May 31, 2006

Bad ideas never go away.

At least not in Dubya's administration, anyway.

Back in early March, we posted at Magpie about a hare-brained Pentagon plan to replace the nuclear weapons on Trident missiles with conventional warheads. That way, said military planners, the US could deliver big 'conventional' bombs anywhere in the planet in less than an hour. As we noted back then, this plan seemed to have more to do with the military's being able to keep a fleet of Trident subs that have had litte purpose since the Cold War ended than it does with any real need to be able to drop bombs hither and yon on quick notice.

As we also noted, Pentagon planners seem to be ignoring the fact that it would be impossible for a hostile nation to tell the difference between a nuclear Trident launch and a non-nuclear one. Which, of course, means the Pentagon is also ignoring the possiblility that a hostile nation could decide to launch nukes of its own, just to be 'safe.'

/Which missile has the nuke?

Does the Trident on the left have the nuke? Or is it the one on the right?
And if you can't tell, what makes the Pentagon think anyone else can?

This magpie had hoped that the Pentagon's plan for revamping Trident missiles had died the death that such an idiotic idea deserved. But no!

According to the NY Times, not only is the plan still alive, but the Pentagon is pushing hard on Congress to get funding to start work on the new Trident warheads. And, apparently not satisfied with the stupidity of the earlier version of the plan, the Pentagon is now saying that each Trident submarine will carry both nuclear and non-nuclear versions of the Trident missile. And, even worse, it appears that when one of those non-nuclear missiles is launched, it will be extremely difficult to do so from a location where the missile's trajectory won't point toward Russian territory — even though its actual target is not actually in Russia. A reasonable person might think that the risk of making the Russian military think their country is under nuclear attack provides more than enough reason to scrap the proposed Trident program. But, as is so often the case under Dubya's administration, there seems to be a shortage of reasonable persons in the Pentagon high command.

The Russians, for their part, seem to have little interest in facilitating Congressional approval of a new American weapons system. During his recent trip to Russia, General Cartwright sought to explain the rationale for program to Gen. Yuri Baluyevski, the chief of the Russian General Staff.

"The things that I tried to talk to him about were the common issues that we face — the fact that terrorists and organizations are getting capabilities that are significant and are likely to stay on a trend that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction," [US strategic command chief] General Cartwright said.

After that discussion, General Baluyevski continued to stir up opposition to the plan. "As our American colleagues often tell us, these missiles could be used to kill bin Laden," he told reporters earlier this month. "This could be a costly move which not only won't guarantee his destruction but could provoke an irreversible response from a nuclear-armed state which can't determine what warhead is fitted on the missile."

I'm with General Baluyevski on this one. And I really have to wonder whether those guys in the Pentagon are deliberately trying to start a nuclear war. Why on earth else would you want to build a weapons system that could so easily cause an 'accidental' nuclear exchange?

As I said back in March, the plan for non-nuclear Trident missiles needs to be dumped into the dustbin of history. Very quickly.

Posted by Magpie at May 31, 2006 01:07 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |