A Good Idea That Will Never Happen (Rev 16)

12314487975_b892237866_k-470x260The Need for Nuclear Alerts

Mel Deaile and Al Mauroni
May 6, 2015 · in Commentary
The U.S. general who commanded America’s nuclear forces and a few other notable American national security leaders have forged an alliance of sorts with a number of European, Russian, and Asian military officers and national security experts over a most explosive issue. The Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, chaired by retired Gen. James Cartwright, is calling for the end of U.S. and Russian nuclear “hair-trigger” attack readiness as well as a series of agreements among the “nuclear club” that would end alert status for nuclear forces. Their report concludes that nuclear forces on alert make a nuclear exchange — accidental or deliberate — more likely because of escalating tensions between the United States and Russia. The effort to reduce the readiness level of nuclear forces is, in reality, a stepping stone for the Global Zero movement to continue its push for total nuclear disarmament. This effort, led by Gen. Cartwright, unfortunately misses the strategic importance of maintaining an alerted nuclear force and uses hyperbole and misinformation to advance a flawed argument.
The report makes the amazing statement that basic deterrence and operational cohesion can be preserved even as these radical “risk reduction” measures are implemented. The report offers an expansive view of what “de-alerting” entails, which includes taking warheads out of the land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles, locking down the ballistic missiles so they can’t be launched within 72 hours, taking targeting data off-line, restricting ballistic submarine patrols, removing all non-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe, pulling back on theater missile defense capabilities, and eventually eliminating all land-based ballistic missiles. The report claims that these steps would increase strategic stability and reduce the chance of a terrorist group obtaining a nuclear warhead. Sure, verifying that Russia, China, and the United States are all complying with these proposed steps would be impossible, since no nation will let inspectors go into launch centers or ballistic submarines to see if these measures have in fact been taken. But these are simply minor details to be overcome through other confidence-building measures. What this report really demonstrates is Global Zero’s deliberate distortion of general deterrence theory. The report does nothing to address the rationale as to why we keep nuclear forces on alert.
Alerted nuclear forces are actually a stabilizing force in international relations because they force diplomats and national leaders to carefully consider their next escalatory step. There has to be a credible belief that a nation cannot avoid a violent response if it attacks the United States (deterrence by punishment), or that its goals will not be met even if it attacks the United States (deterrence by denial). If the U.S. nuclear posture is to deter a nuclear or WMD attack by a peer nation-state, there is no better asset position for that mission than the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on alert.
There are two necessary conditions for nuclear deterrence. First, the weapons must raise the cost of an adversary contemplating an attack on the United States. With 450 launch silos serviced by 45 launch control centers, an adversary must have and be able to launch an arsenal of over 500 weapons to wipe out the ICBM force. An adversarial nuclear state that cannot take out the entire ICBM infrastructure has to consider that a retaliatory strike could be inbound within 30 minutes of an attack. This secured strike capability is the basis of assured destruction and deterrence.
Second, the nuclear assets must be positioned and postured to affect the decision calculus of the adversary. If the ICBMs are taken off-line and the warheads for submarine ballistic missiles are not mated, an adversary who didn’t de-alert its forces could easily take out America’s three strategic bomber bases and two submarine bases, thus putting the United States in jeopardy. Without this alerted force, the entire U.S. nuclear infrastructure could be taken out with a force of a few nuclear weapons. Alerted weapons let the adversary know that any preemptive strategic attack against the United States will not work because it will be impossible to take out the entire nuclear force. The inability to preemptively strike another nation requires alerted, responsive forces, dispersal of forces, and positioning forces so that they cannot be located at any time.
