US Nuclear Primacy and Vietnam-era War tactics in Iraq

From the Council on Foreign Relations online magazine at ForeignAffairs.org

First, the issue of Nuclear Primacy… I know many people who still think of Nuclear War in the “MAD” sense. That is… if one country lobs a nuke… everyone else will too, thus plunging our planet into nuclear winter.

Here’s the article:

Since the Cold War’s end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia’s early warning radar network.

….

Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal’s decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest.

….

China’s nuclear arsenal is even more vulnerable to a U.S. attack. A U.S. first strike could succeed whether it was launched as a surprise or in the midst of a crisis during a Chinese alert.

It’s an excellent, in depth, article. Which basically concludes that the US has achieved and is intent on keeping Nuclear and Conventional Primacy in the world. What’s more.. it’s made me rethink the purpose of the BMD program. In todays world.. were the US to launch a nuclear attack.. or even be attacked preemptively, the BMD system need not have a massive defense system that is 100% effective. All it needs is something that is a) good enough to act as a deterrent.. or an instigator, depending on the enemy
b) good enough to take out a few missiles lobbed at North America. Since there is no country in the world that could “wipe out” the US like the Soviet Union once could… even one or two nukes make it through, in the grand scheme.. it won’t matter, because the US will be able to “glassify” pretty much anyone else in response.

The other article deals with strategy in Iraq… and how it is following Vietnam-era thinking, when it should be doing something completely different.

As it is in 2006, in 1969 Washington’s strategy was built around winning hearts and minds while handing off more and more of the fighting to indigenous forces. …

In 1967, allied forces distributed more than half a million cakes of soap and instructed more than 200,000 people in personal hygiene. By then, thanks to U.S. pressure, elections at all levels of government had taken place throughout South Vietnam. The plan was to undermine the Vietcong by improving the lives of the South Vietnamese through economic development and political reform.

A Maoist people’s war is, at bottom, a struggle for good governance between a class-based insurgency claiming to represent the interests of the oppressed public and a ruling regime portrayed by the insurgents as defending entrenched privilege.

Communal civil wars, in contrast, feature opposing subnational groups divided along ethnic or sectarian lines; …. In such situations, even the government is typically an instrument of one communal group, and its opponents champion the rights of their subgroup over those of others.

Whereas the Vietnam War was a Maoist people’s war, Iraq is a communal civil war. This can be seen in the pattern of violence in Iraq, which is strongly correlated with communal affiliation. The four provinces that make up the country’s Sunni heartland account for fully 85 percent of all insurgent attacks; Iraq’s other 14 provinces, where almost 60 percent of the Iraqi population lives, account for only 15 percent of the violence.

This is an incredibly timely article and really turns a light on in terms of explaining what is happening in Iraq.

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