“China’s okay with holding Los Angeles hostage. The U.S. is not okay with counter-value targeting.” So stated a senior STRATCOM official who was in town last week, talking about how to maneuver to lower nuclear force levels and still deter other nuclear powers.
What top strategists stress is that they need flexibility to deter a wide range of potential nuclear actors even at lower warhead levels. Readiness and responsiveness become more, not less, important as numbers drop.
Will the triad stay? STRATCOM wants to keep it. Submarines are best for survivability, ICBMs are for responsiveness, and the bombers provide flexibility,” explained a quite senior official who was in town last week.
Assurance is the new goal. What does it mean? It’s a less complicated, 21st Century form of deterrence for relations between states who aren’t very likely to go to war. If a nuclear state attacks, “you will be struck” back, said this official.
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