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How new U.S. nuclear policy will ignite WWIII

Illustrated by Jennifer Kearney
By Scott Peterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005
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President George Bush is either a liar, an idiot or a manipulative genius, whichever you prefer. In any case, because of his presidency, there is a high probability that Iran and/or North Korea will be struck with tactical nuclear weapons sometime in the near future.

A document drafted in March by the Pentagon outlined several scenarios, under which the president would be entitled to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes, marking a significant turn in U.S. nuclear policy. The document, titled “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,” awaits only Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s signature to become official policy, which it’s expected to receive in the coming weeks.

Such scenarios include eliminating enemies “using or intending to use WMD” against the United States and its allies, and/or destroying “adversary installations … required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack.”

Other scenarios permit pre-emptive nuclear strikes when enemies don’t possess WMDs, such as “to counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces.”

The draft also explicitly states that “any attempt by a hostile power to hand over weapons of mass destruction to militant groups to enable them to strike a devastating blow against the United States will likely trigger a U.S. nuclear response against the culprit,” a phrase that immediately shifts one’s gaze toward Iran.

On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran’s willingness to share nuclear know-how with other Islamic nations immediately.

Because the U.S. doesn’t believe Iran’s claim to “nuclear power for energy only” as it is, any attempt to “share” such information with surrounding countries hostile to the U.S. (i.e. Syria) would instantly place both countries within the realm of scenarios outlined above, thereby justifying pre-emptive nuclear strikes against them. End result: goodbye Tehran, hello World War III.

Not only are nuclear weapons unspeakably horrific creations, but the way in which the Bush administration is planning to use them violates international law, which returns us to Bush being a liar, an idiot or a manipulative genius.

Bush claims in his doctrine that the “right of self-defense should be extended in order to authorize pre-emptive attacks against potential aggressors cutting them off before they are able to launch strikes against the U.S.” This policy was allegedly used as the basis to invade Iraq.

Scott Peterson

The Iraqi war, however, was not pre-emptive, but preventive. While the difference between the two may seem small, in the realm of politics, interstate relations and international law, the difference is considerable.

Pre-emptive war is waged “to defeat an imminent invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (usually unavoidable) war.” Such wars are often argued to be justifiable.

Preventive war, on the other hand, is waged based on “claimed prevention of possible future attack,” requiring no military provocation. International law doesn’t distinguish preventive wars from forbidden wars of aggression, thereby making preventive war illegal.

The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the seriousness of the threat. If the threat is imminent, then the war is pre-emptive. If not, it’s preventive. International law considers the threat imminent when need for action is “instant, overwhelming, and leaves no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.”

In the case of Iraq, no such threat existed. In January 2004, White House spokesman Scott McClellan blasted critics, saying: “Some in the media have chosen to use the word ‘imminent.’ Those were not words we used,” thereby proving the Iraq war to be preventive, not pre-emptive.

When the revised nuclear policy is signed, the same erroneous use of the term “pre-emption” will be applied. Consequently, Bush and his administration will have the go-ahead to launch nuclear strikes against anyone they arbitrarily label a “possible threat.”

Devised officially to “maximize deterrence of WMD use,” the new policy will do the opposite. North Korea is already claiming to require nuclear weapons to defend against a U.S.-launched “pre-emptive strike.”

The worst part, however, is that the American people have no way to veto this policy. According to UA political science professor Tom Volgy, “No major defense policy of the United States has ever been taken to ‘the people’ for their assent.” Consequently, there is nothing we can do to prevent the world’s next nuclear attack.

Thus, in the end, whether President Bush is a liar, an idiot or a manipulative genius makes little difference. The important thing is that come 2008, we elect a leader who will destroy this policy before World War III’s powder keg explodes. That assumes, of course, we make it that far.

Scott Patterson is an international studies senior. He can be reached at

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