Bombs and rockets

Mutual deterrence dissolves when one or both sides can remove the opponent’s ability to inflict severe damage in retaliation. In a crisis the side believing that an unacceptably large part of its retaliatory capacity could be suddenly nullified by an opponents forces might be impelled to strike preemptively. The superior side also might be motivated […]

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The New York Times has published an exceptional long article by Scott Anderson about the history of the Middle East since 2003. It’s an ambitious text to have written, not a trivial task to read, and perhaps a suggestion that print journalism is enduring in its dedication to telling complicated stories, despite ongoing challenges to […]

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Finally, and very subjectively, there is an inauspicious storyline surrounding second-term secretaries of defense: none has ever finished his second term, each having been asked by the president to leave before his term was over. I believe that this is not coincidence; that there is something about this particular job that causes it to go […]

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But [Richard] Holbrooke was irrepressible and his proposal [to invite Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic states to join NATO in 1996] moved forward. I went to President Clinton, explaining my concerns, and asking for a full meeting of the National Security Council to air my concerns and my arguments for a delay. […]

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During those tense days [of trying to stop North Korean reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for weapons], an op-ed in the Washington Post caused considerable excitement. Brent Snowcroft, the former national security advisor, and his colleague Arnie Kanter (both long-time friends), wrote a column essentially stating that the United States would strike the Yongbyon reactor […]

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This principle of the interplay between conventional and nuclear forces is fundamental to deterrence in the nuclear era. The dangerous example today of the consequences of failure to maintain strong conventional forces is Russia. Given the decline in their conventional arms, the Russians are embarked on a major nuclear buildup and leaders have starkly stated […]

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President George H.W. Bush followed up these arms control initiatives. In 1991, he signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which called for reducing the number of ICBMs and warheads on both sides; ICBMs were reduced to 1,600 and deployed warheads to 6,000. In January 1993, just before President Bush left office, he signed […]

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Had the watch officer [who correctly identified that an apparent nuclear attack in 1979 wasn’t real] come to a different conclusion, the alert would have gone all the way to the president, waking him, and giving him perhaps ten minutes to make a decision about the fate of the world with little context or background […]

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Discussions of the adequacy of our defensive forces are typically based on their ability to deter. Indeed, that is a fundamental requirement. But I was soon to learn that it was not the only requirement, and not necessarily the primary driver of force size. Our deterrent forces were also weighed on a political scale: do […]

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I recently saw the documentary Zero Days about state-sponsored cyber warfare in general and the Stuxnet attack against Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz in particular. The documentary doesn’t really contain any new information for people who follow the news in this field, but it’s well put together and has some compelling interviews. A couple of […]

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