Levi, Michael
February 2003
New Republic;2/17/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 6, p12
Since taking office, United States President George W. Bush has dangerously and unnecessarily blurred the line between conventional and nuclear weapons. Prodded by nuclear weapons scientists and a few narrow-minded ideologues--such as Wayne Allard, chair of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and Curt Weldon, number two on the House Armed Services Committee--the administration has been groping since early 2001 to find military missions for tactical nuclear weapons. In the past few weeks, administration officials have made not-so-veiled threats that the United States might use nuclear weapons against Iraq. These threats have alarmed the public and hurt America's image--and for no good reason: Tactical nuclear weapons have little if any military value. Indeed, the Persian Gulf war experience convinced many hawkish military thinkers that tactical nuclear weapons had become obsolete. Fortunately, the hypothetical choice presented by nuclear weapons proponents such as Weldon--nuke Saddam or leave him alone--is a false one. The United States has developed thermobaric bombs that generate high temperatures in closed spaces, neutralizing exposed spores. America's greatest weakness is in intelligence, not explosive power. Political fallout from the use, or even threat, of nuclear weapons elevates this discussion beyond mere technical quibbling. The Bush administration seems oblivious to the irony in using nuclear weapons to fight a war against nuclear proliferation.


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