Nuclear Weapons Should Not Be Ruled Out

We have bombed, we have strafed, we have infiltrated, and it is all beginning to sound familiar. Our early optimism is giving way to a cautious pessimism and careful evaluations concerning how long this conflict may take, and how difficult it may be to effect our ultimate goal: to rid the world of meaningful terrorism.

I recently watched a television special on Vietnam. Certainly, Afghanistan is radically different, but descriptions of what we are doing sound hauntingly familiar.

In Afghanistan, we are dealing with an enemy that understands exactly how to use a boulder for cover during an aerial attack. A seasoned Taliban fighter knows every cave and hole in the ground within a square kilometer of his current position. When we hit a convoy of these guys, they take cover in seconds, salvage what equipment they can after our planes depart, and carry on.

We are consuming a great deal of ordnance (and money) to destroy lot of obsolete, barely useable equipment. We are expending a lot of effort, yet new Taliban recruits are crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan by the thousands. Clerics and other militant Muslim leaders throughout the Middle East harangue against the United States, openly advocate killing Americans wherever they may be found, and actively recruit fighters to their cause.

As the Walrus in “Alice in Wonderland” once said, “The time has come to speak of other things .… ”

Basically, we are dealing with two problems: We are creating an environment that encourages open opposition to our goals, and our bombing campaign is proving ineffective.

We have clearly told the world that we will seek out terrorism wherever it resides. Why, then are we tolerating the militant clerics and other haranguers? We have the means to stop this kind of behavior in its tracks, no matter where it originates. Our Special Operations Forces are uniquely trained for exactly this kind of operation.

Every time a cleric lifts his voice in opposition to the United States, our guys should pay him a nighttime visit – quiet, quick, deadly and permanent. Every time a militant invites new recruits to the cause, every time he espouses the virtue of martyrdom, our guys should help him fulfill his own martyrdom. We should do this without publicity or fanfare. The leaders will simply disappear one by one.

President Bush clearly stated that you are “ … either with us or you are with them.”

This leaves no quarter for tolerance, no room for opposition. It is time we make sure that those who are not with us understand exactly what that means. We have always known that traditional bombing is ineffective against a dug-in enemy in mountainous terrain.

Since Vietnam, we have developed several remarkable weapons, and have refined others to increase their effectiveness significantly. We have a weapon that burrows into the ground as much as one or two hundred feet before exploding. This is fine, if we happen to hit an underground complex or are able to shake loose the supporting structure of such a nearby complex. In the mountains, however, these weapons have limited effectiveness, unless we arm them with low-yield nuclear warheads.

Before you react to the “N” word, examine the big picture. In the last quarter of a century, we have developed small tactical nukes with essentially no residual radioactivity. Their primary advantage is their ability to deliver a very large explosion in a very small package – like a burrowing bomb. We are under biological attack at home. I don’t really care who is directly responsible for this: It is terrorism, the Taliban are terrorists, and that’s all I need to know. We need to use whatever effective means we have to eradicate them.

Another weapon in our arsenal is the tactical neutron warhead. This little fellow can be fired from a field cannon or an appropriately equipped aircraft. It explodes several hundred feet above a concentration of enemy troops, producing an intense pulse of neutrons. Anything living within a few hundred yards of the burst dies either immediately or shortly thereafter.

There is essentially no blast damage, and friendly troops can enter the area within minutes of the burst. We should use these tactical neutron devices to eliminate Taliban troop concentrations wherever we find them.

For those opposition troops hiding underground and in cave complexes that are not effective targets for the burrowing tactical nukes, we have the non-nuclear ABM – Air Burst Munitions. In its simplest form, an ABM works by spraying the air with fuel and exploding it. Done correctly, however, an ABM can be as effective as a small nuclear device. By saturating the air in and around an underground complex with an explosive mixture, the entire complex and everything it contains can be totally obliterated. Because the mixture contains both fuel and oxidizer, the explosion happens everywhere the mixture exists. Every nook and cranny of a cave or complex, every spot on a craggy surface will be blasted. There is no safe spot, no boulder to hide behind, no hole to crouch in.

It is time we pulled out the stops at both ends of the problem. Let’s give the enemy all the martyrs it can handle at the front end, and let’s use every available means to stop them in the field, including tactical nukes.

Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor

Submariner, diver, scientist, author & adventurer. 22 mos underwater, a yr in the equatorial Pacific, 3 yrs in the Arctic, and a yr at the South Pole. BS Marine Physics & Meteorology, PhD in Engineering. Authors non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction. Lives in Centennial, CO.

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