From Sun Apr 27 23:00:15 2003
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 14:06:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Subject: US Plan for Mini Nukes Mean Maxi Danger
Organization: PACH
Article: 157089
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Mini-nukes, maxi-danger

Mercury News Editorial, Mercury News, 24 April 2003

Development of boutique bomb could be disastrous for global stability

THE Bush administration is foolishly moving ahead with a new generation of nuclear weapons that will undermine its efforts to stop countries like North Korea from acquiring them.

The Pentagon says it needs mini-nukes to destroy underground chemical, nuclear and biological weapons factories beyond the reach of conventional bombs. This week, it launched a design contest between weapons labs in Los Alamos and Livermore to see which gets to build them.

But what might be good for Livermore and fun for bored weapons designers could prove disastrous for America's security and global stability.

For more than a half-century, the United States has vowed that it would use nuclear weapons only as a last resort. It pledged not to strike nations that don’t have a nuclear arsenal.

The development of baby nukes—some 1/30th the size of the Hiroshima bomb—not only is a step toward abandoning that policy; in blurring the line that has separated conventional weapons and nukes, the Pentagon is erasing the taboo against using them.

That's the intent. Pentagon planners say that the arsenal of overkill that kept the peace during the cold war is outdated. Rogue nations are hiding weapons of mass destruction, assuming that America won’t use big-megaton nukes to take them out; the collateral loss of life would be too great. Downsized, earth-penetrating nukes, however, will serve as a deterrence. Nations that menace America with biological or chemical weapons will be put on notice that their arsenals are within reach.

Or so the Pentagon theorizes. The likely effect, however, will be nuclear proliferation, for two reasons. Adversaries like Pakistan and India would cite America's rationale of pre-emption in developing their own tiny nukes. And once a U.S. weapons lab designs a bunker-busting bomb, it will want to test it, ending the nuclear-weapons moratorium. Crossing that line could set off a chain reaction, with other nations abandoning the test-ban treaty that America, while not a signer, has followed.

The Pentagon offers an antiseptic view of the new nukes, implying they’d demolish only the target. But no thermonuclear weapon is that precise, says Princeton theoretical physicist Robert Nelson. His analysis concluded that an earth-burrowing weapon would spew out massive amounts of deadly fallout above ground.

Nuclear weapons must not become the Pentagon's boutique bomb. That would be dangerous and repugnant.