“Mini-Nukes” Would Promote, Not Deter, the Use of Nuclear Bombs in Conflict

Activists of the non-governmental organization International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons  wear masks of Donald Trump and leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jon-un while posing with a mock missile in front of the embassy of Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Berlin, on September 13, 2017. (Photo: Britta Pedersen / AFP / Getty Images)Activists of the non-governmental organization International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wear masks of Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un while posing with a mock missile in front of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea embassy in Berlin, on September 13, 2017. (Photo: Britta Pedersen / AFP / Getty Images)

recently released “pre-decisional draft” of the Pentagon’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for the development of a new generation of “low-yield” nuclear bombs — weapons that are better known by the endearingly cute sobriquet: “mini-nukes.”

According to the Posture Review — a joint Pentagon/Department of Energy endeavor — the goal is “to ensure that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”

The Pentagon claims a new line of fashionable, well-tailored mini-nukes would provide the military with “more options” and “greater flexibility.” Instead of facing the terrifying specter of engaging in all-out nuclear war with 400-kiloton thermonuclear planet-killers, mini-nukes would free Washington’s military planners to whack at its enemies with smaller, more “palatable” blasts of atomic threat that would obliterate practically anything within a mile of Ground Zero.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared this atomic conundrum with a defense industry group in August 2017. “If the only options we have now are to go with high-yield weapons that create a level of indiscriminate killing that the president can’t accept,” Selva explained, “we haven’t provided him with an option.”

“Not needed!” anti-nuclear critics reply. Lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons only increases the likelihood of a wider conflict. A mini-nuke here, a mini-nuke there, and sooner than you can say “Armageddon,” the world’s eight acknowledged nuclear powers (and outliers like Israel) could all be going…

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