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Friday, June 11, 2004

UK'S MINI NUKES With the issue of Iran on my mind I turned my attention to nuclear weapons. And I remembered reading about the plans for the UK to field mini-nukes.
Amusingly enough I had called for this a long time ago. In my mock election manifesto I produced for my own pleasure during the 2001 Commons elections campaign, now a good three years ago, I wrote that:
We will work on building a new independent deterrent. This would carry a smaller warhead than the current Tridents. The current weapons, should they be used, would inevitably entail such large collateral damage and civilian deaths, that their use would be an ethical dilemma. In return they should be mad more accurate, for there could be extreme circumstances in which such a nuclear device would be the only effective weapon to halt an attack on the UK and its interests.
Most readers will presumably say: "Yes, but who are we threatened by?" I would direct them to my post on Iran, that I have since made some amends for. While I must make it absolutely clear that I don't favour nuking Iran, I think it serves as an illustration that such weaponry would not just be a big shiny new toy for the defence boys, but has a concept behind it that is embedded in an only too real security environment.
For an explanation from a professional, rather than my armchair strategy logic, see Keith B. Payne making the case for the US; but effectively it also counts for the UK:
Effective deterrent threats must be credible to the opponent. Unfortunately, leaders of terrorist states and tyrants who recognize the appropriate priority we place on avoiding civilian casualties may not believe U.S. deterrent threats that would produce the high yields and moderate accuracies of the remaining Cold War arsenal.
Aggressors typically search for any rationale to believe what they most want — that their aggression will not generate strong opposition or entail high costs to themselves. We don't want the technical character of our forces to provide such leaders with a rationale for dismissing the credibility of our deterrents. Should future U.S. deterrent-threat options incorporate low yields and precision accuracies, they could help deter our opponents' use of WMD by minimizing the prospect that they will doubt us.
In other words, precision, low-yield weapons could potentially strengthen our capability to deter nuclear and other WMD attacks without the risk of lowering the nuclear threshold in a president's thinking. And, ultimately, if an enemy's attack is so extreme that nuclear retaliation is warranted, shouldn't the president have a response option that incorporates very low-yield and precision accuracy?

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