Wednesday, December 04, 2013

There is NO SUCH THING as a "Tactical Nuclear Weapon"

Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, whose dad was Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, has opined that we could use a "tactical nuclear device" in Iran. This clown was born in 1976, so he doesn't remember when Barry Goldwater wanted to use "tactical nuclear weapons" in Vietnam.

Congressman Duncan Doofus Hunter
(yes, it's really his picture)

Somebody needs to sit this boy down an' larn him some things.

You can create a nuclear "device" that will take out a block, say, or a neighborhood, and you can say that because it's impact is thus limited it is therefore a "tactical" weapon. You can say that if you want, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, but you'd be an idiot if you did.

The United States is the only country to have used a nuclear weapon on an enemy. It's always interesting to argue whether we should have, or whether we could have impressed Japan sufficiently by destroying some offshore island. It's a game of "what if ...", but the fact is that we used it.

We obliterated two Japanese cities. According to the unimpeachable Wikipedia: "Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day."

Surprisingly, this episode seems to have made an impression on the world, because in the nearly 70 years since, despite the Korean War, despite the Cold War, despite the Vietnamese War, despite the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and all the wars that other countries have fought that we've managed to stay out of, nobody has used a nuclear weapon again (although several countries went out and got themselves one).

And maybe that's the sad gift of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that because of what happened to them, the world has seen the horror and for 70 years has had no stomach to repeat it. So all the thousands of nuclear weapons built by the United States and the USSR have mostly become disposal problems.

Now comes Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, who thinks we could use a nuclear "device" as though it were just some field weapon.

What Congressman Dum-Dum doesn't understand is that using a nuclear weapon of ANY size would have consequences far beyond the battlefield where it was employed. It would be a game changer. The BIG game! The STRATEGIC game. Pandora's Box would blow wide open and the furies would be released.

Other countries, seeing that the United States had legitimated the use of nuclear weapons for non-existential tasks, would feel quite justified to employ them in their own disputes. Who could tell them not to? Certainly not the United States. Things would fall apart pretty quickly.

Nobody knows where the dust would settle, or if it ever would.

A nuclear weapon, regardless of how limited or "tactical" its physical effect, is a strategic weapon of the first order. Handle with care.

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