Advocates for taking America’s ICBMs off alert fail to put the concept of nuclear alert in perspective. Alert became a feature of nuclear operations since the advent of the ICBM. In fact, Strategic Air Command assumed its first alert tour on 1 October 1957, three days before the Russians launched Sputnik. The missile age reduced the time for leaders to make a nuclear strike decision from days to hours to minutes. These early alerted forces were nuclear-armed strategic bombers capable of reaching their targets within a matter of hours. The main purpose of the alert force, at that time, was to make sure the United States could get its forces airborne to preserve its secured second strike in case of a preemptive attack. While bombers served as the primary alert force in the early years of the Cold War, the ICBM force slowly grew in capability until 1964 when the number of missiles on alert outnumbered the number of bombers. In 1991, the bombers were removed from an alert posture by order of President George H. W. Bush. Since that time, ICBMs on alert served as the primary deterrent force in the U.S. arsenal.
The commission’s report suggests that sole reliance on the U.S. ballistic missile submarine fleet to provide what we call “assured second strike” will maintain U.S. deterrence capability against a first strike scenario. It notes that nuclear bombers could be armed within 48 hours in times of crisis, but might not survive a first strike. While the submarine fleet is survivable due to its stealth, it is not as responsive to national crises as land-based ballistic missiles or bombers, and there would be fewer delivery systems for an enemy to monitor. Also, this recommendation puts all of the risk into one option. If an adversary develops a technology to detect ballistic missile submarines at sea or dedicates more reconnaissance assets to watch the few missile boats move from home base to sea, then our one option to deter a strategic nuclear exchange is in peril. Furthermore, the U.S. triad works because the various legs serve as a hedge in case of a technical or mechanical problem in the other legs. No president or Congress is going to accept that calculus.
While nuclear-alerted missiles provide strategic stability, the argument against them continues to rest on deliberate falsehoods. The first involves the false notion of a “hair-trigger.” The second is that a high-alert status opens the door to a nuclear accident or incident. And the third is that high-alert makes it far more likely that a misinterpretation between world leaders or military forces could lead to a nuclear exchange. All three arguments are full of holes. There is no “hair-trigger” alert. The U.S. military has maintained an unblemished safety record for 25 years.* And constant communications between the United States and Russia dramatically reduce the possibility of such misinterpretations.
What Hair-Trigger?
One of the arguments presented against alert is that these missiles are on a “hair-trigger” — a term used seven times in the Global Zero report. This gives the impression that missiles stand at the ready and all a launch officer has to do is press some red button and nuclear Armageddon occurs. As Gen. Cartwright understands better than almost anyone, this is utterly ridiculous. First, the president is the only person authorized to order the release of a nuclear weapon. The suggestion that the president has less than a few minutes to make a decision for a full-out strategic response based on a tenuous launch warning is a straw man. There is no demand for the president to make a decision within minutes — if there is any doubt, the decision could be to wait until there is clear evidence prior to any retaliation. Secondly, no one individual can launch a nuclear missile. As with all things in nuclear operations, two people must give consent (aside from, of course, the president) before an action can occur. No one person has knowledge of all nuclear codes; therefore, an insider threat is mitigated. Furthermore, crews are directed by relatively short encrypted messages. While the notion of hacking into the nuclear command and control system would make for a great Hollywood movie, the truth is that all messages go through sophisticated levels of encryption so it would be impossible to duplicate an actual message. While the ICBM force has had some bad press recently, none of the infractions ever compromised the integrity of the launch codes or the nuclear command structure.
