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Irrationality good, says U.S. military




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Military Urges U.S. on Nuclear Arms 

By John Diamond
Associated Press Writer
Monday, March 2, 1998; 2:17 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Harkening back to the Cold War era of nuclear
standoff, the U.S. military's nuclear command says an ``irrational and
vindictive'' demeanor against adversaries such as Iraq may help deter
conflict. 

The view is contained in an internal study, ``Essentials of Post-Cold
War Deterrence,'' written by the Strategic Command, the multiservice
headquarters responsible for the nation's strategic nuclear arsenal. 

The study was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by an
arms control advocacy group and published Sunday in a report on
U.S. strategies for deterring attacks by antagonistic nations using
chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. 

``Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the U.S.
may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it
hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed,'' the
1995 study said. 

The British-American Security Information Council, a London-based
think tank, cited the study in its report as an example of the Pentagon's
push to maintain a mission for its nuclear arsenal long after the Soviet
threat disappeared. 

The report portrays the Omaha, Neb.-based Strategic Command, or
STRATCOM, as fighting an internal bureaucratic battle against liberal
Clinton administration officials who lean in favor of dramatic nuclear
weapons reductions. 

While budgets for nuclear weapons have declined dramatically, the
command appears to have succeeded in shifting the U.S. nuclear
deterrent strategy from the former Soviet Union to so-called rogue
states -- Iraq, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and the like. 

The study uses Cold War language in defending the relevance of
nuclear weapons in deterring such potential adversaries. 

``The fact that some elements (of the U.S. government) may appear to
be potentially 'out of control' can be beneficial to creating and
reinforcing fears and doubts within the minds of an adversary's
decision makers,'' it says. ``That the U.S. may become irrational and
vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national
persona we project to all adversaries.'' 

The idea of projecting an aura of irrationality was not original to
STRATCOM. It dates at least as far back as the early 1960s, when
Harvard Professor Thomas Schelling was writing his ground-breaking
works on game theory and nuclear bargaining. 

``It is not a universal advantage in situations of conflict to be inalienably
and manifestly rational in decision and motivation,'' Schelling wrote.
These were ideas later adopted by Henry Kissinger and President
Nixon in using coercive air strikes on North Vietnam as a way of
forcing Hanoi to the bargaining table in the latter stages of the Vietnam
War. 

In 1997, two years after STRATCOM advanced its latter-day version of
this theory, President Clinton approved a directive that preserved the
role of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against attacks involving
weapons of mass destruction launched by rogue states. 

The policy upheld the ``negative security assurance'' that the United
States will refrain from first use of nuclear weapons against signatories
to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a list that includes Iraq, Iran,
Libya and North Korea. But it includes exceptions that presidential
adviser Robert Bell said have been ``refined'' in recent years. 

The exceptions would allow a nuclear response to attacks by
nuclear-capable states, countries that are not in good standing under
the Non-Proliferation Treaty or states allied with nuclear powers. Iraq,
which the United States regards as violating international atomic
weapons restrictions, could be one such exception. 

Arms control advocates are concerned that signatories to the
Non-Proliferation Treaty who possess no nuclear weapons will
abandon the pact if they see the existing nuclear powers preserving
their nuclear arsenals and finding missions for their weapons --
particularly if those missions include scenarios that involve attacks on
them. 

Bell, Clinton's senior adviser on nuclear weapons and arms control
matters, disputed that argument in an interview. 

``I don't think there's a disconnect in principle between some level of
general planning at STRATCOM and the negative security assurance
and our goals relative to the Non-Proliferation Treaty,'' Bell said. Treaty
signatories are more worried about their neighbors than the United
States, he said, and they support the nuclear weapons reductions the
treaty imposes on nuclear-armed states. 

Of the 1995 study, Bell said, ``That sounds like an internal
STRATCOM paper which certainly does not rise to the level of national
policy.'' 

Navy Lt. Laurel Tingley, a STRATCOM spokeswoman, said she could
not comment on the council's report until it could be reviewed in detail.
She restated the command's basic policy guidance that deterrence of
attacks involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons is ``the
fundamental purpose of U.S. nuclear forces.'' 

          Copyright 1998 The Associated Press


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