The Pentagon’s Useful Idiots

Photo by James N. Mattis | CC BY 2.0

Democrats and Republicans in Washington agree on one thing at least: the need to fight Russia. In their view, Vladimir Putin believes the US lacks the resolve to defend its allies; he is also trying to protect his authoritarian regime against democratic and liberal contagion. He has therefore chosen aggression against the West. But US politicians on both political sides, and the military, have decided to counter-attack.

In response to a White House request, the Pentagon recently completed a draft report that advocates a wider role for nuclear weapons (1). Since existing bombs are so destructive that using them is unimaginable, their deterrent role is undermined; so the report suggests it might be better to develop low-yield nuclear arms as part of a greater range of strategic threats. A range that would also include non-nuclear options: ‘chemical, biological, cyber, and large-scale conventional aggression.’

In 2016 candidate Trump, lacking the most basic understanding of nuclear deterrence, is said to have asked an adviser: ‘If we have them why can’t we use them? (2)’ The Pentagon report is a response of sorts: that the US, faced with what it claims are the geopolitical ambitions of Russia and China, and Moscow’s ‘willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will upon its neighbours,’ must update its nuclear arsenal as soon as possible to ‘remain faithful sentinels of our nation’s security and…

Read more