Pentagon prepares nuclear pre-emptive doctrine

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports Sept. 11 that the Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to pre-empt an attack by a nation or terror group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs staff but not yet approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons to reflect a pre-emption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002.

At a White House briefing that year, a spokesman said the United States would “respond with overwhelming force” to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its forces, or allies, and said “all options” would be available to the president.

The draft, dated March 15, would provide authoritative guidance for commanders to request presidential approval for using nuclear weapons, and represents the Pentagon’s first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush pre-emption doctrine. A previous version, completed in 1995 during the Clinton administration, contains no mention of using nuclear weapons pre-emptively or specifically against threats from weapons of mass destruction.

Titled “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations” and written under the direction of Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the draft identifies differences from the 1995 doctrine and says the new document “revises the discussion of nuclear weapons use across the range of military operations.” (Boston Globe, Sept. 11)

See also WW4 REPORT #64

See our last post on the nuclear threat and nuclear paranoia.