Kerry’s Bunker Busted

Peoples political ideas spring from an underlying coherent model of reality. Understanding that model is key to predicting their future behavior. In last night’s debate Kerry revealed a key component of his world-model.

From the Debate transcript:

And part of that leadership is sending the right message to places like North Korea.

Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn’t make sense.

You talk about mixed messages. We’re telling other people, “You can’t have nuclear weapons,” but we’re pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.

Not this president. I’m going to shut that program down, and we’re going to make it clear to the world we’re serious about containing nuclear proliferation.

In Kerry’s world model controlling nuclear proliferation is about moral suasion. He would contain the threat of rouge nuclear entities by making nuclear weapons a moral taboo. To create this taboo, we must lead by example and refuse develop new nuclear weapons. Our shining moral example will create a world in which it will be difficult for any national or sub-national political entity to justify creating, stealing and using nuclear weapons of their own.

At his heart Kerry is a talker. His core skill is political persuasion. He wants fiercely to believe in a world where any problem can be solved with enough articulation. He honestly believes that he can convince anybody to do anything. In his model, the US does not need nuclear weapons, especially new types of them, because they are superfluous when moral example and negotiation can easily contain the nuclear threat.

Sadly, Kerry doesn’t understand that violence isn’t about moral standing, it is about physics. Violence is the directing of matter and energy against the human body such that the body ceases organic functioning. If you have a great enough power to direct enough matter and energy against your fellow humans then you don’t have to give a damn about your moral standing in the eyes of others.

The minds that created and celebrated the 9/11 attacks are not going to be swayed or deterred in the least because the U.S. self-righteously refuses to build new weapons. Instead, like all militaristic enemies we have faced, they will interpret it as a sign of our effete decadence and lack of martial virtue. North Korean will not be impressed by our refusal to create weapons that might destroy their underground facilities neither will the diffuse moral condemnation of the world community mean much to a regime will to let millions of own people starve to death.

Kerry’s model of international relations and the means and methods of stopping violence is badly broken. He is wedged firmly up the highest spire of the the Ivory Tower. He will unilaterally surrender the physical tools we may need to prevent mass-casualty violence in exchange for a dubiously useful moral superiority. If that moral stance fails to forestall the violence he, or more likely his successors, won’t have the tools to physically stop it.

(Update: From reading comments here and elsewhere on the same subject I am reminded that many people think that “bunker buster” implies a very large destructive bomb. The opposite is true. What makes a weapon a “bunker buster” is the ability of shell of the projectile to punch deeply into the ground. It more akin to an ice pick than a sledgehammer. The original bunker busters used in the first gulf war were made from the barrels of large navel guns filled with 250lbs of explosives and fitted with guiding fins. In terms of their bang they were rather small, hardily larger than some artillery shells. What burst the bunker is the where the weapon detonates not how large the explosion is.)

(cross posted at Shannon Love’s Blog)

20 thoughts on “Kerry’s Bunker Busted”

  1. Not to mention Kerry’s moral confusion. Seeing nuclear weapons in U.S. hands as a threat to world order is like seeing guns in the hands of police as a threat to civic order. Both police and criminals are armed, so by this logic both groups are equally dangerous.

  2. Jonathan G ewirtz,

    Good point. It does say a lot about Kerry’s model that liberal democracies must be restricted to the same options of totalitarian states.

    I think that Leftist intellectuals like Kerry don’t really conceive of themselves as being a part of a distinct polity like a nation state. Rather, they think of themselves an international class like the aristocrats of old. For Kerry, everybody outside his class, no matter how grouped, is a peasant in desperate need of his guidance. America and North Korea are both peasant-ruled entities so the nobility must intercede to separate them in their squabbles. It’s not fair that America has nukes and NK does not just like it’s not fair that one child has a cookie and another does not.

  3. I believe Kerry’s positions on foreign policy and national security spring from more fundamental considerations than the ones you’ve ennumerated – he’s a transnational progressive. Like the leadership of the left-wing of his party, he’s disguised his tranzi beliefs for domestic consumption, but the common thread underlying his political positions is transnational progressivism.

    Treaty vs. conflict; summit meetings vs. weapons development; ‘global test’ vs. national soverignty; judicial activism vs. rule of law – it’s no mystery why he’s most comfortable with the neo-communists and authoritarians among the Europeans. His policy proposals merely reflect his covert belief system and, unlike Tony Blair, he’s unable to face a post-9/11 reality.

  4. I just can’t get over it. Unilateral Nuclear Diarmarment returns from the grave. What else is he going to bring back from the 70s, Disco?

