For John, BLUF: For sure, we don't want to use nuclear weapons in a less than existential situation. Nothing to see here; just move along.
President Obama is going to Hiroshima. There are questions as to what he might say. In light of the visit professors Scott D Sagan and Benjamin A Valentino explore how Americans feel about the current options for using nuclear weapons. The source is The Wall Street Journal.
Public opinion supported the strike on Hiroshima—and if provoked, many Americans might well back nuclear attacks on foes like Iran and al QaedaHere is the lede:
The White House’s recent announcement that President Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima has sparked an intense debate among politicians and pundits over what he should or should not say there. The president’s advisers insist that he “will not revisit the decision” to use nuclear weapons on that city in August 1945.To explore the issue of nuclear use the authors proposed the following scenario.
But the controversy has focused too narrowly on historical questions. We might instead ask whether the U.S., in similar circumstances today, would drop the bomb again. Our own research has found that the American public is surprisingly open to that prospect.
To explore how the U.S. public might react today to such choices, we asked YouGov last July to survey a representative sample of 620 Americans about a scenario evoking a 21st-century Pearl Harbor. To echo the dilemma the U.S. faced in August 1945, participants read a mock news article in which the U.S. places severe sanctions on Iran over allegations that Tehran has been caught violating the 2015 nuclear deal. In response, Iran attacks a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, killing 2,403 military personnel (the same number killed by Japan at Pearl Harbor in 1941).With this scenario the researchers found that 59% of those polled would back dropping a "small" nuclear weapon on an Iranian City. Even if the casualty toll was to be an estimated two million (a larger weapon), the result was 59%.
Congress then declares war on Iran, and the president demands that Iran’s leadership accept “unconditional surrender.” U.S. generals give the president two options: mount a land invasion to reach Tehran and force the Iranian government to capitulate (at an estimated cost of 20,000 American fatalities), or shock Iran into unconditional surrender by dropping a single nuclear weapon on a major city near Tehran, killing an estimated 100,000 Iranian civilians (similar to the immediate death toll in Hiroshima). The poll’s participants were reminded that Iran doesn’t yet have an atomic weapon of its own.
At this point I state that I have done nuclear target planning and have sat nuclear alert. For a short period I was the "nuclear" planning officer for the NATO Air Headquarters in the Mediterranean. I have thought about this thing a little bit.
With that out of the way, I am appalled that 59% of our fellow citizens would go along with a nuclear strike on Iran.♥ This represents a failure on the part of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch to educate the citizenry. And a failure on the part the Press. And Academia.
The scenario is deficient. What about using our seapower and airpower and sinking the Iranian Navy and blockading her ports? What about a conventional air attack on Iran, destroying this or that aspect of its economy? We could look at Air Force Colonel John Warden and his Five Rings.
Yes, it is a bogus question and our voters didn't pick it up. Those who would like to abolish nuclear weapons should take note of this.
But, basically, I think this is the wrong scenario.
A better scenario would be Da'ish♦ gets the upper hand and unites the Arab Muslims and then mounts an effort to reclaim Andalusia and the Balkans. Hundres of thousands die and beheadings and crucifixions follow the advancing Da'ish armies, as provinces fall to their armies. European armies are faltering. It is the Da'ish promise of recovering all the lost territories.
The US and Canada can't get enough forces there in time to hold forward positions to prevent Spain and parts of Austria, Hungary and Slovenia from falling.♣
Now what would you decide? Is a free Spain worth a small nuclear weapon?
An additional question worth asking is if Muslims in France, Germany and the BENELUX are supportive of their national Governments or of the Muslim invaders?
Equally important, in this scenario, is what role is Russia playing, as the Slavs are being devoured in the East? Have they already used nuclear weapons? What is China up to?
Now you have a place where the use of nuclear weapons might be in order.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Dr. Sagan is professor of political science and senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Dr. Valentino is associate professor of government at Dartmouth College.
♥ In NATO parlance Strike is nuclear and Attack is conventional. From my time in NATO, we had Fighter Bomber Attack (FBA) aircraft, say the Fiat G-91, Fighter Bomber Strike (FBS), say the Italian F-104S and Dual Capable aircraft (DUC, pronounced duck), say the F-4 or F‑111.
♦ ISIL or ISIS, if you prefer.
♣ Mexico fought with the Allies in WWII. Will they join this fight?