House Panel Votes to Block New Nuclear Weapons

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee defied the Bush administration on Wednesday and slashed funds to study a new generation of deep-earth penetrating nuclear weapons and so-called low-yield nuclear weapons.

The House Appropriations Energy and Water subcommittee denied the $36 million the administration sought to study the nuclear weapons it says may be needed to confront emerging threats since the end of the Cold War.

It took the measure while considering a $28 billion bill to fund energy, water and nuclear weapons programs.

The subcommittee also cut the funds last year, but the full Congress in later House and Senate votes restored them.

Clearly unpatriotic. We need more options for Armageddon!

But its only a low-yield Armageddon!

Dammit! But I wanted enough nukes to blow up the world NINE times, not eight…!

Politically understandable, but very foolish.

Countries such as Iran and North Korea have learned quite a few lessons over the past 20 years. The destruction of Osirak, the conventional bunker busting bombs used in recent conflicts to name a few examples of food for thought.

It’s not a question of whether or not there are situations where a tactical nuclear weapon would be necessary to destroy a target, it’s a question of how much you can minimize the yield and increase penetration to minimze inevitable fallout.

Where I will diverge in the extreme from most posters on this board is that I feel strongly that there are possible situations and occasions where it is justified and necessary for the US to engage in preemptive nuclear strikes on hardened targets. If you disagree on that, then it is pointless to consider the role and place of such weapons. Otherwise, it is morally, militarily and politically imperative to minimize the impact of the use of such weapons while maintaining the ability to destroy their targets.

At present, the only thing close is the B61-11, which if it has to be deployed on a B-2 is probably a 20 hour latency. And it could be improved. God help us if the only option in a tight window is a Tomahawk low altitude airburst strike (absolute minimum of 5kt yield and up).

Pardon my ignorance, but exactly how many nuclear weapons have been used in anger since World War 2? None? Hmmm, it seems that perhaps we have been able to use conventional weapons and can continue to do so. The nuclear deterrent already exists. An excuse to use one doesn’t.

Deterrence isn’t as strong of a concept when you’re faced with a religious worldview prone to fatalism if not outright predestination.

Deterrence also only works if you mean it. It cannot be a bluff, there can be no unwillingness to pull the trigger. And the cost and tragedy if that is required is enormous.

The two nuclear weapons used in World War II and the goals they achieved could have been undertaken without their use. Should the higher price have been paid?

I fear how high the costs could go.

If and when a nuclear weapon is used against the US, how do we reply? Or rather, who other than terrorists would be stupid enough to do so? Who do we nuke if Al Queda manages to do this? The nuclear deterrent will really only work against other rational countries, not dispersed groups of terrorists. (This assumes we had rational leadership on our side. Not proven.)

This brings us back to using nukes for conventional jobs. Never been done and shouldn’t be. It’s simply not necessary.

Under what possible scenario would it be worth it to engage in a nuclear strike on a hardened target? Every single scenario I’ve heard for this thing’s use is on a third-world dictator without nukes, so I don’t get it. Why would we need it then?

Nuclear terrorism is both very easy and very difficult at the same time.

If you have weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, constructing a weapon with a high probability of successful detonation with a significant yield is quite possible for a terrorist organization of moderate resources (millions to low tens of millions).

A terrorist group is only going to get weapons grade material by A) having it be provided by a state, which might as well provide the device too or B) stealing it.

Either of those reflect a basic reality: creating weapons-grade material requires the resources of a government.

Currently, the governments known to possess such material are: US, UK, France, China, Russia, Israel, Pakistan and India. Of those, only two are at serious risk of the possibility of theft or corruption allowing terrorist groups to procure material: Russia and Pakistan.

Which brings us to difficult hypothetical number one. Hopefully, the US knows where and how the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is kept. Pakistan is afflicted by no small amount of internal tension. Musharraf has narrowly escaped three serious assassination attempts already. If the US had not provided sophisticated EM jamming equipment for his motorcade he would be dead now. If he is killed and there is a coup attempt by extremist elements and you are the President, what will you do?. Furthermore, what will you previously have told India what you will do? If you do not have a response planned for this eventuality, what do you predict possible Indian action will be? What would the potential consequences of that be?

Is this a plausible and possible hypothetical situation? If not, why? If so, what are the possible action plans?

Russia is a problem, not from government intent, but merely from the multiple problems of the vast amount of created material, endemic poverty and corruption and Islamic elements in former Soviet states. One can make a strong case that not everything is being done on the front of securing former Soviet materials that could be. However, it is a problem that is well known, well defined and funded to varying degrees ranging from not-enough to very well. Russia is really the only wild-card source of material.

At this point, someone will have to make a very good case to convince me that Iran and North Korea are not trying very hard to manufacture HEU (Iran) and plutonium (NK). First, are an Islamic theocracy and xenophobic authoritarian government headed by a figure considered to be a human deity considered ‘rational’ regimes?

Can you prevent Iran and North Korea from obtaining enough material for multiple devices? If so, how? If not, when will they obtain them (if the answer isn’t already in the case of North Korea).

