Proposed United States doctrine would expand possible use of nuclear weapons

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Pentagon has drafted a revised plan for the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations. This draft document is a revison of the Pentagon's Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, Joint Publication 3-12, which is dated December 15, 1995.

This draft redefines the purpose of United States's Nuclear forces to include "Assuring allies and friends of the US steadfastness of purpose and its capability to fulfill its security commitments." and "Dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations that could threaten US interests or those of our allies and friends". This is a departure from the previous document which defined the purpose of the Nuclear Force as:

The permanent security interest of the United States is its survival as a free and independent nation, with its fundamental values intact and its institutions and people secure. This is best achieved by a defense posture that makes possible war outcomes so uncertain and dangerous, as calculated by potential enemies, as to remove all incentive for initiating attack under any circumstance. Thus, the fundamental purpose of US nuclear forces is to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), particularly nuclear weapons, and to serve as a hedge against the emergence of an overwhelming conventional threat.

The draft proposal also seeks to expand the definition of deterence to include US interests as well as threats to national security. The draft goes on to describe how deterence will work in cases of state actors using WMD:

Deterrence of potential adversary WMD use requires the potential adversary leadership to believe the United States has both the ability and will to preempt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective.

This again is a departure from the previous version, as pre-emption was not mentioned as a method for deterence to work. The current draft also suggests new scenarios for the United States to deploy nuclear forces, against biological or chemical attack on US, allied, or multinational forces, to counter overwhelming converntional forces, and against states supporting a non-state actor's use of WMD.

This draft, like the previous version, also emphasizes that the US abhorrs the use of unrestricted warfare, and has codefied "laws of war".

Critics of the draft argue that the "aggressive posture" outlined in this new document actually undermines US security. Hans Kristensen, of the Natural Resouces Defense Council, analyzed the draft in The Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons: New Doctrine Falls Short of Bush Pledge.

The draft document was written under the direction of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard B. Meyers. The draft is going through a final coordination with various military branches and pentagon offices. The draft has not received final approval from United States Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld.