New American war strategies
The two articles below offer warfare strategies so disparate they could only come from imperial America at a moment when its regime is busy selling the store to military contractors, including, first of all, the University of California-managed national laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore and to Bechtel, their win-win, private partner.
The two labs “are in a head-to-head competition to offer designs for the first of the new thermonuclear explosives …” Oh boy, ain’t we safer now!
Well, of course we are because the combined genius of UC, corporate and government flaksters have come up with a reassuring tag for the new general of weapons of mass destruction: "reliable replacement warheads.”
The rest of the story raises the issue of the unreliable component: is it the existing warheads or are the existing nuclear weapons scientists simply too brilliant to be trusted with mere maintenance of the American arsenal of mass destruction without experiencing debilitating ennui?
When you read of the excitement of the UC weapons-of-mass-destruction scientists, you realize that the UC Regents and administrators don’t give a hoot what people think about their inflated salaries, benefits and pensions. UC held onto its Los Alamos contract and will probably keep Livermore. What else could possibly matter to these people? President Robert Dynes may have to fall on his mortarboard but he’ll be paid off, somehow, by someone, and will go up on the UC Administration Hall of Fame as “Dynes, the man who kept the bomb at UC.” The sort of person who would want that sort of honor would be understood by the sort of person who would want to build a new generation of nukes, any federal energy or military bureaucrat, a safe majority of the elected political class, corporate “leaders” and UC administrators and regents. That still leaves the rest of us.
Meanwhile the Pentagon four-year review of defense strategy reported the need for a modified guerrilla strategy throughout the world, wherever opposition to American hegemony pops up. Although the scale is more grandiose, doesn’t this sound depressingly familiar? It does at least to us alive and draft-able during the Vietnam War. The version 40 years later is remarkably similar, except now it’s not just one poor Southeast Asian country (and its allies) but the whole world where, “We face a ruthless enemy intent on destroying our way of life and an uncertain future … The emphasis switches from large-scale, conventional military operations, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, towards a rapid deployment of highly mobile, often covert, counter-terrorist forces.”
One might comment that our way of life is somehow connected to the creation of this ruthless enemy intent on preserving what’s left of his way of life.
So much for ways of life, once a term of propaganda, now almost scriptural.
The Pentagon report is called The Long War. I feel better for my unborn grandchildren already. But the part I really like is the thought of the staggering amount of energy that will be consumed building the new generation of nuclear warheads and producing flak denying they are that, and the amount of energy it will take to send all these specially trained American ninja squads on their bloody missions.
But, never you mind. Our allies are going to help. The Pentagon has already volunteered them.
Lab officials excited by new H-bomb project
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
Inside the Bay Area
Oakland Tribune – Feb. 17, 2006
www.insidebayarea.com/ oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_3480733 - 68k - Feb 17, 2006
For the first time in more than 20 years, U.S. nuclear-weapons scientists are designing a new H-bomb, the first of probably several new nuclear explosives on the drawing boards.
If they succeed, in perhaps 20 or 25 more years, the United States would have an entirely new nuclear arsenal, and a highly automated factory capable of turning out more warheads as needed, as well as new kinds of warheads.
"We are on the verge of an exciting time," the nation's top nuclear weapons executive, Linton Brooks, said last week at Lawrence Livermore weapons design laboratory.
Teams of roughly 20 scientists and engineers at the nation's two laboratories for nuclear-explosive design — Livermore and Los Alamos in New Mexico — are in a head-to-head competition to offer designs for the first of the new thermonuclear explosives, termed "reliable replacement warheads" or RRWs. Designers are aiming for bombs that will be simpler, easier to maintain over decades and, if they fell into terrorists' hands, able to be remotely destroyed or rendered useless.
Once the designs are unveiled in September, the Bush administration and Congress could face a major choice in the future of the U.S. arsenal: Do they keep maintaining the existing, tested weapons or begin diverting money and manpower to developing the newly designed but untested weapons?
Administration officials see the new weapons and the plant to make them as "truly transformative," allowing the dismantlement of thousands of reserve weapons. But within the community of nuclear weapons experts, the notion of fielding untested weapons is controversial and turns heavily on how much the new bombs would be like the well-tested weapons that the United States already has.
