Avoiding an accidental nuclear war

While Russia! Russia! Russia!, sexual harassment allegations and major tax legislation are sucking the air out of the news, the U.S. is upgrading its nuclear weapons at a cost expected to top a trillion dollars. President Trump is enthusiastic about the nuclear weapons upgrade, which was begun by President Obama.

President Eisenhower made nuclear weapons the backbone of U.S. defense strategy. He correctly saw the threat of a nuclear exchange would mean fewer conventional wars.

It is inconceivable that major nuclear armed nations would attack each other conventionally because they know their adversaries could launch a desperate nuclear strike. World War II was probably history’s last large-scale, conventional war.

Nuclear weapons have made large conventional wars too risky, but they have presented a new and deadlier risk—an accidental first strike. Congress is holding hearings because some congressmembers worry the president could start a nuclear war over a tweet.

The nuclear triad consists first of the land based Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in hardened silos in the Northern Plains states (NPS) of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. Next comes the nuclear submarine fleet, and finally the long range bomber fleet.

The hair trigger for accidental nuclear war lies with the aptly named Minuteman ICBMs. They can launch in five minutes and reach their targets in Russia and China in 30 minutes. Fortunately for humanity, both the U.S. and Russia have avoided ordering a retaliatory strike when glitches caused computer screens to light up with a false attack. Who knows if later humans involved in another false alarm will display the same coolness under pressure and delay a catastrophic retaliatory launch.

The people of the Northern Plains States are unwitting pawns in a new “flypaper” nuclear defense. The Iraq War flypaper strategy held that our occupying troops presented a target of opportunity (a flypaper) for jihadis the world over to come to Iraq like flies. In theory, we could kill them easily, and they would be too busy fighting the U.S. over there to attack the homeland.

History shows that it didn’t quite work out that way, but government is notorious for recycling bad ideas hoping they will have better results next time.

The people of the Northern Plains States are the flypaper—or rather, the ICBM silos built among them are. Because ICBMs have such quick launch and delivery times, a real first strike would be primarily targeted at the lightly populated Northern Plains States to knock out our second-strike ICBM launch. The much more heavily populated East and West coasts would be less targeted. The elites will have more time to get to their underground bunkers.

Instead of upgrading our nuclear triad, we should be converting to a DYAD. Eliminate the ICBMs, don’t upgrade them. We should urge other nations to follow our example. The nuclear submarine threat is daunting enough and does not carry the same first-strike hair trigger. Submarines are not detectable; they can be very close to a target and carry devastating destructive power.

Defense Secretary General James Mattis has told Congress it should consider scrapping the ICBMs. Former Defense Secretaries William Perry and Leon Panetta have also questioned the need for the Minuteman ICBMs.

America and Russia have enough nuclear armaments to end life on Earth. Numerous international polls show the world considers America the greatest threat to peace. A very good first step to change that perception would be to declare an elimination of our Minuteman ICBMs. They are not needed for defense and are the most likely nuclear delivery system to cause an accidental nuclear exchange.