Strategic Horizons: American Military Unprepared for Post-Nuclear Operations

By Steven Metz, on , Column

The list of of nations with nuclear weapons continues to grow. First it was the United States and the Soviet Union. They were soon followed by the United Kingdom, France then China. Later, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea joined. South Africa was a member of the club for a while, before abandoning its program. Iran will become a nuclear power some day, even if the United States or Israel postpones it a bit with an attack. A growing number of other states could build nuclear weapons in short order if they wanted to, including South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil and many of the European states. Al-Qaida wants nuclear weapons and may some day get them. And it is not inconceivable that another violent apocalyptic organization will try to steal or buy them, or that a powerful criminal gang with money and connections will consider nuclear weapons the ultimate tool of extortion and self-defense.

Logic suggests that the more nuclear powers there are, the higher the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used -- whether out of desperation by a crumbling or unstable regime or pure wickedness by terrorists or criminals. If this happens it is possible that the U.S. military will be ordered to help stabilize a shattered nation and provide humanitarian relief; to secure any remaining nuclear weapons; to control important facilities; or to help the victim of the nuclear attack repel an invasion. Despite these possibilities, today's U.S. armed forces are unprepared to operate in an environment contaminated by a nuclear explosion. ...

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