By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (for Safe Democracy)

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam discusses the creation of a new US policy of pre-emptive nuclear strikes. While, the threat of nuclear pre-emption has a history of precedents in the United States, recent antagonistic US actions are working to unravel the diplomatic framework that has helped avoid nuclear proliferation in the past. In Adib-Moghaddamn‘s opinion, the Pentagon’s newly adopted CONPLAN 8022, has successfully replaced the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction with Assured Destruction, dangerously favouring the use of nuclear weapons, even in the absence of a competing nuclear threat.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of “The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy” (Routledge). Educated at Hamburg, American and Cambridge Universities, he teaches International Relations at Oxford University.

AS THE UNITED STATES BUSIES ITSELF WITH PREVENTATIVE MEASURES against Iran’s nuclear energy program, and sanctions against North Korea for their recent nuclear test; American scientists are active developing the next generation of nuclear weapons to be used under a new pre-emptive nuclear doctrine.

The US Global Strike policy emerged out of the Nuclear Posture Review of December 2001, and was put into operation under the Unified Command Plan of 2004. The plan assigned to STRATCOM, the US Army’s Strategic Command, the mission of coordinating the Pentagon’s global first strike policy. One of the plan’s components is the use of nuclear weapons to destroy the underground facilities where North Korea and Iran are thought to be hiding sensitive elements of their nuclear infrastructure.

Iran, North Korea, Iraq (before Saddam Hussein’s downfall) and Libya (before abandoning its nuclear program) are not the only countries to have been targeted. A classified Pentagon report has warned that the US must prepare itself to use nuclear weapons pre-emptively against China, Russia, Syria, and in the event of an Arab-Israeli War, on presumably Israel’s behalf. The report was presented to the US Congress in January 2002 and was signed by Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld also approved a top secret Interim Global Strike Alert Order in the summer of 2004 to direct the US military to prepare and consolidate readiness to attack rogue states that are thought to be developing weapons of mass destruction. The leaked report named Iran and North Korea as primary targets.

These findings are by no means new. The threat of nuclear pre-emption has a long history of precedents in the United States. The US threatened (and seriously considered) using its nuclear arsenal on numerous occasions: under President Eisenhower’s Korean bombing campaign of May 1953; in response to the blockade of Berlin in 1948; during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962; during the excessive bombing campaign against North Vietnamese towns and villages in October 1969; under President Nixon’s madman theory to pressure North Vietnam and the USSR to end the war; and during the Second Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In this last case, Secretary of State James Baker warned Tariq Aziz that any Iraqi use of chemical or biological weapons against US forces would receive instant, overwhelming retaliation, thus implying the use of nuclear weapons.

But if a US nuclear pre-emption policy was implicit in the past, CONPLAN 8022 has made it a strategic tool in and of itself. In accordance with the plan, the Cold War policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) has been substituted by the doctrine of Assured Destruction. Assured Destruction is the preference of all pre-emptive strikes, even if a nuclear threat is not imminent.

CONPLAN 8022 defines four conditions in which nuclear pre-emption may be considered:

ONE Against a hostile country, which intends to use WMDs against civilian populations, and/or against US forces or forces under US Command.

TWO In the event of an imminent biological attack which can only be thwarted by nuclear pre-emption.

THREE Against military installations of hostile countries including their WMD facilities, bunkered research facilities containing chemical or biological weapons and/or the command and control infrastructure needed to execute a WMD Attack against the US and/or the country’s allies.

FOUR And finally to demonstrate US intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter a WMD attack by hostile countries.

Given that North Korea has been repeatedly named a potential target under CONPLAN 8022, it should not come as a surprise that Kim Jong-Il has chosen to develop a nuclear deterrent. From North Korea’s perspective, having nuclear weapons is the ultimate deterrent against nuclear weapons.

By departing from the rhetoric of nuclear disarmament, by developing a new generation of mini-nukes, and by adhering to confrontational policies, the Bush Administration has undone the diplomatic mechanisms, which successfully contained nuclear proliferation in the past.

The immediate consequences are already being felt in East Asia. It remains to be seen if Japan, China, and South Korea can successfully manage the inevitable diplomatic fallout.

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