WASHINGTON--On the desk of U.S. President Ronald Reagan1 sits a controversial master plan for winning a nuclear war--a plan that yesterday was condemned as "militaristic" by Pravda, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper.
The plan, which was drawn up on the orders of the Reagan administration, has great strategic and political implications and seems certain to kindle the growing debate over whether nuclear war in any form is survivable.
The top-secret plan was drawn up in the fall of 1981 to supersede Presidential Directive 59, which was approved in the last six months of President Jimmy Carter's administration.
Sources familiar with both highly classified documents report that Reagan's strategic doctrine goes further than Carter's in that it specifically states the goal of winning a "protracted" nuclear war.
According to one member of the Reagan administration,
the plan would contemplate nuclear warfare that went on for as
long as six months. One consequence of this planning has been a
commitment of $18 billion to provide a communications system
that could endure such a protracted nuclear struggle.
The idea that nuclear war between the superpowers can be kept limited or stretched out over several months--let alone won--is controversial in both military and political circles.
Air Force Gen. David Jones, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Carter and Reagan, has warned that preparations for fighting a limited or protracted nuclear war would be throwing money into a "bottomless pit." In his parting statement upon retirement in June, Jones said, ""I don't see much of a chance of nuclear war being limited or protracted." He added that, "I see great difficulty in keeping any kind of nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States from escalating."
During the 1980 presidential primary campaign, Carter's Presidential Directive 59 was criticized by Senator Edward Kennedy2 and others for assuming that nuclear wars can be fought and survived in a manner akin to conventional wars.
Carter's secretary of defence, Harold Brown, asserted that Presidential Directive 59 was intended to deter any expectations that the Soviets might have of winning a nuclear war, but did not endorse the idea that nuclear war could be kept limited or that meaningful victory was possible.
Carter's directive also did not contain any specific means of implementation, but Reagan's directive, the sources say, specifically requires the Pentagon to draw up a plan for turning the policy declaration into military reality.
The Pentagon's strategic master plan was to have been sent to the National Security Council for approval in June. However, it was delayed because of the public disclosure of another secret Defence Department document, the annual defence guidance statement.
Portions of that statement, which the Pentagon draws up each year projecting its needs for the next five years, were leaked to the New York Times and caused considerable embarrassment for the administration.
The newspaper reported that the annual guidance plan assumed that "protracted nuclear war is possible" and that "U.S. nuclear forces must prevail and be able to force the Soviet Union to seek earliest termination of hostilities on terms favorable to the United States."
The annual guidance statement contained a general policy of confrontation with the Soviets ranging from conventional wars to battles in space, with the nuclear component being only one portion.
Administration insiders report that the new strategic master plan is more detailed and more controversial in its advocacy of nuclear warfare than the annual Defence Department guideline. More significantly, it would carry the imprimatur of the president and his National Security Council, while the annual guidance plan is an internal Pentagon document.
The new strategic master plan concentrates exclusively on the possibilities of strategic nuclear war and reportedly aims at providing more of a "how-to" treatment of the subject. For example, the new plan devotes considerable space to the matter of destroying enemy political centres and command centres while preserving similar U.S. centres.
The Reagan administration has budgeted $18 billion for
the purpose of securing U.S. military command, control and
communication, or C-3 as it is known to planners. C-3 refers to
the ability of a nation's leaders to maintain communication with
the troops in control of the nuclear arsenal.
The implications of the shift in strategic thinking about nuclear war were spelled out by Gen. James Stansberry, commander of the Air Force Electronics Systems Division, who told an Air Force conference that:
"In previous years the concept for C-3 was that it only had to be able to get off a launch of U.S. strategic weapons in response to a first strike before damage was unacceptable. The idea that there was no way to win a nuclear war exchange sort of invalidated the need for anything survivable. There is a shift now in nuclear weapons planning, and a proper element in nuclear deterrence is that we be able to keep on fighting."
But critics of nuclear war-fighting strategies remain skeptical that C-3 can be protected because the antennae, telephone lines, satellites and other links in the communication system between a nation's leaders and the nuclear arsenal remain far more vulnerable than any other components of the defence system.
One observer on the Reagan staff said sarcastically: "We've been working on this C-3 problem for five years now and can report that the system might survive 15 minutes of nuclear war."
But the Pentagon's master plan aims at finding means for hardening U.S. communications to the point that they could survive for a longer time--"as much as six months," one administration member noted.
The notion that nuclear wars can be fought on a limited and survivable basis toward other than cataclysmic ends has had growing support in the past decade. Increasingly accurate missile technology and sophisticated means of communications have produced the confidence in some quarters that nuclear war need not be fought as one spasmodic episode with little but radioactive rubble to show for the effort.3
The result has been a push for rejecting a nuclear strategy based on the idea of a nuclear war as one spasmodic event, requiring as a deterrent only enough power on each side to assure the destruction of the other. This past policy has been challenged by strategies that require even more plentiful and advanced nuclear arsenals and systems of defence ranging from anti-missile systems to civil defence.
