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Regional nuclear proliferation prevents biological warfare

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Regional nuclear proliferation prevents biological warfare

Payne 98 (Dr. Keith B. Payne who is president at the National Institute for Public Policy Faculty, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service National Security Studies Program, April 1998, “Why We Must Sustain Nuclear Deterrence,”

A single illustration of the lethality of biological weapons will clarify why the U.S. capability to deter regional challengers is of paramount importance: a single undeterred attacker employing as little as 20 kilograms of dispersed anthrax drifting downwind could, under the proper conditions, cause the deaths of 50 percent of the unprotected population in an area of more than 150 square miles. Such a biological attack against the unprotected populations of ten large U.S. urban areas could kill on the order of 20 million Americans. To risk understatement, deterrence is not less important in this post-Cold War period. In the absence of a revived great power competition, the most taxing likely role for U.S. deterrence policy will be deterring the use of WMD by hostile regional powers. What is the future role for nuclear weapons in regional deterrence? There are numerous recent confident assertions by prominent persons that U.S. conventional forces can reliably replace nuclear forces for deterrence of all but nuclear threats. Consequently, they conclude that nuclear weapons are largely unnecessary for regional deterrence. Such assertions ring hollow; they are speculative and unsupported by actual evidence. The evidence that does exist, including recent history, suggests strongly that when a challenger is highly motivated, and cost- and risk- tolerant, nuclear weapons can be essential to deterring WMD attacks. What, for example, was the value of nuclear weapons for deterrence in the Gulf War? By Iraqi accounts, nuclear deterrence prevented Iraq's use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) that could have inflicted horrendous civilian and military casualties on us and our allies. Senior Iraqi wartime leaders have explained that while U.S. conventional threats were insufficient to deter, implicit U.S. nuclear threats did deter Saddam Hussein's use of chemical and biological weapons. As the then-head of Iraqi military intelligence, Gen. Waffic al Sammarai, has stated, Saddam Hussein did not use chemical or biological weapons during the war, "because the warning was quite severe, and quite effective. The allied troops were certain to use nuclear arms and the price will be too dear and too high." Immediately following the Gulf War many prominent U.S. military commentators, such as former Secretary of Defense McNamara, claimed that nuclear weapons were "incredible" and therefore "irrelevant" to the war.1 This assessment-that U.S. nuclear weapons are irrelevant to regional challengers-is at the heart of the various nuclear disarmament proposals; it also is gravely mistaken. The continuing proliferation of CBW can only increase our need for nuclear deterrence. The United States has given up chemical and biological weapons, and has thus given up the option of deterring chemical and biological threats with like capabilities. In some tough cases conventional forces alone are likely to be inadequate to deter CBW threats. Consequently, as CBW proliferates our nuclear capabilities become more, not less important for regional deterrence.

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