    This cannot be acceptable to any large segment of the American people. We are the good guys. We can be trusted with nuclear weapons. Our possesion of nuclear weapons is an assurance to the rest of the world that they can live in peace, not a reason or excuse for them to so arm themselves. Kerry is adopting the position of the tinpot dictator. If the United States has nuclear weapons, I should have them also, so I can protect myelf from American Imperialism. If I were the RNC I would have a major national ad campaign playing this up.

  5. Disco? That was completely uncalled for. I just got the most godawful picture in my head of John Kerry clubbing in full Saturday Night Fever regalia. I am now scarred for life.

  6. TM, clubbing Kerry sounds like a good idea. Use the clue stick – he could use it.

    I expect the Democrats will turn on Kerry after he loses, just as they did on Dukakis & Mondale. Bush is adequate but vulnerable, and if the Democrats can’t capitalize on this opportunity, they will blame the candidate. After all, they settled on him rather than their first choice, Dean, because Kerry was allegedly more electable. They should consider that perhaps their message was received and rejected by the voters. Kerry’s failing is his ineffectual effort to obscure the Democrat/tranzi program from the voters. It will never occur to them that perhaps their program, in the light of day, is repugnant to a majority in the US.

    I don’t think even Kerry expects to win. After all, he hasn’t given up his safe Senate seat.

  7. That’s a wonderful analysis, Shannon. Very clear and direct. I think we are working on something close to John Kerry’s core. You’ve identified talk as the core Kerry method. I would add that talk can be his core method because he’s shallow – he doesn’t see the difference between the US and rogue nations like Iran. He didn’t belong in Vietnam, firing actual bullets at enemies. He wasn’t really good at it. But when he came back, he was good at talking. He talked to Congress, he talked to the enemy in Paris. And now his “plan” is to talk other countries into helping out in Iraq. All of this works for him because he has never understood that there are bad people out there who need to be killed. And anyone who doesn’t understand that post 9/11 doesn’t belong in the Oval Office.

  8. I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that, factually, Kerry’s remarks are jibberish. The last I looked, the RNEP Program at NNSA, responsible for research in novel concepts, was getting $6 million per year, not hundreds of millions. Since the money was appropriated by Congress, one might expect Kerry to have at least a vague notion of the amount. This money goes for paper studies only, not development of actual weapons. The statement that we are pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons at the moment is simply bunk. At the moment we aren’t even capable of manufacturing pits (the plutonium fission part of nuclear weapons) for the aging ones that need replacement, and certainly have no ability to manufacture new designs. We have developed a bunker busting version of an old bomb, the B61, but that involved no change to the nuclear package at all. Putting a more robust case on an existing weapon can hardly be called “developing a new set of nuclear weapons,” and that is all that was done in the case of the B61. It certainly makes sense to me that we put some limited resources into researching new concepts, if only to avoid being caught flat-footed by technological advances elsewhere. However, there is a huge gulf between allowing our scientists to think about new concepts and actually developing new weapons. The latter cannot be done without a return to testing, regardless of what you’ve heard about the new mega- supercomputers.

  9. Shannon Love: If that moral stance fails to forestall the violence [Kerry], or more likely his successors, won’t have the tools to physically stop it.

    Actually he will have the tools, it’s just that he won’t have very good tools. Think flyswatter vs. sledgehammer.

    America can bust any bunker with existing nukes — the 9-megaton B53 would do the job just fine. But it would release 9MT of energy doing so. [link]

    A cute little B61-11 would bust that bunker with only 0.3-300 kilotons energy — that’s 30 to 30,000 times less nuclear explosive power.

    What hawkish environmentalist wouldn’t prefer the B61?

  10. I think people worry because of the threshold issue. Once you’ve broken the taboo and used a little nuke you open the door to using a little bit bigger nuke, then a moderate size nuke, then the multimegaton, city vaporizing behemoths.

    Do we really want to go down that path? I don’t think so.

  11. I think Kerry, mainly, but also Bush did us a disservice in the shallow and distorted way the nuclear question was handled at the debate. Bunker busters were thrown out in a way it was made to appear in the context of preventing nuclear terrorist attacks. This is a complex subject and maybe they’re needed and maybe they’re not but here’s the point.

    There were a million experts watching the Soviet Union under a microscope and not one predicted the swift, complete end to the empire without outside intervention. Then as now no one can predict the future.

    No president can state publicly that America must maintain its nuclear deterrent because sometime in the future there might be a regime change in Russia hostile to America and ready to throw its weight around, at least regionally. But the military planners have to take this in consideration; not just terrorism.

    Bush is going to stay the course. Where does Kerry stand? Who knows? Meanwhile back at the ranch, Russia is also staying the course, maintaining its nuclear capability.

