Just as the ink was drying on the Georgian cease-fire, a Russian general has now threatened possible nuclear attack against Poland, due to their recent agreement to install an anti-ballistic-missile system.
The US position has always been that our ABM systems would never be able of stopping a Russian attack, and, therefore, its use is not aimed at Russia. That is probably true. But the problem is this: if it is effective enough to eliminate a credible second strike, then the MAD doctrine fails. (I don’t know that one based in Poland could do this since submarines—not missiles—are the largest component of a second strike. Those rail-based launchers, maybe?)
In other words, even if our ABM systems are incapable of destroying all inbound Russian missiles in a first strike, if they erode or eliminate the Russians’ ability to retaliate in a second strike, then the entire nuclear strategic balance is destroyed, and the most effective deterrent is gone.
Under MAD, a first-strike nuclear attack is deterred. It would most likely only occur, if, say, a NATO country were invaded. But without it, such an invasion would have to be coupled with a first strike, because the invader would know that it could not survive a first strike in retaliation.
Without MAD, there is almost no way that a war involving major powers on opposing sides would stay conventional—that is the risk. And given that the nuclear stockpiles have been drastically reduced since the end of Cold War I, it wouldn’t take a super-effective ABM system to unbalance MAD.
If our hunter-killer submarines have a beat on every Russian missile sub, and our air force can shoot down their bombers, and the ABM system can eliminate their second strike capability, we would likely survive a retaliatory strike. I’m confident of all of these except the ABM system—it has not been shown to be effective at all.
It wouldn’t be pretty, but it wouldn’t be as bad as it would have been 30 years ago.
In any event, if it is true that our ABM system was never designed to stop a Russian first or second strike, Russian provocation has effectively made it necessary to design it that way.
Let’s not forget: even though “Star Wars” was imaginary, and Ronald Reagan was delusional about it, it did in fact play a role in the downfall of the Soviet Union, who cracked under the pressure of believing their conventional and nuclear forces would need to be built up in order to restore the balance lost through a potential “Star Wars” system. It destroyed their economy.
So, what would I, the liberal, say we should do?
- Immediately pull out of Iraq.
- Immediately begin production of ten new aircraft carriers, ten new attack submarines, and increase the army based in Europe by several divisions.
- Station some B-2s in Afghanistan, and some in northern Norway.
If this is Cold War II then its time we get our shit together and quit playing Arab killer. The nuclear game is one that matters—it’s real; it’s not just an excuse to go to war for oil.