ICAN Scottish Partner

Latest Events

Donate to SCND

Amount to donate:
£  GBP  


Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

The US government\'s aggressive new policies for nuclear weapons are being turned into military practice. The new doctrine shows military planners ant icipating that U.S. nuclear weapons might be used pre-emptively, and in much less intense crises than envisioned previously, including in a conventional conflict. The document, which includes comments by all the major military commands, provides the first formal update of US nuclear operational policy since the Bush administration took office. The editing of the document reveals sharp internal disagreements about the legality of the US\'s new posture, specifically its implied endorsement of the use of nuclear weapons against targets whose destruction by a nuclear weapon must inevitably lead to massive civilian casualties. A final version of the document is expected this autumn. The document reveals: * Plans for the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear countries and against countries which the US judged might be intending to use chemical or biological weapons against its forces or allies. * That the Bush administration\'s public claims to be reducing the role of nuclear weapons are false. * That nuclear weapons might be used in less intense crises than previously considered including in a conventional conflict. * That the distinction between conventional forces and nuclear weapons is being discarded and nuclear weapons being integrated into conventional weapons planning and missile defences. * That the main purpose of missile defences is to defend military forces not civilians. * That some commanders do not believe that the threats used to justify the new doctrine actually exist. The editing process also reveals internal divisions about the legality of the new nuclear doctrine. On one hand the document concludes the United States is legally free to use nuclear weapons pre-emptively if it chooses, \"no customary or conventional international law prohibits nations from employing nuclear weapons in armed conflict\". However the editing process reveals a debate among the different commands over the legality of different types of targeting of nuclear weapons. Of particular concern was the legal status of \'countervalue targeting\', which directs the destruction or neutralization of selected enemy military and military-related activities, such as industries, resources, and/or institutions that contribute to the enemy\'s ability to wage war. The US strategic command, STRATCOM, which directs nuclear warfighting commented \'Many operational law attorneys do not believe \"countervalue\" targeting is a lawful justification for employment of force, much less nuclear force. Countervalue philosophy makes no distinction between purely civilian activities and military related activities and could be used to justify deliberate attacks on civilians and non-military portions of a nation\'s economy...For example, under the countervalue target philosophy, the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 could be justified\'. They concluded that therefore \"countervalue targeting violates\" the Law of Armed Conflict and suggested changing the phrase \"countervalue\" to \"critical infrastructure targeting.\" The US European command, EUCOM, responded by strongly objecting to the use of the term \'critical infrastructure\' to hide the fact that the new nuclear warfighting doctrine encourages nuclear targeting which could well lead to massive civilian casualties. The refusal of EUCOM to agree with this terminology led to both the terms \"critical infrastructure targeting\" and \'countervalue\' being withdrawn from the document to end the discussion. However this type of targeting appears to continue, and simply changing the terminology obviously does not change the illegal targeting itself. Greenpeace International disarmament campaigner William Peden said, \"This document should send a shiver down the spine of everyone. It shows that the highest levels of the Pentagon have undergone a major shift in thinking and now view nuclear weapons no longer as a weapon of last resort but a weapon that can and should be used.\" \"This means a US military machine prepared use nuclear weapons first, against non nuclear countries and non military related civilian targets.\" He continued, \"The US government must immediately distance themselves from the nuclear warmongers at the Pentagon, announce a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and get serious about negotiating a treaty to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The alternative is a new nuclear arms race.\"