The Global Zero report states that the risk of the outbreak of nuclear conflict has not decreased proportionally with the significant reductions of nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War. They insist that a “hair-trigger” alert could result in a nuclear exchange during this period of high acrimony on the international stage. By doing so, they ignore geopolitical context. While tensions between the United States and Russia are undoubtedly higher than we’d like, we are not facing anything approaching the massive competition for global dominance that was the Cold War and the tensions that came along with it. This argument and the others advanced by Global Zero commission reveal their effort as just another excuse for taking nuclear weapon systems offline.
The Accident Red Herring
Another Global Zero argument for eliminating the ICBMs and returning non-strategic nuclear weapons to the United States is that it would reduce nuclear incidents or accidents. (An accident would be an unexpected error due to a failure of procedures such as an unauthorized launch or the loss of a nuclear weapon. An incident would be an intentional hostile event involving a nuclear weapon, facility, or component.) This is a red herring. There have been 32 known “broken arrows” (accidents involving nuclear weapons) in the history of nuclear operations. The majority of these accidents involved aircraft carrying nuclear weapons, and a majority of those occurred in the 1960s when Strategic Air Command was flying airborne alert. A significant accident happened in 1980 when a dropped wrench socket hit a fuel line that eventually caused a liquid-fueled rocket to explode and jettison the nuclear warhead some 600 feet downrange. Today’s nuclear weapons are much more safe and secure than during the Cold War. The U.S. nuclear arsenal has no liquid-fueled rockets (they are all solid fuel) and no bombers flying on alert loaded with nuclear bombs.
Misinterpreting Misinterpretations
Finally, those who would de-alert the nuclear force claim that the slightest misinterpretation could lead to a nuclear exchange. History refutes this claim as well. During the Cold War, bomber and reconnaissance aircraft routinely penetrated the airspace of both sides. This was a commonly-accepted practice to test resolve, prod air defenses, and to signal displeasure with current policy or practices. Even today, Russian bombers enter U.S. and European airspace and U.S. reconnaissance planes loiter on the boundaries of Russia. The United States sends its B-2 Spirit bombers to Europe and Southeast Asia to demonstrate political resolve. It did not lead to nuclear war in the past and it will not in the future, because political and military leaders recognize this for what it is — strategic messaging, not acts of war.
During the early days of George W. Bush’s administration, a Chinese fighter aircraft ran into a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft forcing it to land on Hainan Island. While this was an international incident between two nuclear-weapon states, it did not lead to nuclear war or even a change in the nuclear posture of both countries. Additionally, previous misinterpretations of launches did not lead to a nuclear exchange because both sides understand the importance of strategic context. Some like to claim a false target on a radar screen, a fly landing on the scope, or some other fanciful scenario might happen that could cause an unauthorized nuclear first strike. The Dr. Strangelove scenario of a Gen. Jack Ripper launching the nuclear fleet on an attack to preserve the United States’ “purity of essence” makes for great entertainment but is hardly based on fact. As noted above, the president is the only person who can authorize a U.S. nuclear release and constant communications between the United States and Russia (through the White House “hot line,” the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, the State Department, and the United Nations) work to prevent such scenarios.
While the Cold War is over and tensions between the two sides have recently increased, there is no current strategic context under which either side would launch a bolt out of the blue. So does this mean nuclear weapons should be pulled off alert? Absolutely not. No one can forecast the future security environment of Russia and China. We are in a multipolar world in which nuclear weapon states other than Russia also pose an existential threat. It is because our nuclear forces are on alert that the United States remains free from the threat of nuclear or WMD attack. If there are people who cannot get out of the Cold War mentality of “Dr. Strangelove,” it is the Global Zero community and not the Air Force.

*The flight of the B-52 bomber from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base in 2007 while carrying six nuclear cruise missiles was an unauthorized movement. However, the nuclear weapons were not armed and never left the custody of the U.S. Air Force. As a result, this is not considered a nuclear accident, as opposed to the 1966 Palomares incident or 1968 Greenland crash (both of which involved B-52 bombers).

Dr. Mel Deaile and Al Mauroni work at the U.S. Air Force Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies. The opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Air University, U.S. Air Force, or Department of Defense.

Babylon’s Nuclear Missiles Could Be Cyberattacked (Rev 15:2)

Nuclear Weapons Cyber-1.jpg

Former commander of US nuclear force urges taking missiles off high alert, citing cyberthreats

Taking U.S. and Russian missiles off high alert could keep a possible cyberattack from starting a nuclear war, a former commander of U.S. nuclear forces says, but neither country appears willing to increase the lead-time to prepare the weapons for launch.

Retired Gen. James Cartwright said in an interview that “de-alerting” nuclear arsenals could foil hackers by reducing the chance of firing a weapon in response to a false warning of attack.

Essentially adding a longer fuse can be done without eroding the weapons’ deterrent value, said Cartwright, who headed Strategic Command from 2004 to 2007 and was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before retiring in 2011.

The Obama administration has considered and rejected the idea before of taking nuclear missiles off high alert. There appears to be little near-term chance that Moscow would agree to pursue this or any other kind of nuclear arms control measure, given the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations after Russia’s intervention in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. and Russia also are at odds over a U.S. accusation that Moscow is violating a treaty banning medium-range nuclear missiles.

Robert Scher, the Pentagon’s top nuclear policy official, told Congress this month that “it did not make any great sense to de-alert forces” because the administration believes the missiles “needed to be ready and effective and able to prosecute the mission at any point in time.”

An example of the high alert level of U.S. nuclear weapons is the land-based nuclear force. These are the 450 Minuteman 3 missiles that are kept ready, 24/7, to launch from underground silos within minutes after receiving a presidential order.

A study led by Cartwright proposes to adjust the missile command and control system so that it would take 24 hours to 72 hours to get the missiles ready for launch.

Cartwright said cyberthreats to the systems that command and control U.S. nuclear weapons demand greater attention. While the main worry once was a hacker acting alone, today it is a hostile nation-state, he said, that poses more of a threat even as the Pentagon has improved its cyberdefenses.
“The sophistication of the cyberthreat has increased exponentially” over the past decade, he said Tuesday. “It is reasonable to believe that that threat has extended itself” into nuclear command and control systems. “Have they been penetrated? I don’t know. Is it reasonable technically to assume they could be? Yes.”

Cyberthreats are numerous and not fully understood, officials say.

Could a hacker spoof early warning networks into reporting attack indications that lead to overreactions by national leaders? Could they breach firewalls to transmit unauthorized launch orders to crews in nuclear missile launch control centers?

Defense officials are tight-lipped about countering this type of cyber threat.

Last week the No. 2 official at the National Nuclear Security Administration, Madelyn Creedon, was asked at a Senate hearing about progress against this threat to nuclear command and control. She said the government is “doing better,” but she declined to publicly discuss details.

Two years ago the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, an advisory group, reported that “most of the systems” in the U.S. nuclear arsenal had not been fully assessed to understand possible weak spots in the event of an all-out cyberattack.

Cartwright is the lead author of a report published Wednesday by the Global Zero Commission, an international group co-founded by a former Air Force nuclear missile launch control officer, Bruce Blair, now a research scholar at Princeton. The report calls for a phased approach to taking U.S. and Russian missiles off high alert, with 20 percent of them off launch-ready alert within one year and 100 percent within 10 years, under a legal or political agreement.

The report argues that lowering the alert levels should be preceded by both Russia and the U.S. eliminating a strategy known as a “launch on warning” — being prepared to launch nuclear missiles rapidly after early warning satellites and ground radar detect incoming warheads. It says this presents an unacceptable level of nuclear risk, and argues that vulnerability to cyberattack against the warning systems or the missile control systems is “a new wild card in the deck.”

“At the brink of conflict, nuclear command and warning networks around the world may be besieged by electronic intruders whose onslaught degrades the coherence and rationality of nuclear decision-making,” the report says.

Follow Robert Burns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP

Babylon The Great Pushing Towards Nuclear War (Rev 17)


