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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Deployment of small yield nuclear weapons

Barely noted in most news reports but this past week, the US Navy announced that it had tested a new missile known as the W76-2. The Washington Times reports that the W76-2 is a “submarine-launched, low-yield device designed to counter Russia’s arsenal of smaller missiles and to give the US. a way to retaliate in kind.”

A DOD spokesman noted that: “In the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the department identified the requirement to ‘modify a small number of submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads’ to address the conclusion that potential adversaries, like Russia, believe that employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an advantage over the United States and its allies and partners.” The spokesman continued: “[The W76-2] strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon; supports our commitment to extended deterrence; and demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario.”

The “Nuclear Posture Review,” referred to is a document that the Trump Administration put forth outlining its position on nuclear policy.  The Trump administration feels that  during the previous administrations, Russia, in particular, has made advancements in its weapon’s arsenal, while the United States has not, which has caused some to believe that Russia may have the upper hand in this area. The Nuclear Posture Review was meant to address this.

The thinking underlying this review reads very much like deterrence theory of the cold war. The W76-2 is one of the first publicly announced results of that document.  It reportedly gives America a way to combat the Russian advancements in low yield nuclear weapons. The thinking is that the deployment “strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon; supports our commitment to extended deterrence; and demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario.”

Proponents of the system believe the US needs a low-yield nuclear option in order to credibly counter Russia, which has invested heavily in a variety of nuclear systems in the last decade. Defense officials believe Russia would potentially use a smaller nuclear weapon in order to deter America from entering or extending a conflict, under the “escalate to deescalate” thinking; if the U.S. only has larger strategic weapons to retaliate with, it may hesitate.  This hesitation would give the Russians an advantage the advocates of this thinking believe.

Opponents of tit for tat deterrence doctrine question whether such a doctrine is realistic, and also argue that no nuclear system can truly be non-strategic. These opponents have raised concerns that having a low-yield and high-yield warhead able to be launched on the same submarine-launched missile creates a situation where an adversary doesn’t know which system is being used and therefore reacts as if the larger warhead has been launched.  This thinking makes the argument that a nuclear war can be limited to small yield exchanges questionable. Will an opponent wait until a war head detonates before acting?  Assuredly no!

In short this means that deterrence is strengthened because low yield nuclear weapons can be used and there is no need to escalate to larger yield weapons because we do not have a comparable small yield weapon. The logic is pure cold war deterrence theory and is potentially flawed.

Additional concerns are that this is the beginning of a new arms race.  An arms race that cannot be tempered by an arms control agreement.  How does one verify yield of a nuclear weapon. In the past nuclear arms control agreements have focused on delivery vehicles (planes, and different kinds of missiles)…  These are things that can be seen and counted.  Warhead yield is quite another issue.

The deterrence theory argued above and the inability to control warhead yield give me pause.  In arguing that smaller war head yield supports deterrence one can imagine the same argument for huge yields enhancing deterrence.  Being able to limit a nuclear war has its advantages, but any nuclear war must be considered a catastrophic event.

Coronavirus conspiracy theory?

Biological warfare has been a threat to mankind for almost a century.  Many have theorized about some country weaponizing Ebola. And several suspense novels have been written about super heroes stopping such attempts.

This morning on Maria Bartiromo’s Sunday Morning Futures show Senator Tom Cotton reported that the coronavirus did not start in Wuhan Animal Market, as originally reported.  The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom reported that the virus probably started in a government research facility that is 300 yards from the market.

These two reports contribute to the growing body of theories that the virus did not originate from a natural situation.  Was this a biological weapon gone astray?

Senator Tom Cotton told Maria: “Here is what we do know: This virus did not originate in the Wuhan animal market. Epidemiologists who are widely respected from China published a study in the international journal Lancet have demonstrated that several of the original cases did NOT have any contact with that food market. The virus went into that food market before it came out of that food market. So we don’t know where it originated… We also know that only a few miles away from that market is China’s only bio-safety Level Four Super Laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.

The Daily Mail report is based upon the same source as Senator Cotton’s.  It reports that Chinese scientists believe the deadly coronavirus may have started life in a research facility just 300 yards from the Wuhan fish market.  A new bombshell paper from the Beijing-sponsored South China University of Technology says that the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (WHCDC) could have spawned the contagion in Hubei province.

‘The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus,’ penned by scholars Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao claims the WHCDC kept disease-ridden animals in laboratories, including 605 bats.

It also mentions that bats – which are linked to coronavirus – once attacked a researcher and ‘blood of bat was on his skin.’  The report says: ‘Genome sequences from patients were 96% or 89% identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus originally found in Rhinolophus affinis (intermediate horseshoe bat).’

It describes how the only native bats are found around 600 miles away from the Wuhan seafood market and that the probability of bats flying from Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces was minimal.  In addition it is noted that there is little to suggest the local populace eat the bats as evidenced by testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors. Instead the authors point to research being carried out within a few hundred yards at the WHCDC.

