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Bring Back The Nukes


Washington (UPI) Dec 14, 2005
Even as the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, there was some comfort in the Cold War: the possession of nuclear weapons on both sides deterred attack.

But mutually assured destruction no longer applies, and as the Pentagon contemplates its new class of enemies -- rogue states and terrorist networks -- it is looking for new ways of thinking about deterrence.

"We think deterrence is still viable," said Ryan Henry, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy at the Fletcher Conference on National Security and Policy in Washington, D.C. "But we need help thinking this through, developing a better school of thought....We need to reinvigorate intellectual debate about deterrence and dissuasion."

Henry said the Pentagon will employ the notion of "tailored deterrence" in the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, an embrace of the idea that one method of preventing an enemy attack no longer fits all situations.

Near-peer competitors -- like perhaps China or North Korea -- can be dealt with through traditional military deterrence, including the threat of nuclear weapons. Rogue powers -- like the former government of Saddam Hussein -- may require a different response, because it is unlikely they would believe the United States would resort to nuclear weapons to blunt a regional power that is not necessarily a direct threat. Most challenging of all are terrorist networks, Henry said.

Transnational terrorists like al-Qaida are untethered to geography. The organizations themselves are fractured into operational cells that can't be held to account by the threat of annihilation. And headquarters elements are similarly free; there is no territory one can retaliate against with confidence it would influence their actions. The central conceit of deterrence is that the punishment for an attack would dramatically outweigh its gains.

"Many people say they can't be deterred," Henry said. "That makes sense if you look at them through our filter."

The western "filter" is that of a culture that values survival above all. Many terrorist groups are prepared to sacrifice their own lives to inflict damage on the United States; standard notions of direct physical deterrence do not apply.

However, Henry said Wednesday the old tools of deterrence still apply; what must change is the level of insight the United States has into its new class of enemy.

Deterrence hinges on determining what it is an adversary holds dear, and then holding it at risk. That requires having the capabilities and credibility to impose an unacceptable cost on the adversary if an attack is carried out, and/or mitigating the possible effect of an attack sufficiently to make it an unsatisfying option. Finally, the United States has to have the ability to communicate the message to terrorist networks that it both knows what the terrorist holds dear and has both the ability and the will to hold it in peril.

Some have suggested that Islamic terror groups could be deterred by nuclear means. They argue that the United States should make it clear that any attack on U.S. cities will be met with retaliation against Muslim holy sites.

Speaking July 16 on WFLA-AM talk radio in Orlando, Fla., Rep Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., was asked by host Pat Campbell how the United States should respond if terrorists struck U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

"Well, what if you said something like - 'if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, we could take out their holy sites'," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo replied

Deterrence against a traditional military enemy was easy enough: have the weapons and the national will to target either the capital city or the military apparatus.

Determining what terrorist networks hold dear is far more difficult, and where intelligence efforts need to be focused. There is the possibility that there is nothing that holds such importance for a group like that that it outweighs the desire to inflict damage on the United States. A cost/benefit ratio, after all, requires a rational actor to calculate it.

But, said Henry, these networks do not operate in a vacuum; they are passively or actively supported by populations, which in turn have governments and territory that can be pressured. They have substructures of cells that can be targeted with law enforcement, intelligence or military action. The challenge is getting inside those frameworks to apply the old rules of deterrence to a non-geographic threat.

Beyond deterrence with violence, however, there is dissuasion -- that is, diminishing the will to attack, rather than simply deterring an attack that is already in the planning stages. It is much harder work, requiring efforts that may not pay off for years, and cutting across agency lines and presidential administrations.

"On a strategic level, we must dry up the pool of angry, disenfranchised young men, and obviously job opportunities and democracy have a role to play in that," said a senior military official with extensive experience in the Middle East. "But deterrence itself? I think getting as many partners as possible so that wherever terrorists travel, they find hostility -- we need to make for an engaged, effective world-wide commitment against them, using intelligence and police so there is no refuge."

With terrorists groups able to move across national boundaries, the traditional country-by-country approach can not be sustained, the official said.

"It's much easier said than done, but our old ways of allowing diplomacy to wind its tranquil way forward with each ambassador on his own timeline and no regional strategy ...won't work. What's our Africa Strategy? We don't have one," the official said.

Source: United Press International

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Israel Urges World To Open Eyes To Iran
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 14, 2005
Israel urged the world to "open its eyes" to the Iranian regime and its nuclear programme Wednesday after its outspoken president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a "myth".







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