Is deterrence an applicable strategy for these countries should they obtain nuclear capability? Furthermore, can the capability of these countries be safely contained in the event of revolution or meltdown? Even if the governments do not provide weapons to terrorists for ideology or profit, there are certainly elements prone to doing so. Given unrest would they be able to capitalize on this?

These are not simple issues.

None of which is an argument for bunker busting nukes, however. We’ve got some amazingly powerful conventional bombs and we could quickly develop more.

At this point in time, really only applicable to Pakistan, North Korea and Iran.

Unfortunately the cost of striking North Korea would almost certainly be prohibitively high in terms of response capability. If that weren’t the case, China would be very very unhappy about such an action, but less unhappy than if Japan and Taiwan armed themselves.

This is where I disagree, especially in the case of Iran and North Korea, less so with Pakistan.

Any use of a nuke would be frowned upon by just about everyone. Not that our infallible leader and his goons would care. It may be ok to have a few specially hardened nuke warheads against Iran or NK but only to be used in retaliatory nuclear war. Any use while conventional alternatives exist must be verboten. (I’ll be joining a think tank soon, if this keeps up!)

Ok. Can you give me an example of why we’d want to nuke Pakistan, North Korea, or Iran?

Correct me if I’m misinterpreting you, but isn’t what you’re talking about the subject of your initial post and therefore weapons that won’t exist for preemption or retaliation?

Retaliation will kill millions. My bottom line is that what must be done to prevent things from ever reaching that state must be done. And I can see how preemption despite the political cost may be a necessary element. I understand why and how you disagree.

Pakistan has an arsenal. At present it is under control of a known faction. That could change. Quickly. The window of opportunity to prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons from passing into different hands could be a matter of hours. If India launches a preemptive strike it would definitely trigger a region-wide war.

North Korea has multiple nuclear development sites, some probably resistent to conventional attacks. Unfortunately, they also hold South Korea (if not Japan) hostage.

Iran 5-10 years from now could be a similar situation to Pakistan. In the meantime destroying their nuclear infrastructure may still be possible by conventional means, but not without significant effort and possible ground presence.

And there is also the philosophy of how to deal with nuclear proliferation. The club is large enough, but all the members with the exception of Pakistan can be lived with. If a US or European city suffers a nuclear attack, the rules will change and certainly be: the existing club gets them, any nation with a nuclear program that is discovered will have the facilities destroyed with a tactical nuclear strike. Even if they are built in civilian areas.

The latter dilemna is not yet a significant issue, perhaps the policy should be instated sooner rather than later and before it becomes one.

Sure, I can see both sides of the argument. Bottom-line for me: less nukes is better than more nukes. Use conventional instead of nukes unless someone else starts it. That about sums it up for me.

Ah, I get it now. You’re basically arguing for the right to make a pre-empetive nuclear strike against another nuclear power.

This strikes me as a massively bad idea. If the target country expects you to nuke them, what do you think they’re going to do?

And there is also the philosophy of how to deal with nuclear proliferation. The club is large enough, but all the members with the exception of Pakistan can be lived with. If a US or European city suffers a nuclear attack, the rules will change and certainly be: the existing club gets them, any nation with a nuclear program that is discovered will have the facilities destroyed with a tactical nuclear strike. Even if they are built in civilian areas.

I’m not following how “US or European city attacked by terrorists” results in a political consensus to nuke anyone who tries to build a nuclear program. This is ludicrious, Lino.


In one case, against a nuclear power that has lost its government. That is an important distinction. In another case, against a government that cannot be allowed to posess nuclear weapons. There may be other examples of the latter case that could apply in the next decade, although Libya shows some promise that will not necessarily be the case. Deterring such development is crucial.

I’m not following how “US or European city attacked by terrorists” results in a political consensus to nuke anyone who tries to build a nuclear program. This is ludicrious, Lino.

As far as consensus is concerned there are only three countries that matter: The US, Russia and China. Two are authoritarian regimes that would gladly work out an agreement if it is in their strategic interests.

If there is an event that kills 50,000-1,500,000 everything will change. Not for the better.

Oh, ok. I thought you were talking like nuking North Korea’s leadership if they try to pull something.

Still think it’s a bad idea.

Forgive me for asking, but exactly how would you use nukes to eliminate the threat possed by one of these countries without a killing hundreds of thousands, if not a million, innocent people?

It’s not like a single target will guarantee the obliteration of a country’s entire nuclear stockpile, you’d more than likely have to hit multiple targets.

Doing so would immediately turn our country into public threat number one, even amongst our current allies, and would pretty much insure a large tide of people turning against us with deadly consequences.

Now, to play further with your theoretical sandbox in which a nuclear power suddenly loses it’s government, what’s to stop an organization that we’d be willing to nuke in such a situation from moving said nukes into another country without permission? Would we nuke that country to ensure our safety as well?

At this point you’ve got a better chance convincing us the nukes are in case of giant robot invasion than painting a situation in which nuking another country, no matter how small or limited the exchange, would result in a better situation than using conventional forces.

We could nuke Mecca as a response, that would hit 'em where it hurts.