The Next Great Idea in the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War

Non-Nuclear Warhead Urged for Trident Missile

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008; A03
A National Research Council blue-ribbon panel of defense experts is recommending development and testing of a conventional warhead for submarine-launched intercontinental Trident missiles to give the president an alternative to using nuclear weapons for a prompt strike anywhere in the world.
In critical situations, such an immediate global strike weapon “would eliminate the dilemma of having to choose between responding to a sudden threat either by using nuclear weapons or by not responding at all,” the panel said in a final report requested by Congress in early 2007 and released yesterday.
. . . The panel also said that few countries, other than Russia and perhaps China, would be able to detect a sub-launched missile “in the next five years,” and that because of the few warheads that would be involved, “the risk of the observing nation’s launching a nuclear retaliatory attack is very low.”

In its study, the panel focused on scenarios in which it said the Defense Department in the past “seriously contemplated strikes.” These involved the need for an immediate conventional strike to preempt an adversary whose missile system was poised to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States or an ally…

. . . The panel also included John S. Foster Jr., a former director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Defense Department director of research and development and chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger;


Our man Foster has been quoted as saying “National defense with maximum precision and minimum unintended damage should be an attractive challenge for scientists seeking to improve the human condition.” (Bio)

One can hardly think of a more improving influence on the human condition than America’s current (Bush declared) doctrine of preemptive war, enhanced by maximum precision and minimum collateral damage. A man who identifies that as an attractive challenge is long past the childhood habits of pulling wings off of insects.

If anything should chill the reader’s blood, giving this president another, easier, less confrontational, less ambiguous way to attack the world fills the bill.

The obscured and misunderstood argument against impeachment and against this kind of clap-trap weaponizing, is that this president is not the issue. “Oh, he’ll be gone in a few months.” What we give or allow this president, we give or allow all presidents to come, by precedent.

Remember, without the impeachment of Bill Clinton, all presidents would have been encouraged to solicit oral sex in the halls of the White House.

The claim that critical situations, allowing an immediate global-strike weapon would in any way enhance the choice between responding to a sudden threat or not responding, is bogus on its face. It’s a temptation to respond by poll, to an ill-advised president shooting from the hip to juice his numbers, rather than engaging in the hard work of diplomacy.

This administration in particular, but perhaps all modern administrations, have apparently thrown diplomacy (and the Department of State that administers it) into the dustbin of history. I argue that such policy has pretty much destroyed American influence on the international stage. It has been recently claimed that we have more members of military bands than exist in the entire State Department.

That shortfall in expertise is what ties the hands of Secretaries like Condoleeza Rice and turns them into firemen, dashing around the planet to frustration and incompetence in Darfur, Georgia, China, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere–too many elsewheres to list.

We don’t need a quicker way to strike, we need a calmer and more resolute method by which to negotiate. In a properly run administration, the situation in Georgia would never have been allowed to fester. Instead, GWB found himself surprised by what everyone else saw coming, but had no mechanism to prevent.

An well organized Department of State would have ‘sections’ devoted to every nation and region of the world–long term departments devoted to in-depth knowledge of an area’s history, economics, world view and political persuasion. That legacy would be available from president to president. A proper Department of State would have more that ten Arab-speakers in a workforce of 34,000.

Ten Arab speakers. We have placed ourselves entirely within a dark room and expected illumination.

The Middle East is in flames and America has ten people who can speak Arabic and probably fewer qualified in Farsi (the language of Iran). How ’bout packing in the missiles, John Foster (all that’s missing is the Dulles) and beating the drum for a diplomatic service fluent in Arabic, Persian, Pashtu, Albanian, Azerbiajani, Cantonese and Mandarin?

Instead of more thoughtful approaches to getting what we want politically and economically (the goals of all diplomacy), we have a study that recommends an increase in weapons. The signers of that study are (no surprise) heavily into the weapons promotion business. The Committee for Present Danger (nearing its 60th anniversary of perceived and ever-present dangers) as an example, includes Foster, Norman Podhoretz and associates of the American Enterprise Institute (Richard Perle), Heritage Foundation (Richard Mellon Scaife), AIPAC and Boeing.

Boeing? Yeah, Boeing. As for the rest of the weapons contractors, Joe Lieberman is there to haul their water.

Being the last of the major powers still standing is tough work. So is policing the world and for those who think we shouldn’t be policing the world, I would suggest it has always fallen to the powerful–Rome, England, France, Spain, now us. The work should never depend upon a single man’s perceptions, because no single man or woman is up to a detailed world-view. Condi Rice is a Russia expert and screwed up the Georgia conflict, having no depth on the bench to assist her diplomacy.

We are increasingly shying away from the hard work to take the easier route of intimidation, conflict and bipartisanship. It’s not working. That’s the result of the ‘Freeman Study,’ for which no professionals were engaged and no cost incurred.

Having said that, the smart money is on new submarine armaments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *