World Deterrent

By Bryan • china, military • 17 Mar 2006

Inspired by a comment regarding Chinese deterrent, I am again putting myself out of my sphere and wasting time!

Again, there is quite a lot of confusion concerning nuclear doctrine of lesser nuclear powers, such as Pakistan and India. India appears to hold to a nuclear policy of minimal credible deterrence obviously against Pakistan, but increasingly more so against China. Indian minimal deterrence includes a no-first-use clause and is based around a triad of land based bombers, missile silos and nuclear equipped submarines. The presence of submarines (a requirement for limited deterrent) provides India with an immense strategic advantage over Pakistan. Pakistan has never publicly released a nuclear doctrine, but has hinted that minimal deterrence is not nuclear policy. Their doctrine is largely a reaction to Indian nuclear doctrine, especially given India’s superior nuclear and conventional forces. Pakistan does not adhere to a no-first-use doctrine and has stated that in the event of a war with India, they would utilize nuclear units against invading and static targets.

A North Korean deterrent is, not surprisingly, a response to perceived threats from the United States. Aside from that, essentially nothing is known regarding their usage doctrine. North Korean nuclear forces and unsophisticated and while posing no real threat the United States, present a challenge to Japanese security as well as South Korean. It is possible that North Korea would abide by a no-first-use policy and maintain a weak, but somewhat credible minimal deterrent as the use of nuclear weapons on Korean soil is not acceptable. However, in the event of a conventional war, North Korean forces could utilize such weapons in a first strike capacity if (and this is the most probably outcome) their conventional forces are defeated and their leadership threatened.

Again, Iranian development of nuclear weapons is a response to perceived American threats. As of yet, they have no doctrine, but what separates Iran from other equipped states is the radical tendencies of their government. North Korea is lost in the 1950’s with the primary goal of reunifying the Korea peninsula. Sandwiched in between China, Russia, S.Korea and Japan, North Korea has little hope of ever becoming any sort of regional power. They are loony, but I don’t think as crazy as those who hold power in Iran. A nuclear equipped Iran has the potential to wield some serious influence in the Middle East, and it is possible that their doctrine, while being minimal in nature (given the range and delivery systems available) would probably contain blackmailing elements as they push for further influence in the Gulf as well as Central Asia.

A new element of deterrent theory is the bee-sting theory, which was developed during the first Bush Administration.

Bee-sting theory was a new theory of how nuclear deterrence would work in the post-Cold War world. Instead of two superpowers like the United States and the Soviet Union facing each other in a global thermonuclear stand-off, with a handful of intermediate major powers — China, Britain and France — possessing such weapons but loosely aligned on either side, it predicted a very different framework and dynamic for nuclear deterrence — a far more complex and unstable one — for the new post-communism world.

…Nuclear bee-sting theory predicted this as a likely response by insecure Third World states too. Third World or “rogue state” leaders would act on the assumption that having a single nuclear weapon that could destroy an American city or kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in the field would be sufficient to deter any major U.S. military action against them. Right after the 1991 Gulf War, when India’s then-chief of staff was asked privately by some American interlocutors what strategic lessons should be drawn from the rapid and overwhelming U.S. victory, he replied, “Make sure you have your own atomic bomb before you challenge the United States.”

Israel is concerned with one thing. The preservation of the Israeli state. They abide by what is called “nuclear opacity” – visibly possessing nuclear weapons while denying their existence, which allows them the luxury of a nuclear deterrent without the international consequences of public acknowledgement. The Israeli arsenal is most likely unsophisticated, and lacks a submarine deterrent, which means traditionally they would hold to a minimal deterrent. Israel policy can hold some similarities to North Korean aspirations, in that self preservation is the primary objective, and that applying a no-first-use policy severely limits this goal.

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2 Responses

  1. Nuke Theory and the Crazy North

    Sliding back in my micro-obsession with nuclear deterrent theory (I mean, how could you not find this stuff interesting?) I thought that the current times probably justify a look at North Korea’s little physics project and how it fits into…

  2. Pingback: Obama and Nuclear Deterrence | Bryan Crosby Dot Ca

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