The US is Pushing The World Towards Nuclear War

The US initiated economic sanctions against Russia, has attacked its currency and has manipulated oil prices to devastate the Russian economy. It was behind the coup in Ukraine and is now escalating tensions by placing troops in Europe and supporting a bunch of neo-fascists that it brought to power. Yet the bought and paid for corporate media in the West keeps the majority of the Western public in ignorance by depicting Russia as the aggressor.
If the current situation continues, the outcome could be a devastating nuclear conflict. Washington poured five billion dollars into Ukraine with the aim of eventually instigating a coup on Russia’s doorstep. Washington and NATO are supporting proxy forces on the ground to kill and drive out those who are demanding autonomy from the US puppet regime in Kiev. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border into Russia.
Yet it is Washington that accuses Moscow of invading Ukraine, of having had a hand in the downing of a commercial airliner and of ‘invading’ Ukraine based on no evidence at all – trial by media courtesy of Washington’s PR machine. As a result of this Russian ‘aggression’, Washington slapped sanctions on Moscow.
The ultimate aim is to de-link Europe’s economy from Russia and weaken Russia’s energy dependent economy by denying it export markets. The ultimate aim is to also ensure Europe remains integrated with/dependent on Washington, not least via the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and in the long term via US gas and Middle East oil (sold in dollars, thereby boosting the strength of the currency upon which US global hegemony rests).

The mainstream corporate media in the West parrots the accusations against Moscow as fact, despite Washington having cooked up evidence or invented baseless pretexts. As with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and other ‘interventions’ that have left a trail of death and devastation in their wake, the Western corporate media’s role is to act as cheerleader for official policies and US-led wars of terror.

The reality is that the US has around 800 military bases in over 100 countries and military personnel in almost 150 countries. US spending on its military dwarfs what the rest of the world spends together. It outspends China by a ratio of 6:1.

What does the corporate media say about this? That the US is a ‘force for good’ and constitutes the ‘world’s policeman’ – not a calculating empire underpinned by militarism.

By the 1980s, Washington’s wars, death squads and covert operations were responsible for six million deaths in the ‘developing’ world. An updated figure suggests that figure is closer to ten million.

Breaking previous agreements made with Russia/the USSR, over the past two decades the US and NATO has moved into Eastern Europe and continues to encircle Russia and install missile systems aimed at it. It has also surrounded Iran with military bases. It is destabilising Pakistan and ‘intervening’ in countries across Africa to weaken Chinese trade and investment links and influence. It intends to eventually militarily ‘pivot’ towards Asia to encircle China.

William Blum has presented a long list of Washington’s crimes across the planet since 1945 in terms of its numerous bombings of countries, assassinations of elected leaders and destabilisations. No other country comes close to matching the scale of such criminality. Under the smokescreen of exporting ‘freedom and democracy’, the US has deemed it necessary to ignore international laws and carry out atrocities to further its geo-political interests across the globe.
Writing on AlterNet.org, Nicolas JS Davies says of William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II: if you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, ‘Killing Hope’ will provide it.

Davies argues that the title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).
Davies goes on to say that the list above does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a US role is suspected but unproven.

The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) is a recipe for more of the same. The ultimate goal, based on the ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine, is to prevent any rival emerging to challenge Washington’s global hegemony and to secure dominance over the entire planet. Washington’s game plan for Russia is to destroy is as a functioning state or to permanently weaken it so it submits to US hegemony. While the mainstream media in the West set out to revive the Cold War mentality and demonise Russia, Washington believes it can actually win a nuclear conflict with Russia. It no longer regards nuclear weapons as a last resort but part of a conventional theatre of war and is willing to use them for pre-emptive strikes.

Washington is accusing Russia of violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, while the US has its military, mercenary and intelligence personnel inside Ukraine. It is moreover putting troops in Poland, engaging in ‘war games’ close to Russia and has pushed through a ‘Russian anti-aggression’ act that portrays Russia as an aggressor in order to give Ukraine de facto membership of NATO and thus full military support, advice and assistance.

Washington presses ahead regardless as Russia begins to undermine dollar hegemony by trading oil and gas and goods in rubles and other currencies. And history shows that whenever a country threatens the dollar, the US does not idly stand by.