It is now too late for a super hero to save the day. The super hero may turn out to be the weather.  Virus usually fade during spring and summer’s warmer weather.  Unfortunately not enough is known about the coronavirus to ascertain that it will suffer a similar fate.  Should the weather prevent a pandemic we can only hope that an immunization will be available before the virus emerges from weather induced hibernation.

Returning to the conspiracy theory, the publication of remarks coming out of the central Chinese leadership substantiates that the leadership was concerned about the contagion much earlier than previously reported.  This information is used to substantiate that the Chinese government knew that it had a problem on its hands earlier than previously reported.

One cannot imagine a better experiment than what is happening in Wuhan and the rest of the world.  Data will abound after this virus has been contained.  Data on how to spread the virus on one hand and how to contain it and treat it on the other.  This suggests that the next time the spread of the disease could be much quicker and more deadly.

We can only hope that China allows western researchers access to all of the data that the government must be gathering as it seeks to contain the virus.  So far the Chinese have denied western representatives of the Center for Disease Control and other such organizations access to the source of the virus. The amount of access in and of itself will go a long way to confirming or denying all conspiracy theories.

Vindman follow-up

The news reports today that additional 70 staffers have been reassigned away from the NSC staff.  The reported goal is to do two things:

  1. Reduce the NSC staff to about 100 people–the same size as it was during George H W Bush’s conduct of the Gulf War.
  2. Eliminate the Obama holdovers–potential dwellers of the swamp

So much as the Democrats want to paint LTC Vindman as a hero,the reality is that his reassignment was just the leading edge of the NSC restructuring.  The news is reporting that Vindman is on the list for attending the Army War College is this coming August.  This surprises me!  Attendance at the War College is usually reserved for former battalion commanders and other LTCs that are upwardly mobile.  As pointed out, Vindman’s career, based upon reported adverse reports, should be on hold.  More to follow.

Will we be receiving notification of similar housecleaning throughout the rest of the bureaucracy?

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Alexander Vindman—a hero in his own mind

“Fight hard for what you believe in, but if you lose, salute the flag and

execute the policy with the same vigor that you opposed it.”


Most of the main stream media portrayed LTC Vindman’s removal from the White House on Friday as his being fired.  That is not a true description.  He was reassigned as he should have been several years ago. Most people don’t understand the staffing of the National Security Council (NSC).  So let’s start there.

Every position in government is listed on some authorization document that is used for personnel management and funding, except those on the NSC.  The NSC is authorized very few posts, even though in the Obama administration it had more than 400 people working in it.  How it works is that the NSC advisor puts the word out to the executive branch that there are so many positions that he needs to fill.  He seeks people to be interviewed and if acceptable to be seconded (people sent to augment a staff) to his staff.  There are also a small number of experts from academia who can be seconded or paid by the US government. Those seconded continue to be paid by their parent organization.

Usually the building of an NSC staff begins immediately after a presidential election so that by the middle of February following a presidential election the staff is fairly completely filled and the national security decision-making process and organization are clearly defined.  (I was involved in this process during the transition to the Reagan administration.)  A short vignette.  In those days the Army had been truly left behind budget wise during the Carter years and we were trying to place officers on both the NSC and State Department staffs.  We wanted some friendly voices in those organizations.)

In LTC Vindman’s case he was an Obama holdover who was expected to be politically neutral and a team player as an Army officer.  This, as we now know, was quite distant from the truth.  If one reads his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee he can see that Vindman’s biggest concern was that the president did not follow the talking points that he had drafted (and maybe even coordinated with other NSC and department staffers, if he was doing his job).  That is what staffers do.  That does not mean that principals always follow the talking points provided.  In the case of policy makers this can often be the case because of knowledge they have or agendas they have that they haven’t shared.

In Vindman’s case he had shared experiences with both the “whistleblower” and members of Representative Schiff’s staff—all of whom had been on the NSC staff together. Did Vindman share his concerns that the president was not following the policy position that he and his cohorts supported? Probably!  We will find out soon.  Is this a crime? Maybe? Was it disloyal? You bet!  Vindman knew better than his boss and was determined, as a member of the swamp, to share his frustration while pursuing his policy.

Did Vindman violate the law when he testified to Congress?  Most likely!  He disobeyed a lawful order of the commander in chief.  Will he be tried—most likely not.  What will happen to him?  He will be assigned a position on the Army Staff—maybe even one specially created for him.  He could easily lose his security clearance or get it downgraded to confidential (lowest clearance out there) based upon his recent transgressions and demonstrated lack of loyalty.  Hence the need for a special position.  He will be watched very carefully in whatever position he is assigned as his loyalties have been shown to be to the swamp, not the current administration.

There is a dictum that applies to all military leaders and staffers: “Fight hard for what you believe in, but if you lose, salute the flag and execute the policy with the same vigor that you opposed it.”


Post script:

With respect to the swamp one should expect to find similar people throughout the government.  Senator Schumer and the democratic minority did everything that they could to slow down the staffing process following the 2016 election.  This insured that there were Obama holdovers as someone had to keep the government running.  One would expect that these holdovers are being eliminated or at least identified and contained.  If this is , the Trump government remake will accelerate into 2021.  And if he is re-elected by 2025 the whole makeup of government could/should be changed and the swamp drained, or at least swim-able.