Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Coming Nuclear War

This article was provoked, if you will, by Hugh Hewitt's challenge to the blogworld concerning John Kerry's debate remarks on our country's nuclear "bunker buster" bomb program. I thought about commenting on the specific subject but decided to open up the discussion.

Why do we need nuclear-equipped "bunker buster" bombs? The current US military inventory has conventional bunker busters, made from artillery cannon barrels filled with high explosive, that work by penetrating deeply into the earth and through several meters of concrete before detonating in a focused explosion, analagous to pressing a tank gun up against the side of a pillbox before firing. Dropped from sufficient height, our bunker busters were able to destroy Iraqi bunkers as deep as 100' below the surface of the earth. These seem awfully effective, so why do we need to nuclearize them?

I'll tell you why: so that we are ready to defend ourselves in the coming nuclear showdown. It is a virtual certainty that, within the next two decades, the US will find itself at the brink of nuclear confrontation with an enemy that, for whatever reason, will not back down. They may think they can out-bluff us, or they may just not be all that concerned that our counterstrike will affect their physical safety, or they just may not care. Now, you may agree with me, or you may not. Either way, it behooves us to prepare for the worst-case scenario because if history has taught us one thing it is that wars are not lost due to preparedness. To the contrary, wars are often prevented by preparedness. If an enemy realizes that attacking carries no benefits and results in serious consequences, the incentive for aggressive action disappears.

Given that parabellum philosophy, why on earth would Senator Kerry be opposed to American development of a weapon that can surgically devastate our enemies regardless of how deeply they are hunkered down, and regardless of the amount of concrete they have overhead—concrete that would defeat any conventional bunker buster? What logical reason is there for his position?

The answer is, there is no logical reason. There is, however, a philosophical (or ideological) reason that should, in my opinion, preclude Senator Kerry or anyone else with that belief from being president of the United States. Kerry and his ilk are opposed to nuclear bunker busters because they are opposed to nuclear weapons, because they are opposed to all weapons. This opposition, which Kerry has demonstrated by two decades of votes against all of the weapons systems that make America safe by making us the strongest country in the history of the world, was only confirmed by Kerry's remarks during the first presidential debate.

It all comes down to this: perhaps because of his Vietnam experiences, perhaps because of his ideological indoctrination, John Kerry lacks a fundamental understanding of the right and proper use of force. Does it matter why his beliefs are what they are? No. What matters is, without understanding that morality sometimes demands the use of force, that the credible threat of the use of force is the only thing that makes diplomacy effective, that we must base our diplomacy solely on our national interests instead of deferring to world opinion, and that our president must be able and willing to use force before we are backed into a corner where force is truly the last resort because it is the only resort left to us, no one can safely and effectively lead the world's most powerful nation.

Our last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, suffered from the same deficiency (it seems to be a common deficiency of most Democrats since the late 1960s). How else can one explain why the world's most powerful country decides to respond to an attempted assassination on a former president by attacking a building late at night specifically to avoid harming the very people who planned that assassination? (It was, evidently, okay to kill a janitor or two.) How else can one explain why a president would expose troops to attack by expanding their mission in Somalia, yet deny them a single company of M1A1 tanks because the mere presence of these tanks might offend world opinion by appearing too menacing? How else can one explain a president who, after suffering 18 deaths because his policies handicapped those who were tasked with carrying those policies out, backed down and negotiated with the very warlord who was responsible for those 18 deaths? I submit that Bill Clinton's misuse of American force encouraged our enemies and in many ways led to the cataclysm of September 11. After all, why should Osama bin Laden, al Quaida, and the Taliban have been worried about the repercussions of an attack on the United States? What were the repercussions of the Battle of Mogadishu? Of the first World Trade Center bombing? Of the Khobar Tower bombing? Of the embassy bombings? Of the attack on the USS Cole? A couple of destroyed tents, a ruined factory (in Sudan!), and the pullout of US forces from Somalia. No wonder they held us in contempt.

So, why fight against nuclear bunker busters? For the same reason they fought against development of the neutron bomb. It's not that these weapons aren't effective, it's that they'll be too effective... and that in many ways these weapons minimize or eliminate the objectively bad aspects of nuclear weapons (by reducing or eliminating fallout and long-term radiological hazards). Forget about the morality of nuclear weapons for a moment and imagine them instead as really big conventional bombs. Is a 15 kiloton 'daisy cutter' fuel-air explosive bomb worse, from a moral standpoint, than fifteen 2000 lb. conventional bombs? Most of us (the rational ones, at least) don't want to die, and I for one can't see how it's worse to die by being directly under a nuclear explosion than, say, being in the path of a napalm splash or an 8" artillery round, or a bullet from an AK-47. After all, dead is dead, isn't it? And that's just the point: the anti-nuke types are philosophically opposed to any use of force, and weapons which make that more likely because they are more effective are especially to be opposed.

From a purely rational standpoint, our enemies have an advantage over us. Being the sort who don't mind holding onto a tongue with a pair of pliers while reaching in with a straight razor to amputate it, the morality of a nuclear weapon never enters into the equation. Instead, the only questions they consider are, can we do it, and how many people can we kill? Does anyone really think we can peacefully coexist with those holding this mindset?

The answer is, of course not. The world is still a jungle and ruled by the Law of Claw and Fang. Wishing it weren't so, or believing that humanity is more evolved than that is just avoiding the problem. The world is only one generation away from barbarism... if that far.

That is why we need to develop nuclear bunker busters... and a working anti-ballistic missile system... and a technologically overwhelming conventional military. The wolf is out there. He needs to know that we aren't sheep that are there for the taking. If he's too dumb, or too hungry, or too irrational to understand, then we need to be able to shred him—deep in his lair—before any of the sheep get eaten.

And that is why, after eight years of Bill Clinton and the problems we are facing today caused by his abrogation of his responsibilities, this country cannot afford another weak and indecisive leader. It's not about nuclear bunker busters. It's about a fundamental understanding of the use of force. Kerry lacks that understanding. His election would unravel the War on Terror and leave us unprepared for the inevitable nuclear confrontation that is coming.

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