Saturday, September 29, 2007


Professor Louis Rene Beres (Purdue University)
Lt. General (USAF/Ret.) Thomas McInerney
Major-General (USA/Ret.) Paul E. Vallely
Reply to Professor Beres
From the start of our Nuclear Age, the US has drawn precise operational plans from an overarching and codified strategic doctrine. Until early in the 1990s, this doctrine was fashioned almost entirely from the standpoint of countering the Soviet Union. Now, facing a very different and distinctly multipolar set of threats, especially from certain Jihadist or Islamist enemies, President Bush needs to implement far-reaching doctrinal changes.
The President must understand that anti-US threats should no longer be assessed according to antiquated “spectrum of conflict” thinking. We know that dedicated terrorists may now have access to various mass-destruction weapons technologies. Like states, certain sub-national enemies can now imperil us with near-existential harms, including weaponized pathogens as well as nuclear explosives and radioactivity.
This represents a vulnerability we have not experienced before, and it is very different from our Cold War-era vulnerabilities. Can we continue to rely upon the logic of deterrence when the essential assumptions of rationality may no longer be present? Such continued reliance may be problematic even if American planners focus on the assorted state sponsors of these terrorist surrogates and on the related spread of WMDs. These states, like their dependent proxies, could possibly value certain religious or ideological preferences even more highly than their own life and freedom. Obvious examples here would be Iran and Hezbollah or perhaps a new state of “Palestine” and al-Qaeda.
In the beginning, there was “massive retaliation” and “mutual assured destruction” (MAD). Later, at the Pentagon and war colleges, this gave way to “flexible response” and “nuclear utilization theory” (NUT). Interpenetrating these strategic doctrines, first conceived entirely with reference to the USSR, were fierce debates over nuclear targeting options. Today, once again, we will need to examine both “counter value” (counter-city) and “counter force” targeting doctrines, but this time with regard to both state and non-state enemies and to both rational and non-rational ones. To be sure, these sensitive examinations will be divisive and acrimonious, but the issues cannot be swept under the rug. They concern nothing less than the survival of the United States and democracy in general.
A core concern of any new US strategic doctrine will have to be preemption. Although this concept has suffered criticism in response to our current war in Iraq, there are other major threats on the horizon that may respond to nothing less than what international law calls “anticipatory self-defense.” In those circumstances where rationality cannot be assumed, and where the effectiveness of ballistic missile defense would be expectedly low, the only alternative to apt forms of American preemption could be national suicide.
Strategic doctrine is always a complex matter, and a coherent framework for dealing with myriad threats to our national security will have to be meticulous, comprehensive and creative. If, for any reason, we should disavow preemption and allow Iran to become a nuclear weapons state, our doctrine will have to identify promising new options for geostrategic coexistence with that country. How should we then best deter a nuclear Iran, both from launching direct missile attacks, and from dispersing nuclear assets among its terrorist surrogates?
It is plausible to assume, in such circumstances, that a primary nuclear threat to American cities could come from cars, trucks and ships. Ballistic missile defense would be of no use against ground-based attacks. Could we really make Tehran believe that any proxy act of nuclear terrorism would elicit a massive nuclear retaliation against Iran itself? We must, and operational answers – including the endgame - can emerge only from a new US strategic doctrine.
Until the Nuclear Age, insurgents were substantially limited in the damage they could inflict, and the logic of warfare was based on expectation of victory. Today, certain insurgents could bring greater disasters to the American homeland than most countries. They could even bring us greater pain than was deliverable by our national enemies in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As to victory, for which there is still no substitute, there are sometimes no longer any clearly identifiable measures. In the essential war against rational and irrational enemies, both state and terrorist, we will just have to adapt to difficult circumstances of protracted uncertainty and ambiguity.
Our new security doctrine must include both a Forward Strategy (offense) and a Homeland Strategy (defense). The Soviet Union is gone, but Putin’s Russia cannot be ignored. Looked at in our presently multi-polar world, Moscow now offers some of the very same perils that were manifest in the earlier era of bipolarity. Most notable here are the Russian president’s recent declarations on the resumption of long-range bomber flights and on associated plans to expand his country’s production of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Should we undertake expanded programs for US ballistic missile defense, or would such a recommendation merely prod Mr. Putin to produce even more destabilizing offensive missiles? This is just one of the main questions that should be addressed from a new doctrinal platform.
Strategic theory is a net. Only those who cast will catch. There is a viable endgame, but it must first be defined and understood within a new and codified US strategic doctrine.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. He is the author of ten major books dealing with counter-terrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war.
THOMAS MCINERNEY, Lt. General (USAF/Ret.) is co-author of The Endgame: Winning the War on Terror (with Major-General Paul E. Vallely). General McInerney is retired Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.
PAUL E. VALLELY, MG (Army US Ret.), Author, Military Strategist and Host of the Radio Program, “Stand Up America.”

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