  12. @Michael Hiteshaw

    “I think people worry because of the threshold issue…”

    I agree completely, and that should be what the political debate should be about. You can argue very convincingly that a small nuke would take out, for example, a large, buried cache of biological agent with much less “collateral damage” in the form of civilian casualties than any conventional smart bunker buster. I have also heard the argument that we must have smaller and more precise nukes because we want to insure that our enemies will never assume that we won’t use them. I think these can be very convincing arguments if you forget about the kind of “slippery slope” argument that Michael brings up, not to mention the massive political cost that would come with any first use of nuclear weapons, no matter how small and precise. These are essentially political questions that must be answered politically, that is, by the nation as a whole. We cannot afford to leave the decision to, as Harry Truman put it, “some dashing lieutenant colonel.” There should most definitely be a national debate about this matter. I think that, in the new situation that has arisen since the end of the cold war, such a debate is critical. We simply can’t afford to leave it to either the military or some obscure bureaucrats in government agencies that most people know virtually nothing about. That is why Kerry’s rhetoric, in the form of red meat to his core about non-existent hundreds of millions and delusions about the development of new weapons, is so damaging. It pits the “usual suspects” from the old “ban the bomb” days against the rest of us, obfuscating the real issues. You can see this by going to Instapundit and checking the reaction to Kerry’s remarks from some very smart and articulate bloggers. Kerry has succeeded in forcing an essential debate about a critical matter that affects every one of us into the form of an ideological confrontation with the lunatic fringe “ban the bombers” as if we were back in the 60’s. Unfortunately, in this case the critical nature of the issues that must be decided make it extremely dangerous to cast them into the form of a black and white ideological debate between left and right.

  13. Michael Hiteshew: I think people worry because of the threshold issue. Once you’ve broken the taboo and used a little nuke you open the door to using a little bit bigger nuke, then a moderate size nuke, then the multimegaton, city vaporizing behemoths. Do we really want to go down that path? I don’t think so.

    A very fair point, but…

    IF we commit to not using little nukes because they might lead to big nukes…
    AND we commit to not using big nukes because, well, they’re big nukes…
    THEN we have committed to never using any nukes ever in the GWOT.

    We have given away — unilaterally, one is tempted to say, but in any case without a corresponding concession from the enemy — our biggest, scariest game piece.

    Even if they don’t know much about game theory, the Islamic terrorists, Dear Leaders, and other rogues who may arise in the future will know that they can sleep peacefully at night. We won’t nuke ’em. We can’t nuke ’em. Somewhere they’re safe from our wrath.

    I see some benefit in allowing ourselves the choice — yes, and the corresponding temptation — rather than just peremptorily removing that option forever.

  14. This is a quibble, but I thought “city busters” were smaller bombs and that the big multi-MT bombs were intended as counterforce weapons against hardened targets such as buried missiles and command facilities. High yield was necessary when targets were relatively small, hard to destroy and widely dispersed. Smaller bombs were adequate to devastate large, soft targets like cities. The smaller nuclear bombs are still enormously powerful on a human scale.

  15. Jonathan Gerwirtz,

    “I thought “city busters” were smaller bombs and that the big multi-MT bombs were intended as counterforce weapons against hardened targets such as buried missiles and command facilities.”

    Depends on who you ask and when you asked them.

    In the early nuclear era 1945-1970, nuclear payloads where delivered by bombers or ballistic missiles that were only accurate enough to hit the general area of a city. Attacking small targets like a specific military base or bunker wasn’t really an option. Bigger was better in that era because the goal was to produce the biggest possible ariel burst to destroy the widest area.

    When accuracy of missiles improved in the 70’s to were planners could begin to think in terms of hitting within a kilometer of a specific point then the doctrine changed to one of using smaller warheads overall. This is when the idea of a “limited” nuclear war arose, one in which only military targets got destroyed and the cities would not be directly targeted.

    Large bombs also presented the problem of fratricide. When a nuke goes of it throws a lot of debris into the air along with a radiation flash that fills a cone going up into space that covers something like 10% of the planet. Both effects could destroy or blind subsequent warheads. (This problem was so bad that I read one estimate that in full scale empty the silos exchange fewer than 10% of the weapons would actually reach their targets even if both side launched at the same time)

    I think psychology and culture played a role as well. For the WWII generation who had burned entire cities to the ground with conventional weapons, the idea of nuking them didn’t seem much of a moral stretch. As the silent generation and the boomers came up they resisted the idea of destroying cities directly. They created the doctrine of using small nukes partly for those reasons.

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