Gen. John Hyten, of the U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress on March 7, despite Russia’s new nuclear super-weapons, that the U.S. can continue to deter Moscow for another decade through Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
Conceived in the 1960s by Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara, MAD holds that Moscow will be deterred from nuclear war as long as the sides are capable of destroying each other with a retaliatory strike. "In fact, the U.S. no longer has the ability to deliver 400 equivalent megatons (EMTs) to destroy 25 percent of Russia’s population and 75 percent of industry after a Russian first-strike, which is the classical definition of MAD requirements for the U.S." See "Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) No Longer Mutual: U.S. Unilaterally Vulnerable" in Family Security Matters of March 14, 2018.
General Hyten’s resurrection of MAD as the answer to unprecedented nuclear threats may be intended to comfort the naïve on main street. But crying MAD must surely look like a desperate bluff to Moscow.
General Hyten knows the real issue is deterring Russia, China, or North Korea from credibly threatening or actually making a nuclear strike against U.S. allies to achieve through nuclear diplomacy, or limited nuclear war, allied and U.S. submission.
Peace and deterrence depends on Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang believing their nuclear aggression against for example European NATO, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, or Japan, will assuredly provoke a U.S. nuclear response.
But our potential enemies are increasingly skeptical the U.S. is really willing, as China’s General Xiong Guankai put it, to sacrifice Los Angeles for Taipei.
Would any U.S. president or anyone on main street really be willing to risk New York or Chicago or existence of America to save Taiwan, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Free Syrian Army, Mischief Reef and free navigation of the South China Sea — or any U.S. ally — no matter how important?
Adversaries need not make President Trump retreat in order to win a nuclear confrontation. Nuclear deterrence, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link.
President Trump cannot prevail if our allies want to surrender.
For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or South Korean President Moon Jae-in, if an EMP attack blacks-out Germany or South Korea, almost certainly would flee in panic for the first off-ramp.
Globalists in the State Department, NATO, and U.N. would sacrifice U.S. and Free World interests, sacrifice almost anything, to prevent further nuclear escalation and serve "the greater interests of humanity."
Today’s Free World elites mostly think of nuclear warfare in the same way elites of the 1930s thought about a replay of World War I, and would do almost anything to avoid the feared Apocalypse. Appeasement to placate aggression by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan supposedly served "the greater interests of humanity" — but resulted in World War II and 60 million dead.
U.S. nuclear deterrence is already failing:
- Russia annexed Crimea and crucifies Ukraine, despite U.S.-U.K. promised protection under the 1994 Budapest Agreement, demonstrating to NATO daily U.S. security guarantees are worthless.
- China has annexed the South China Sea and international trade routes to U.S. Pacific allies, North and South America, in defiance of international law.
- North Korea regularly threatens nuclear strikes against the U.S. and allies, and now for the first time has coerced a sitting U.S. president to meet with dictator Kim Jung-Un for almost certainly bogus negotiations over denuclearization.
- Yet U.S. strategic modernization is so slow, new ICBMs, bombers, and submarines are mostly well past 2024. No U.S. advanced nuclear weapons—like Russia’s Super-EMP warheads and ultra-low-yield N-Bombs—are planned.
- The bipartisan Republican-Democrat political consensus maintaining a nuclear deterrent "second-to-none" — enabling the U.S. to win the Cold War peacefully — is now broken. After the Cold War, neither party has modernized our nuclear deterrent.
- Nuclear weapons of mass destruction are so contrary to the values of democratic societies that the increasingly polarized U.S. is systemically disadvantaged in nuclear arms-racing with totalitarian states.
Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), premised on deterring aggression through the threat of mass killing, should be replaced with a new doctrine focused on strategic defense and protecting U.S. and allied lives—call it Strategic Assured National Existence (SANE). SANE can be implemented faster than MAD modernization, and would cost less:
- Hardening the national electric grid against nuclear EMP attack and worst-case cyber threats could be accomplished in 3-4 years, much in 6 months on a crash basis, costing $2-$3 billion, eliminating an existential threat that could kill up to 90 percent of Americans through starvation.
- "Star Wars" President Reagan’s space-based defense to render nuclear missiles obsolete, would replace mass killing of people with killing nuclear weapons. Brilliant Pebbles, canceled by the Clinton Administration for ideological reasons, could be resurrected and begin deployment before 2024, at a total cost $20 billion or less. The current National Defense Authorization Act in Sections 1685 and 1688 opens opportunity for the return of “Star Wars.”
- The U.S. must modernize its nuclear deterrent. Nuclear deterrence saves lives by preventing war. Cost of current strategic modernization plus sustainment: $704 billion. But modernization needs acceleration, including development of advanced nuclear warheads.
President Trump, please tell the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Energy, "Do it! Or you’re fired!"
Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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