Tuesday, January 22, 2008
One Strike You're Out
This is pretty serious stuff. Five senior Western military strategists, each of them a former Chief of Staff and some of them former high-ranking NATO commanders, just submitted a report that will be discussed at the upcoming NATO summit this April arguing that the risk of nuclear proliferation is "imminent", that as a result the West must seriously contemplate the possibility of limited nuclear exchanges, and that the option of a nuclear first strike should not be removed from the "quiver of escalation". Beyond that, they call for overhauling NATO's decision-making procedure, eliminating consensus and national veto and replacing it with a majority rules arrangement, in order to facilitate rapid response.
It's hard to ignore the fact that the announcement of the report comes on the heels of the Russian Chief of Staff's reiteration yesterday of Russia's longstanding first strike policy. But more than anything, the report represents an acknowledgement that the rules of the deterrent game have been scrambled and that from here on out we'd better be willing to scrap because chances are we're going to have to.
That's a pretty frightening scenario when you consider the impact of even a limited nuclear exchange on a second-rate power, and then consider the role failed states play in the current proliferation outlook. In other words, we're entering into a period where the only response left doesn't only fail to solve the problem, it exacerbates it. As I said at the outset, pretty serious stuff.