Letter: The folly of low-yield nukes

Published: 9/9/2018 12:00:47 AM

Brian Miller (Monitor letters, Sept. 1) thinks the U.S. needs new low-yield nukes because, as Gen. James Mattis says, if Russia begins to lose a conventional weapons fight with the U.S., they may use low-yield nukes, forcing the U.S. to choose between “using high-yield nuclear weapons and surrendering.”

Miller has it right if he’s implying that use of high-yield nukes would be a disaster for all, although this has been the threat on both sides for decades. The sad truth is that low-yield nukes were part of the NATO posture for decades (and still are), mainly because Russia’s conventional forces in Europe were supposedly superior. This was the origin of U.S. “first use” (well before Russia first espoused it in 1993 due to NATO’s eastward move to Russia’s borders) and the creation of our “flexible response” doctrine, which LBJ’s assistant defense secretary Morton Halperin shockingly, but insightfully, explained as “to fight with conventional arms until we are losing, then to fight with nuclear tacticals until we are losing, and then to blow up the world.”

I agree that Mattis was one of Trump’s more rational appointments. But his wisdom on things nuclear falls short of former secretary of defense William Perry and secretary of state George Shultz, who note we still have tacticals – not the 10,000 we once had in Europe but several hundred in five NATO countries. They were grave dangers then, and still are. The nukes (big and small) on both sides must be reduced, not increased or made more “useable.”



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