Unfortunately, most members of the Western public believe the lies being fed to them. This results from the corporate media amounting to little more than an extension of Washington’s propaganda arm. The PNAC, under the pretext of some bogus ‘war on terror’, is partly built on gullible, easily led public opinion, which is fanned by emotive outbursts from politicians and the media. We have a Pavlov’s dog public and media, which respond on cue to the moralistic bleating of politicians who rely on the public’s ignorance to facilitate war and conflict.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst has spoken about the merits of the Kiev coup and the installation of an illegitimate government in Ukraine. Last year, he called the violent removal of Ukraine’s democratically elected government as enhancing democracy. Herbst displayed all of the arrogance associated with the ideology of US ‘exceptionalism’. He also displayed complete contempt for the public by spouting falsehoods and misleading claims about events taking place in Ukraine.
And now in Britain, the public is being subjected to the same kind of propaganda by the likes of Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond with his made-for-media sound bites about Russia being a threat to world peace:
“We are now faced with a Russian leader bent not on joining the international rules-based system which keeps the peace between nations, but on subverting it… We are in familiar territory for anyone over the age of about 50, with Russia’s aggressive behaviour a stark reminder it has the potential to pose the single greatest threat to our security… Russia’s aggressive behaviour a stark reminder it has the potential to pose the single greatest threat to our security.”
In a speech that could have come straight from the pen of some war mongering US neocon, the US’s toy monkey Hammond beats on cue the drum that signals Britain’s willingness to fall in line and verbally attack Putin for not acquiescing to US global hegemonic aims.
The anti-Russia propaganda in Britain is gathering pace. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said that Putin could repeat the tactics used to destabilise Ukraine in the Baltic states. He said that NATO must be ready for Russian aggression in “whatever form it takes.” He added that Russia is a “real and present danger.” Prior to this, PM David Cameron called on Europe to make clear to Russia that it faces economic and financial consequences for “many years to come” if it does not stop destabilising Ukraine.
Members of the current administration are clearly on board with US policy and are towing the line, as did Blair before. And we know that his policy on Iraq was based on a pack of lies too.
If Putin is reacting in a certain way, it is worth wondering what the US response would be if Russia had put its missiles in Canada near the US border, had destabilised Mexico and was talking of putting missiles there too. To top it off, imagine if Russia were applying sanctions on the US for all of this ‘aggression’.
What Russia is really guilty of is calling for a multi-polar world, not one dominated by the US. It’s a goal that most of humanity is guilty of. It is a world the US will not tolerate.
Herbst and his ilk would do well to contemplate their country’s record of wars and destabilisations, its global surveillance network that illegally spies on individuals and governments alike and its ongoing plundering of resources and countries supported by militarism, ‘free trade’ or the outright manipulation of every major market. Hammond, Fallon and Cameron would do well to remember this too. But like their US masters, their role is to feign amnesia and twist reality.
The media is dutifully playing its part well by keeping the public ignorant and misinformed.  A public that is encouraged to regard what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Libya, etc, as a confusing, disconnected array of events in need of Western intervention based on bogus notions of ‘humanitarianism’ or a ‘war on terror’, rather than the planned machinations of empire which includes a global energy war and the associated preservation and strengthening of the petro-dollar system.
Eric Zuesse has been writing extensively on events in Ukraine for the last year. His articles have been published on various sites, but despite his attempts to get his numerous informative and well-researched pieces published in the mainstream media, he has by and large hit a brick wall (he describes this here).
This is because the corporate media have a narrative and the truth does not fit into it. If this tells us anything it is that sites like the one you are reading this particular article on are essential for informing the public about the reality of the aggression that could be sleepwalking the world towards humanity’s final war. And while the mainstream media might still be ‘main’, in as much as that is where most people still turn to for information, there is nothing to keep the alternative web-based media from becoming ‘mainstream’.
Whether it involves Eric’s virtually daily pieces or articles by other writers, the strategy must be to tweet, share and repost! Or as Binu Mathew from the India-based Countercurrents website says: “It is for those who want to nurture these alternative communication channels to spread the word to tell the world about these avenues. ‘Each one reach one, each one teach one’ can be a good way to sum up.”
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.