"I can't believe that an admiral or a general or a future president, who are putting the U.S. survival at stake, would accept an untested weapon if it didn't have a test base," said physicist and Hoover Institution fellow Sidney Drell, a longtime adviser to the government and its labs on nuclear-weapons issues.
"The question is how do you really ensure long-term reliability of the stockpile without testing?" said Hugh Gusterson, an MIT anthropologist who studies the weapons labs and their scientists. "RRW is partly an answer to that question and it's an answer to the question (by nuclear weapons scientists) of 'What do I do to keep from being bored?'"
The prize for the winning lab is tens, perhaps hundreds of million of dollars for carrying its bomb concept into prototyping and production. If manufactured, the first RRW would replace two warheads on submarine-launched missiles, the W76 and W88, together the most numerous active weapons and the cornerstone of the U.S. nuclear force.
Altogether, the nation has 5,700 nuclear bombs and warheads of 12 basic types, plus more than 4,200 weapons kept in reserve as insurance against aging and failure of the active, fielded arsenal. Most are 25-35 years old. All were exploded multiple times under the Nevada desert before U.S. nuclear testing halted in 1992.
It is in most respects the world's most sophisticated nuclear arsenal, and beyond opposition at home to continued testing, ending testing made sense to discourage other nations from testing to advance their nuclear capabilities.
Faced by the Soviet Union, Cold War weapons scientists devised their bombs for the greatest power in the smallest, lightest package, so thousands could be delivered en masse and cause maximum destruction. Designers compare those weapons to Ferraris, sleek and finely tuned.
Scientists at the weapons laboratories are laboring to keep the bombs and warheads in working order, by examining them for signs of deterioration and replacing parts as faithfully to the original manufacturing as possible. It is an expensive and not especially stimulating job. Some worry that an accumulation of small changes could undermine the bombs' reliability.
So far, every year since 1995 directors of the weapons labs and secretaries of defense and energy have assured two presidents that the weapons are safe, secure and will detonate as designed. The new reliable replacement warheads are actually an old idea that 1950s-era weapons designers called, with some disdain, the "wooden bomb." Bomb physicists were proud of their racier, more compact designs and figured they were plenty dependable already.
The wooden bomb by comparison was boring.
"They said, 'Well heck, that isn't a challenge to anybody'," recalled Ray Kidder, a former Livermore physicist who found a chilly reception to proposals in the 1980s for clunkier, more reliable designs. "It was like saying, 'Well, why don't you make a Model A Ford.'"
Now the wooden bomb is back in vogue. With fewer, simpler kinds of warheads, the argument goes, the arsenal could be maintained more inexpensively and — assuming construction of a factory to turn out the new bombs on demand — thousands of reserve warheads could be scrapped.
But in a sharp break with the past, the new bombs would never be exploded except in war. The only button-to-boom tests of the new arsenal would be virtual — simulated detonations inside a supercomputer.
Today's weaponeers say they've learned enough of the complex physics of thermonuclear explosives to guarantee the bombs would deliver precise explosive yields even after decades on the shelf. If military leaders agreed, the most lethal and final resort of U.S. defenses would be deployed without a test shot.
Ex-military leaders are split on accepting a new, untested nuclear arsenal.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre told a House appropriations committee last year that he thinks a new arsenal will be needed some day. But he said, "I do believe we should test the new weapons to demonstrate to the world that they are credible."
Eugene Habiger, the senior-most commander over U.S. nuclear forces as chief of Strategic Command in the mid-1990s, said he would be inclined to accept the new weapons.
"The science is pretty well understood," he said.
The Bush administration and weapons scientists say the warheads will not have new military missions. They will ride on the same bombers and missiles as today's nuclear explosives and strike the same targets. But administration officials are talk of eventually wanting features beyond the sizable array of explosive yields and delivery methods available now: deep earth-penetrating bombs, enhanced radiation weapons and "reduced collateral damage" bombs with lower fission radiation.
Designers and executives at Lawrence Livermore are taking a conservative line. The lab's weapons chief, Bruce Goodwin, talks of starting with nuclear-explosive designs that are well tested and well understood.
