MAD. It was an appropriate acronym for the mutually assured destruction that would result if any of the world’s nuclear-armed nations attacked any of the other similarly equipped countries because only a leader who was literally mad (in the sense of insane) would decide to initiate such an attack.
Back in the days when we assumed a certain level of stability, if not exactly genius, from our President, Americans didn’t have to worry about our nuclear strategy much. Mutually assured destruction was the rule that kept us all safe with an unspoken understanding that the U.S. would only use our atomic weapons in response to a first strike by an enemy launching a nuclear attack.
Now, The Hill reports that the Pentagon has drafted a new nuclear strategy titled the “Nuclear Posture Review” that for the first time suggests that the U.S. could respond to non-nuclear attacks from foreign countries with a cataclysmic barrage of hydrogen bombs. Among the examples of the type of attack that could provoke such an apocalyptic response is a major cyber attack on U.S. infrastructures such as the electrical grid or the fiber lines and routers that enable internet connectivity.
Previously the only instance where a potential nuclear response to a non-nuclear attack has been considered would be if there were ever a major biological assault on America through pathogens or poison gasses. The expansion of the circumstances where the military establishment would consider using the nuclear option surely raises the risk of actual assured destruction, destruction of lives, of property, of the environment, in short, of life as we know it.
The fact is that there are many considerably less lethal options available to respond to any type of non-nuclear conflict that may arise. With a President who belies the self-anointed title of “stable genius” in charge of the launch codes, do most Americans want an expanded set of circumstances that could give him an excuse to exercise his itchy trigger finger?
According to the Pentagon, the policy draft is “pre-decisional”, which is military speak for still under consideration. With the White House currently reviewing the report, the Commander-in-Chief has yet to publicly weigh in with his opinion on the strategy. Heaven help us all when he does.