.
    Now what we have is Matt Dillon Marshal of Dodge saying that Not only will he not use his peacemaker even if he is shot at by an outlaw (terrorist) who has a peacemaker also not only that but we hear Matt dillon state he is not going to carry or own a peacemaker and is on a course to rid peacemakers from Dodge. Matt feels the outlaws will be impressed by his disarming and follow suit.
    We all know that Evil Jack Slade will not disarm and will shoot Matt to death in the next encounter probaly Festus too and will not have to be concerned with being shot back cause there are no peacemakers in town anymore.
    Hence Dodge and it’s citizens are left defenseless and the Marshal has given up his best enforcement of peace tool to be allowed to say, “I took the moral high ground and earned my Nobel peace prize.
    The survivors of Dodge are hoping that Miss Kitty (Sarah Palin) will step out of the Long Branch with her peacemaker, which she wisely did not dispose of, armed and ready to save the day but that is up to the vote from the citizens of Dodge. who are split evenly on submiting to the outlaws or rearming.

  7. Bill THAT is the ONE vid I saw during the campaign that chilled me to the core. Why the GOP/McCain Campaign didn’t make more of it I’ll never understand. How anyone but extreme lefty’s could vote for him after seeing that I’ll never know. And yo just KNEW that he was deadly serious–as he is daily proving by his actions. A real nightmare come true…

    1. McAmnesty was much too busy showing that he was not going to engage in the politics of personal destruction to call anyone’s attention to the dark side of the Obamanation’s possible presidency.

      IN my opinion, someone that sets the stage for war, by being weak, either militarily or by demonstrating less than a strong will to defend against the enemies of their country, is not worthy of a Peace Prize. Ronnie Ray Gun did more to promote peace than all the Nobel Peace prize recipients in history, combined, have done. while Cheney is a neo-Con (another name for Wilsonian Democrat) he was right when he said that weakness is provocative. man’s sinful nature is such that evil men will prey on the weak when ever they present themselves in their weakness. Obama is a very weak man and a danger to the well being of the US and to world peace.

  8. Gee, strategic ambiguity didn’t slow N. Korea or Iran down when the Bush’s were in office for 12 years. Or Clinton for that matter. And how exactly did it help prevent 9/11? Your logic infers that the ‘enemy’, whoever they might be, plays by the same rules as the US. Or plays by any rules or constraints at all. How could anyone here support that point of view looking at how warfare has changed during the previous 20 years. So the world around us has forever altered, significantly, but everyone here just wants America to continue doing and saying the same things from cold and pre-cold war days. That’s a plan.

    The fact is, if a rogue state, terrorist group or psychotic individual had access and ability to detonate a nuclear weapon in America, no amount of posturing, ambiguity or politics is going to prevent them. Only intelligence and security will. Perhaps if we spent a little more time and money securing the porous borders and technology/communications systems and a little less on nuclear proliferation, we might actually get ahead of the game and stop living in the 1950s.

    1. Strategic ambiguity does not deter if the actor is not basically rational. The Soviet Union did not stir much trouble during the time we presented ourselves as strong and able to back up the saber rattling. When we were weak (just think Carter and other Democrats) the Sovs tried things in Korea, Vietnam and Africa in the 70s.

      Osama, and others, are not rational actors. Their basis for action is a religious ideology that calls on them to act even in the face of death. Indeed, to welcome death in the process of that fight since they will be rewarded for it. There is only one thing you can do, kill them, and continue to kill them until they realize that you will continue to kill them until they are exterminated. Then you yell “Komarade” and hope they quit so you can get the peace of Saladin and rebuild to make another try.

  9. Actually, SixLegsUp, strategic ambiguity isn’t about proliferation prevention. It’s about use. Then there’s the strategic ambiguity from the Iranian or NK perspective. Under what conditions will THEY use them? I think we can take it as a given that a full scale invasion would trigger their use, but what about a series of airstrikes? Or limited combat like Operation Preying Mantis? Once Iran has an operational nuke force, ANY action we take, we have to guess if that will be enough to trigger a nuclear response. And if it does trigger a nuke response, who gets nuked? Israel? Saudi Arabia? One of the Gulf states? A carrier group? Who knows. And if you don’t know how likely it is, and who is targeted, it sure is going to make a workable risk analysis pretty difficult- thereby severely constraining any possible US action against Iran. Pretty much same deal with NK.

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