November’s In Depth Series: First Strike: The American Nightmare


As I alluded to in the previous blog entry, the comprehensive focus for November is going to be centered on US strategic forces. To be more specific, Today’s DIRT is going to focus on how survivable America’s nuclear forces, command and control systems, and leadership would be in the event of a Russian first strike against the United States. To some people, the notion of a first strike is unrealistic. Their assumption could be that if an enemy nation launches its nuclear weapons at the US it will trigger an immediate retaliation and result in the eventual destruction of the world. An alternate assumption is that since the Cold War is over, there is absolutely no chance of a US-Russian nuclear conflict erupting. Hollywood has conditioned us to accept that a nuclear war is unwinnable. Even a limited nuclear war would lead to untold numbers of deaths, the destruction of cities around the world and the end of life as we know it.

I disagree these arguments. At present, the United States is more vulnerable to a first strike than ever before. A combination of variables make the current time a period of vulnerability: Lack of resolute and effective US leadership, significant deterioration in the condition of US strategic forces, and a resurgent Russia to name a few. There are other factors that will be discussed in the series along with the ones mentioned above.

The five parts of the series are listed below, along with a brief summary of the areas each entry will cover. The first one will be published on 9 November.

Part I: Introduction- This entry will take a look at nuclear warfare and the concept of a limited first strike, as well as examine the current world situation and identify flashpoints that could potentially lead to a situation where Russia may feel that a first strike against the US could succeed.

Part II: The Current State of US and Russian Strategic Forces– In Part Two, a brief history of US and Russian nuclear forces and C3I capabilities will be presented. Special attention will be applied to the deterioration of US nuclear forces in recent years as well as plans on the table to modernize the force.

Part III: The Perils & Advantages of a First Strike – Like it or not, military planners do ponder the possibility of limited nuclear war. Contrary to public opinion, a nuclear war can be winnable if planned and executed properly. Hundreds of simulations and studies have been run since 1949. Many have revealed that the side that launches first stands the best chance of emerging as the victor.

Part IV: First Strike Scenario- A detailed scenario depicting what a successful Russian first strike could look like, along with what the consequences might be for the United States and the world.

Part V: Conclusion– The series will wrap up with a summary and look at the future of the US-Russian nuclear balance of power.

If any revisions are made to the above schedule I will post them.

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