"Our plan is to develop a design that lies well within the experience — and within what we call the 'sweet spot' — of our historical test base," he said in a recent statement.
One candidate under consideration as a starting point is the W89, a 200-kiloton warhead designed for a short-range attack missile. It is well-tested, plus it comes from a long line of well-understood designs and uses every safety and security feature available at the time.
Yet weaponeers at Los Alamos lab and Brooks, as the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, have talked of a more freewheeling design effort.
"This is not about going back to rake over old designs. That's why I've got two different teams of weapons scientists at two labs working on this," Brooks said. "There's never been anything tested that will do the sorts of things we want to do."
Such talk alarms Stanford's Drell. "How the hell do you make a new design without testing?" he said. "Those kinds of flamboyant statements worry me because I don't believe we could maintain a confident stockpile with new designs that haven't been tested."
Some former weapons scientists say the wiser course is maintaining the current arsenal and boosting its reliability in simple ways, such as adding more tritium to "sweeten" the hydrogen gases at the very core of the weapon.
"We've got a reliable stockpile. We have a test base for it. We have now in the last 10 or 15 years far more sophisticated computational abilities than we had doing these designs originally, so things are extremely well understand in terms of the performance," said Seymour Sack, once Livermore's most prolific designer, whose innovations are found in nearly every U.S. weapon. "I don't see any reason you should change those designs."
Lawmakers say they are watching carefully to make sure the new warheads hew closely to existing, well-understood designs. But in a recent report on the new warhead program for the Livermore watchdog group, Tri-Valley CAREs, former White House budget analyst Bob Civiak said Congress has a poor record of restraining the weapons design labs from what after all they were built to do.
"Congress thinks it can allow the labs to design new nuclear weapons but restrict them to existing designs," he said. "History shows that cannot be the case." Contact Ian Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
America's Long War
Last week US defence chiefs unveiled their plan for battling global Islamist extremism. They envisage a conflict fought in dozens of countries and for decades to come. Today we look in detail at this seismic shift in strategic thinking, and what it will mean for Britain
Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill
Wednesday February 15, 2006
The message from General Peter Pace, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was apocalyptic. "We are at a critical time in the history of this great country and find ourselves challenged in ways we did not expect. We face a ruthless enemy intent on destroying our way of life and an uncertain future."
Gen Pace was endorsing the Pentagon's four-yearly strategy review, presented to Congress last week. The report sets out a plan for prosecuting what the the Pentagon describes in the preface as "The Long War", which replaces the "war on terror". The long war represents more than just a linguistic shift: it reflects the ongoing development of US strategic thinking since the September 11 attacks.
Looking beyond the Iraq and Afghan battlefields, US commanders envisage a war unlimited in time and space against global Islamist extremism. "The struggle ... may well be fought in dozens of other countries simultaneously and for many years to come," the report says. The emphasis switches from large-scale, conventional military operations, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, towards a rapid deployment of highly mobile, often covert, counter-terrorist forces.
Among specific measures proposed are: an increase in special operations forces by 15%; an extra 3,700 personnel in psychological operations and civil affairs units - an increase of 33%; nearly double the number of unmanned aerial drones; the conversion of submarine-launched Trident nuclear missiles for use in conventional strikes; new close-to-shore, high-speed naval capabilities; special teams trained to detect and render safe nuclear weapons quickly anywhere in the world; and a new long-range bomber force.
The Pentagon does not pinpoint the countries it sees as future areas of operations but they will stretch beyond the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, north Africa, central and south-east Asia and the northern Caucasus.
The cold war dominated the world from 1946 to 1991: the long war could determine the shape of the world for decades to come. The plan rests heavily on a much higher level of cooperation and integration with Britain and other Nato allies, and the increased recruitment of regional governments through the use of economic, political, military and security means. It calls on allies to build their capacity "to share the risks and responsibilities of today's complex challenges".
The Pentagon must become adept at working with interior ministries as well as defence ministries, the report says. It describes this as "a substantial shift in emphasis that demands broader and more flexible legal authorities and cooperative mechanisms ... Bringing all the elements of US power to bear to win the long war requires overhauling traditional foreign assistance and export control activities and laws."
