In an article entitled “Australia At War With China? Let’s Talk About That!“ I have looked at the consequences for Australia of a long conventional war between Australia,the US and China.(1) However the idea there could be a prolonged conventional war between the US and China is an misguided view of what such a war would look like. In this article I will explain why any conventional war with China will trigger a short and very savage nuclear war.
THE LONG WAR STORY FROM DAVID GOMPERT
The US intelligence guru David Gompert came to Australia warning “a war between the US and China would be long, destructive and could erupt if regional disputes already underway overheat.” He said both sides “have ample forces, technology, industrial might, and personnel to fight across vast expanses of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. »
“Mr Gompert said the US should make sensible preparations to wage a ‘long and fierce’ war with China but argued it must also develop plans to limit the scope, intensity and duration of such a conflict. He said if such a war broke out today, China’s losses would greatly exceed that of the US.”(2)
IT’S A WAR WITH RUSSIA/CHINA, NOT JUST CHINA
Mr Gompert insists the US should “develop plans to limit the scope, intensity and duration of such a conflict.” But can the US limit the intensity and duration of such a war? Does he realize there is a growing Russian-Chinese alliance? The Chinese are helping the Russians in Syria and it is quite implausible that, during a US war with China, Russia would just sit on its hands. Consider this discussion of what could be going on between Russia and China away from the eyes of Western journalists:
“There are certain to be scores of secret agreements between the Chinese and the Russians we know nothing about: to share intelligence (including for example signals intelligence and data from satellites) and to coordinate foreign policy and for defence cooperation including technology sharing. We know for example that the Russians and the Chinese have representatives at each others’ command headquarters and that recently they carried out in Moscow a joint command exercise involving joint operation of their respective anti-ballistic missile defences, something the US would never do at such a level with any of its allies.”(3)
Furthermore who can imagine all sides will sit on their nuclear weapons for weeks or months of a prolonged and intense conventional conflict? If the war between the US and China started going badly for one side or the other, how long would they wait to move on from the conventional weapons and bring out the heavy artillery? It is more likely that such a war would be over in a few days as it quickly turned into a full-on nuclear exchange between Russia and China and the US.
SUCH A NUCLEAR WAR IS IMPOSSIBLE! IT WOULD DESTROY BOTH SIDES!
Since nuclear weapons have not been used for the last 70 years people have come to believe that they could never be used again. Why? There are now so many nuclear weapons, if the US and Russia began attacking each other both countries would be destroyed. Starting such a war would destroy your own country. What leader would initiate national suicide?
This is a comforting line of thought, but a careful look at the development of military thinking about nuclear weapons since they were introduced shows it is just a pleasant fairy story.
In the 1960’s a policy was developed in the US by Henry Kissinger and Herman Kahn which advocated an “active” nuclear strategy for the US. After WW II the US saw nuclear weapons as a way to stop the USSR from conquering Europe using its much larger conventional forces. The new approach advocated by Kissinger and Kahn was to use nuclear weapons in a surprise attack to destroy the nuclear weapons of the USSR or China before they were used against the US. The plan was to use a “first strike” to limit or remove the enemy’s ability to retaliate. This would mean the US could actually win a nuclear war. Kahn argued that 40 million dead in the US and a 20 years recuperation period could be « acceptable losses » necessary for such a victory. It is no surprise that such thinking inspired Stanley Kubrick to produce Dr Strangelove.
Eventually cooler heads seemed to prevail. The policy known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) became the dominant policy. Some efforts were made to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by the US and the USSR. An article written in 2014 explains that “nuclear war with Russia is still mutually assured destruction. Hopefully, that’s still deterrent enough.”(4)
MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION HAS BEEN REPLACED BY THE FIRST STRIKE POLICY
Russia revoked the pledge of the USSR not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict in 1993.(5) In 2002 the Bush administration modified US strategic doctrine from a retaliatory role to permit a preemptive nuclear attack. In effect the US has returned to the first-strike policy developed by Kissinger and Kahn in the 1960’s. Then in 2006 the influential US journal Foreign Affairs featured an article by Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press entitled “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy”. The article begins as follows:
“Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States’ nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces.”(6)
The US military can plan for a nuclear first strike against Russia or China, and there is a growing belief in official circles that the US is in a position to destroy the ability of its enemies to retaliate with their own nuclear weapons. To implement this policy the US has established anti-ballistic missile bases around Russia. As Paul Craig Roberts explains:
“US anti-ballistic missile (ABM) bases have been established in Poland on Russia’s frontier, and other bases are planned. When completed Russia will be ringed with US missile bases.
“Anti-ballistic missiles, known as ‘star wars’, are weapons designed to intercept and destroy ICBMs. In Washington’s war doctrine, the US hits Russia with a first strike, and whatever retaliatory force Russia might have remaining is prevented from reaching the US by the shield of ABMs.”(7)
The US has also located a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic system in South Korea which can be used to destroy missiles fired by China in retaliation for a US first strike.(8)
Remember there is no point in having an anti-ballistic missile system in place if you really believe any nuclear war is simply mutually assured destruction.
PREEMPTIVE, FIRST STRIKE THINKING MAKES NUCLEAR WAR MORE LIKELY
The US military believes it can launch a nuclear war and survive any attempt by its enemies to destroy it. This makes nuclear war much more likely because the Russians and Chinese both know that the US thinks they can actually make a successful first strike against them. What better reason do they need for making a first strike themselves? Again Paul Craig Roberts explains:
“Washington has created a dangerous situation. As Russia and China are clearly threatened with a first strike, they might decide to strike first themselves. Why should Russia and China sit and await the inevitable while their adversary creates the ability to protect itself by developing its ABM shield? Once Washington completes the shield, Russia and China are certain to be attacked, unless they surrender in advance.”(9)
The military planners on both sides use what is called the counterforce strategy which involves attacking their opponent’s weapons nuclear and the their leadership.
