A fight now underway over newly-designed U.S. nuclear weapons highlights how far the Obama administration has strayed from its commitment to build a nuclear-free world.
The fight, as a recent New York Times article indicates, concerns a variety of nuclear weapons that the U.S. military is currently in the process of developing or, as the administration likes to say, “modernizing.” Last year, the Pentagon flight-tested a mock version of the most advanced among them, the B61 Model 12. This redesigned nuclear weapon is the country’s first precision-guided atomic bomb, with a computer brain and maneuverable fins that enable it to more accurately target sites for destruction. It also has a “dial-a-yield” feature that allows its handlers to adjust the level of its explosive power.
Supporters of this revamped weapon of mass destruction argue that, by ensuring greater precision in bombing “enemy” targets, reducing the yield of a nuclear blast, and making a nuclear attack more “thinkable,” the B61 Model 12 is actually a more humanitarian and credible weapon than older, bigger versions. Arguing that this device would reduce risks for civilians near foreign military targets, James Miller, who developed the nuclear weapons modernization plan while undersecretary of defense, stated in a recent interview that “minimizing civilian casualties if deterrence fails is both a more credible and a more ethical approach.”
Other specialists were far more critical. The Federation of Atomic Scientists pointed out that the high accuracy of the weapon and its lower settings for destructiveness might tempt military commanders to call for its use in a future conflict.
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