By Nathan Barton
The tremendous expense of deploying a missile fleet capable in the long term of countering nuclear threats has spawned a debate in the American military establishment, as talked about in a recent Stars and Stripes article. How essential, in the 21st century, are the 400 strategic missiles embedded in silos deep under the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota?
The Pentagon has begun work to replace the Minuteman fleet with a new generation of missiles and launch control centers, but the plan would cost an astronomical $85 billion, one of the most expensive projects in Air Force history. At its peak (about 1990), the USAF fielded 450 Minuteman IIs, 500 Minuteman IIIs and 50 Peacekeeper missiles, a total of 1,000 ICBMs that had more than 2,000 warheads on them. Today’s 400 Minuteman missiles each field a single warhead. Despite many claims to the contrary, the US has greatly reduced its effective nuclear arsenal, as the Cold War receded in our minds. Today, though, Pentagon officials want to replace almost the entire nuclear arsenal, at a cost of up to $1 trillion. The replacement of the ICBM fleet, which critics have said is no longer crucial to preventing a nuclear war, raises the biggest questions.
Of those of us who live in the Great Plains, who have lived on what would be the front lines in case of a nuclear exchange, our entire future may change. It already has, as the missile fields of West River South Dakota and Missouri were removed in the 1990’s.
The concept on which North American defense was based for decades was incredibly sick and warped – indeed, insane. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the idea that if one side attacked, the other side would die but ensure that their attackers also perished. Mad though it was, somehow, it worked; not only did no one exchange volleys of nuclear weapons, but the core homelands were not invaded, and even the frontiers where the two (or more) sides faced each other did not explode with violence: Taiwan, Korea, Germany, the Baltic, and the Black Sea were indeed more peaceful than most other parts of the world. But at the same time, if the balloon HAD gone up and things gone seriously awry, it would have been the civilians of the Great Plains (and their counterparts in the missile fields of Russia and Kazakhstan and Ukraine) that would have almost certainly been the first of millions of casualties of general, nuclear war. But, amazing though it is, it worked. Providentially, East and West did not go to war.
But is the defense system that worked well for nearly a half-century still needed in the 2020 to 2050 era?
A related story appeared in the Army (etc.) Times family of papers. “The Defense Department on Tuesday improved a spotty record by destroying a mock [sic] intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific with a new hit-to-kill vehicle meant to protect the homeland against the growing threat from North Korea. The launch of a Ground-based Midcourse Defense, or GMD, interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California against an ICBM-class target fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands resulted in a ‘direct collision,’ the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.”
It was, of course, a REAL ICBM – it was just carrying a “mock” warhead – not a real nuclear weapon.
In recent weeks, as the childish “leaders” in North Korea have escalated their temper tantrums, Trump (and many others) have also escalated their responses, leading to the iconic “fire and fury” comment in the last few days. A fortuitous ICBM test from Vandenburg into the South Pacific again demonstrated that the American missile force (and presumably the warheads on them) is no paper tiger. But in reality, it shows we have really not come far from the MAD doctrine of the past. Rather than simply allow the North Koreans to try and attack Guam or Hawaii or the West Coast, and shoot down their warhead, the FedGov apparently simply will utterly destroy the whole nation before or after their leaders’ foolish attack, killing millions who are nothing more than slaves, and bringing about Ragnarok on the peninsula and likely much of China and Japan. In turn triggering a potentially worldwide economic disaster.
Is this because we cannot trust that our missile defenses are adequate even against the pitiful attempts of a concentration camp and insane asylum pretending to be a country?
Many people are pointing out the stupidity and evil nature of our current “defense” system. (And being ignored, by the majority, of course.) Consider the article “Military spending is the biggest scam in American politics” in CounterPunch, by Ted Rall. He writes, in part, “Military spending is the biggest waste of federal tax dollars ever. Both political parties are equally complicit. The militarism scam is the best-kept secret in American politics. When you think about it — but no one in the halls of Congress ever does — it’s hard to think of a country that has less to fear than the United States. Two vast oceans eliminate our vulnerability to attack, except by countries with sophisticated long-range ballistic missiles (5 out of 206 nations). We share long borders with two nations that we count as close allies and trading partners. … Yet a whopping 54% of discretionary federal spending goes to the Pentagon.”
I do disagree with Ted on this. It is far from the “best-kept” secret – it is just the camel in the tent that everyone knows about and yet pretends not to see. But his point about little to fear is important.
By the way, even though he is right that we count Canada and Mexico as “close allies,” neither are any longer friends, either to the Fifty States or to liberty. Canada’s internal and external policies are purely Tranzi – transnational and progressive, post-christian, and far more European than British. Mexico is chaotic and revanchist, willing to be the tool for Tranzi operations; exactly as you would expect from a nation (or nations) with its history as first among equals in Spanish Imperial colonies, its own imperial past, and as heir to the Reconquesta and the legacy of militarism and monarchial power. The Fifty States need as much defense against these two neighbors as against Europe, Russia, China, or whatever ad hoc alliance of International Socialism and Transnational Progressivism might attack us. But it is a different sort of defense that is needed.
Which brings me back to the point of this commentary.
Are land-based nuclear-tipped weapons necessary to defend these Fifty States from attack by enemies? Both those with and without nuclear weapons? Are ANY ICBMs or ALCMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles) or gravity-type nuclear bombs in aircraft? Whether on land, at sea, or in the air? Are they adequate?
It depends on what the threat is. American forces should exist only for the defense of the homeland – the Fifty States and our legitimate possessions – and perhaps (maybe) to protect American air, sea, and space traffic. (But even this is suspect – why should not we protect our own merchant ships, aircraft and spacecraft? And really, can any “state” or “state military” pretend to “protect” an aircraft or spacecraft without spending far more than the typical owner can afford?)
It brings into question the entire idea that defense – even basic defense – is best provided by mandatory governments, paid for by extortion from individuals, businesses, or even other governments.
It is indeed something to ponder.