The report, whose consequences are still being assessed in European capitals, states: "This war requires the US military to adopt unconventional and indirect approaches." It adds: "We have been adjusting the US global force posture, making long overdue adjustments to US basing by moving away from a static defence in obsolete cold war garrisons, and placing emphasis on the ability to surge quickly to troublespots across the globe."
The strategy mirrors in some respects a recent readjustment in British strategic thinking but it is on a vastly greater scale, funded by an overall 2007 US defence spending request of more than $513bn.
As well as big expenditure projects, the report calls for: investments in signals and human intelligence gathering - spies on the ground; funding for the Nato intelligence fusion centre; increased space radar capability; the expansion of the global information grid (a protected information network); and an information-sharing strategy "to guide operations with federal, state, local and coalition partners". A push will also be made to improve forces' linguistic skills, with an emphasis on Arabic, Chinese and Farsi.
The US plan, developed by military and civilian staff at the Pentagon in concert with other branches of the US government, will raise concerns about exacerbating the "clash of civilisations" and about the respect accorded to international law and human rights. To wage the long war, the report urges Congress to grant the Pentagon and its agencies expanded permanent legal authority of the kind used in Iraq, which may give US commanders greatly extended powers.
"Long duration, complex operations involving the US military, other government agencies and international partners will be waged simultaneously in multiple countries round the world, relying on a combination of direct (visible) and indirect (clandestine) approaches," the report says. "Above all they will require persistent surveillance and vastly better intelligence to locate enemy capabilities and personnel. They will also require global mobility, rapid strike, sustained unconventional warfare, foreign internal defence, counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities. Maintaining a long-term, low-visibility presence in many areas of the world where US forces do not traditionally operate will be required."
The report exposes the sheer ambition of the US attempt to mastermind global security. "The US will work to ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system. It will also seek to ensure that no foreign power can dictate the terms of regional or global security.
"It will attempt to dissuade any military competitor from developing disruptive capabilities that could enable regional hegemony or hostile action against the US and friendly countries."
Briefing reporters in Washington, Ryan Henry, a Pentagon policy official, said: "When we refer to the long war, that is the war against terrorist extremists and the ideology that feeds it, and that is something that we do see going on for decades." He added that the strategy was aimed at responding to the "uncertainty and unpredictability" of this conflict. "We in the defence department feel fairly confident that our forces will be called on to be engaged somewhere in the world in the next decade where they're currently not engaged, but we have no idea whatsoever where that might be, when that might be or in what circumstances that they might be engaged.
"We realise that almost in all circumstances others will be able to do the job less expensively than we can because we tend to have a very cost-intensive force. But many times they'll be able to do it more effectively too because they'll understand the local language, the local customs, they'll be culturally adept and be able to get things accomplished that we can't do. So building a partnership capability is a critical lesson learned.
"The operational realm for that will not necessarily be Afghanistan and Iraq; rather, that there are large swaths of the world that that's involved in and we are engaged today. We are engaged in things in the Philippines, in the Horn of Africa. There are issues in the pan-Sahel region of north Africa.
"There's a number of different places where there are activities where terrorist elements are out there and that we need to counter them, we need to be able to attack and disrupt their networks."
The report identifies four priority areas
· Defeating terrorist networks
· Defending the homeland in depth
· Shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads
· Preventing hostile states and non-state actors from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction
The Pentagon planners who drew up the long war strategy had a host of experts to draw on for inspiration. But they credit only one in the report: Lawrence of Arabia.
The authors anticipate US forces being engaged in irregular warfare around the world. They advocate "an indirect approach", building and working with others, and seeking "to unbalance adversaries physically and psychologically, rather than attacking them where they are strongest or in the manner they expect to be attacked.
They write: "One historical example that illustrates both concepts comes from the Arab revolt in 1917 in a distant theatre of the first world war, when British Colonel TE Lawrence and a group of lightly armed Bedouin tribesmen seized the Ottoman port city of Aqaba by attacking from an undefended desert side, rather than confronting the garrison's coastal artillery by attacking from the sea."