“The requirements for the counterforce mission perpetuate the most dangerous characteristics of nuclear forces, with weapons kept at high levels of alert, ready to launch upon warning of an enemy attack, and able to preemptively attack enemy forces.”(10)
As Steven Starr explains, counterforce doctrines emphasize the need for preemptive strikes once a war begins. “Both sides would be under immense pressure to launch a preemptive nuclear first-strike once military hostilities had commenced, especially if nuclear weapons had already been used on the battlefield.”(11)
We need to realize that the duty of a nations leaders is to protect their country from its opponents. The US has publicly adopted a first-strike policy, based on the assumption that a preemptive strike on Russian and China will neutralize their nuclear weapons by either destroying them before they are used, or shooting them down after they are launched with ABMs. The Russians and Chinese know the US might launch a preemptive strike at any time, and realize that the best way to protect themselves is to launch their own preemptive strike before the US does.
This means that we are now as close to a nuclear war as we were in the worst period of the Cold War in the 1960’s. This is why I disagree with the “long war” theory of David Gompert. Once conventional hostilities begin, each side will be sitting with their fingers on the preemptive strike button hoping they can beat the other to a nuclear first-strike. He says the US would “develop plans to limit the scope, intensity and duration of such a conflict”. And the US will assume the Russians or Chinese have no plans for a first strike themselves? Let’s just have a conventional war and see what happens?
If the US says it can win a nuclear war with China or Russia, once conventional hostilities begin the Russians and Chinese would be mad not to expect a US first-strike. And the only way to protect themselves is to be ready themselves to make a first-strike before the US.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN AN ALL-OUT NUCLEAR WAR?
Nobody know for sure, of course, but it seems the best possible outcome would be just short of the extermination of the human race. The Northern Hemisphere would probably be unfit for human habitation. Both the US and Russia each have 400 to 500 launch-ready ballistic missiles armed with a total of at least 1800 strategic nuclear warheads, which can be launched with only a few minutes warning.(12)
President Obama is has no doubts about which country is the most important and how its dominance should be maintained:
“At his West Point speech on May 28, President Obama said, ‘I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.’ Obama stated his bottom line is that ‘America must always lead on the world stage,’ and ‘the backbone of that leadership always will be the military.’ American exceptionalism based on might, not diplomacy, on hard power, not soft, is precisely the hubris and arrogance that could lead to the termination of human life.”(13)
What Would Russia Do if Attacked?
We can have some answer to this question from an article by three Russians living in the US. They have warned the citizens of the US that nuclear war with Russia will “wipe the USA off the political map”:
“But we are just as certain that if Russia is attacked, or even threatened with attack, she will not back down, and that the Russian leadership will not ‘blink.’ With great sadness and a heavy heart they will do their sworn duty and unleash a nuclear barrage from which the United States will never recover. Even if the entire Russian leadership is killed in a first strike, the so-called ‘Dead Hand (the ‘Perimetr’ system) will automatically launch enough nukes to wipe the USA off the political map. We feel that it is our duty to do all we can to prevent such a catastrophe. »(14)
The Russian Dead Hand or Perimetr System
The Dead Hand or perimetr system guarantees retaliation against the US. Because the Russians don’t trust computers alone to make such decisions, it has a critical human safeguard, bunkered in an incredibly strange underground chamber. The operators and their equipment are located in a hardened underground bunker in the shape of a sphere, very deep and very hardened, probably the most secure place in the Cold War. In this isolated spheroid room, duty officers sit and wait for three conditions to be met: “predelegation,” decapitation, and active nuclear war. When these three conditions are met, the officers can issue launch commands to small missiles that would fly the entire width of the Soviet Union and give commands electronically to all the missile silos below to launch.(15)
Some of the consequences of such a nuclear war are:
In a recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists entitled “Self-assured destruction: The climate impacts of nuclear war” begins as follows:
“A nuclear war between Russia and the United States, even after the arsenal reductions planned under New START, could produce a nuclear winter. Hence, an attack by either side could be suicidal, resulting in self-assured destruction.”(16)
Fire-storms, Falling Temperatures and Destruction of the Ozone Layer
After a nuclear exchange
“nuclear firestorms would produce millions of tons of smoke, which would rise above cloud level and form a global stratospheric smoke layer that would rapidly encircle the Earth. The smoke layer would remain for at least a decade, and it would act to destroy the protective ozone layer (vastly increasing the UV-B reaching Earth) as well as block warming sunlight, thus creating Ice Age weather conditions that would last 10 years or longer.
“Following a US-Russian nuclear war, temperatures in the central US and Eurasia would fall below freezing every day for one to three years; the intense cold would completely eliminate growing seasons for a decade or longer. No crops could be grown, leading to a famine that would kill most humans and large animal populations.”(17)
All Spent Fuel from Nuclear Reactors Released into the Atmosphere
“Electromagnetic pulse from high-altitude nuclear detonations would destroy the integrated circuits in all modern electronic devices, including those in commercial nuclear power plants. Every nuclear reactor would almost instantly meltdown; every nuclear spent fuel pool (which contain many times more radioactivity than found in the reactors) would boil-off, releasing vast amounts of long-lived radioactivity. The fallout would make most of the US and Europe uninhabitable.”(18)
Is anyone surprised that we would never see this explained in our mass media? If such a nuclear war ever does occur, will any of the survivors mourn the loss of the Death Cult called Western Civilization?