Asking if the Obama administration's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will "be the inspiration for an engineered plague that someday scythes through human kind," Ralph Peters misleadingly wrote that the NPR says "if the US suffers a biological, chemical or massive cyber attack, we will not respond with nukes." In fact, the NPR provides a limited and narrow role for nuclear weapons, but does not eliminate the use of such weapons in response to attacks.
Peters falsely claims NPR says "if the US suffers a biological, chemical or massive cyber attack, we will not respond with nukes"
From Peters' April 7 New York Post column:
Of all its malignant provisions, from accomodating Russian demands to preventing overdue updates for our arsenal, the most worrisome is the public declaration that, if the US suffers a biological, chemical or massive cyber attack, we will not respond with nukes.
This is a very real -- and unilateral -- weakening of our national security. In the past, our ambiguity made our enemies hesitate. The new policy guarantees that they'll intensify their pursuit of bugs, gas and weaponized computers.
Intending to halt a nuclear arms race, we've fired the starter pistol for a rush to develop alternative weapons of mass destruction.
Will this policy be the inspiration for an engineered plague that someday scythes through humankind? Chemical attacks are horrible, but local; cyber attacks are potentially devastating. But an innovative virus unleashed on the world could do what Cold War nuclear arsenals never did: Kill hundreds of millions.
This change leaves us far less safe. If a thug has a knife, but knows you're packing a gun, he's considerably less likely to attack you. Why promise him that you won't use the gun -- and might not use your knife?
In fact, NPR says U.S. won't use nukes against non-nuke states in compliance with treaty and reserves right to adjust this policy
Policy Peters references applies only to "non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance," who would still "face the prospect of a devastating" military response. The Nuclear Posture Review states that "the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." The review further stated that "the United States affirms that any state eligible for the assurance that uses chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies and partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response." The Nuclear Posture Review states of "countries not covered by this assurance":
In the case of countries not covered by this assurance - states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations - there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons, but will work to establish conditions under which such a policy could be safely adopted.
U.S. reserves right to adjust this policy. The Nuclear Posture Review further states, "Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat."
Experts, military brass, support narrow, limited role for nukes
Adm. Mullen reportedly "wholly endorses" plan, which "includes effective deterrents." An April 6 Associated Press article reported: "Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he 'wholly endorses' the plan and believes it includes effective deterrents." American Forces Press Service stated: "The review has the full support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen said. 'We believe it provides us and our field commanders the opportunity to better shape our nuclear weapons posture, policies and force structure to meet an ever-changing security environment,' Mullen said. 'This Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms our commitment to defend the vital interests of the United States and those of our partners and allies with a more balanced mix of nuclear and non-nuclear means than we have at our disposal today.'"
Scientists, retired general advocated for policy that would "clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons." In February, nuclear experts and scholars signed a letter addressed to President Obama that explicitly recommended that the "new NPR should clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons to deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and our allies, and it should assure states without nuclear weapons that are parties in good standing to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that they will not face nuclear threats from the United States." The letter continued:
Ambiguity about the purpose of U.S. nuclear forces provides little deterrent value at a high cost; it undermines the credibility of our conventional deterrent, complicates our nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons.
Signatories to the letter included retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr., former president of the National Defense University; Council for Foreign relations senior fellow Charles D. Ferguson; and nuclear physicist Richard L. Garwin.