Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nukes and Tanks: Deterrent Friends!

With Tuesday’s extensive discussion on the role of conventional warfighting techniques and equipment in the modern Army, Monday’s trip to Fort Knox that brought up questions of the future of conventional armored forces and the fact that many of us are in a class on nuclear weapons, I felt this topic was ideal for a blog post.
As President Obama tours the world (and invites the world to Washington) promoting a platform of disarmament and anti-proliferation, anxious questions have been raised by those at home, particularly from those who grew up taught to be terrified of a potential Soviet nuclear attack (see image). There are concerns that a diminished nuclear arsenal might not be a strong enough deterrent against some states with a particularly vivid distaste for the U.S. and, if true, it certainly is an unpleasant thought.
These concerns, however, are exactly the reason why our conventional forces and equipment are still useful, even mandatory, in a military that currently faces conflicts that are exclusively COIN-based. (Some of this will seem repetitive from Tuesday, of course, but on the off-chance that someone outside of PS reads this, I’ll rehash a little.) Currently, it appears that the primary enemies of the United States are to be fought with COIN-only techniques; but, of course, this does not mean that this will always be the case. It is easy to imagine that at some point in the vague future of the U.S., conventional war may be required to protect her citizens and interests. This alone is a suitable argument for maintaining conventional warfighting ability, however it becomes even more important with regard to the nuclear disarmament.
The concern of those who cling to the arsenal is that eliminating these impressive weapons shows that we’re softening, weaker or less prepared to fight. To counter this image, both to appease those at home and to convince those abroad, continuing to nurture and grow our conventional branches (such as armor) will prove essential. The message to be sent should not be one of weakness or pacification but one of strength. In other words, the nuclear disarmament of the United States need not be a concession, but a message to the world (and specifically our adversaries) that we have such faith in our conventional forces that our nuclear weapons are less important, and almost disposable; that the U.S. can do so much damage with our traditional “roll-right-over-you” forces that they deter even nuclear attacks. Combine this with the fact that we will, certainly, maintain a (probably substantial) arsenal of nuclear weapons “just in case,” and we hardly need to fear some disarmament.
Not only does this stance comfort those who fear the U.S. being left without a strong deterrent, but it also assures them that our conventional forces will continue to be strengthened and trained. To get more of the country on board with his disarmament agenda, the President would be wise to push a stance of this nature and pursue an increased focus on the abilities of our traditional forces and equipment.

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