In the nuclear war-fighters' view, which Reagan's National Security Council appears to accept a nuclear war might be fought over a period of several months with selective strikes at primarily military targets. At the end, they believe, one side could emerge victorious, with enough of its resources and population intact to begin again.
One leading advocate of this viewpoint is Colin Gray, who has recently been appointed by Reagan to the advisory board for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and as an adviser to the State Department.
In a 1980 article in the magazine Foreign Affairs,
Gray and co-author Keith Payne complained that
"many commentators and senior U.S. government officials consider
it (nuclear war) a non-survivable event."
Instead, Gray and Payne argued, "The United States should plan to defeat the Soviet Union and to do so at a cost that would not prohibit U.S. recovery. Washington should identify war aims that in the last resort would contemplate the destruction of Soviet political authority and the emergence of a postwar world order compatible with Western values."
They specified that 20 million U.S. fatalities would represent a compatible level.
Others may have a less optimistic view of the likely casualties but still believe it is possible to emerge on top in an all-out nuclear war. Last week, Energy Secretary James Edwards defended the Reagan administration's commitment to testing and building more and better nuclear weapons. He said:
"I hope we never have to get into another war; if we do, I want to come out No. 1, not No. 2."
On the other hand, there is former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who left the Carter administration before it formulated Presidential Directive 59.
Said Vance" "I happen to be one of those who believe it is madness to talk about trying to fight a continuing nuclear war as though it were like fighting a conventional war, and that one could control the outcome with the kinds of precision that is sometimes possible in a convention war.
"It is a totally different world, a world that is hard for
any of us to conceive, because none of us knows what a nuclear
war is like. But by extrapolation, we can have some idea of the
incredible devastation that would come from it and the almost
unimaginable consequences that would flow from it."
(article accompanied by photograph of U.S. President Ronald
Ronald Reagan: Studying plan on the United States winning a 'protracted' nuclear war.)
Cyrus Vance: Former Secretary of State thinks all talk of limited atomic conflict is 'madness.')
(article accompanied by photograph of David Jones
David Jones: Former Air Force general sees no chance of stopping a nuclear war from escalating.)
(text of August 19, 1982 Toronto
1-OF RELEVANCE TO THE SUBJECT OF THE DESKS OF CERTAIN AMERICAN PRESIDENTS--INCLUDING MR. REAGAN--(AS THINGS/PEOPLE ASSOCIATED WITH THEM INFLUENCE THE PRESIDENTS' THINKING AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES)--TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
2-FOR PERSPECTIVE ABOUT THIS, I AM ADDING TO THIS
WEBSITE THE LIST OF
CONTENTS FOR MY AUGUST, 1989 SUBMISSION TO SENATOR
KENNEDY BY REGULAR MAIL. (PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THE
CONTINUING LIMITATIONS FINANCIALLY PUT UPON ME BY "(MY) PRESENT SITUATION").
WHEN I HAVE THE TIME TO PREPARE ALL THE TEXT FILES, I'LL SHOW YOU THE CONTENTS OF THE REMAINING TERMS OF REFERENCE TO IT NOT ALREADY LINKED FROM IT.
I'D ALSO URGE YOU TO CONSIDER THE CONTENTS OF MY MAY, 1985
REGISTERED MAIL SUBMISSION TO HIM--PARTICULARLY IN LIGHT OF
THE LATE-1997 ASSERTION BY THE FORMER RUSSIAN DEFENSE SECRETARY
THAT THERE MAY BE AS MANY AS "100 SUITCASE-SIZED NUCLEAR
WEAPONS" FROM THE RUSSIAN ARSENAL UNACCOUNTED FOR.
AT MINIMUM WHAT I FEEL OBLIGED TO SAY HERE IS THAT I NEVER RECEIVED A REPLY FROM HIM TO THESE THINGS--OR ANY OF MY OTHER REGISTERED MAIL LETTERS.
BUT BEFORE YOU PANIC/RUSH TO JUDGMENT ABOUT WHAT REVEALS ABOUT THE ISRAELIS--BEYOND THE FACT THAT ON JULY 31, 2000 THEY DECLINED TO APPOINT MR. PERES AS THEIR PRESIDENT, REMEMBER WHAT IS SUBSTANTIATED BY WHAT YOU FIND IF YOU TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE...A POLICY DECISION ENUNCIATED AT THE HEIGHT OF THE CONFRONTATION BETWEEN IRAQ AND THE UNITED NATIONS OVER THE IRAQI INVASION OF KUWAIT...
GIVEN WHAT YOU FIND IF YOU TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE--DETAILING THE ANTI-MISSILE DEFENSE PLANS BY BOTH VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE AND GOVERNOR GEORGE W. BUSH, SPECIFICALLY IN REGARDS TO THE ISSUE OF NON-AMERICAN OR -RUSSIAN NUCLEAR WEAPON TECHNOLOGY, TO CONSIDER THOSE SOUTH AFRICAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS THAT SOUTH AFRICA SAYS ISRAEL HELPED THE APARTHEID GOVERNMENT BUILD, TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
ALTHOUGH IT'S NOT IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, I THINK IT'S RELEVANT TO UNDERSTANDING IF YOU TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.