The New US Nuclear Weapons Doctrine

Crazy stuff. The Pentagon has just removed a document from its website, which outlined a new doctrine for nuclear operations for the US chiefs of staff. It set out specific guidance for US commanders reflecting the Bush administration’s doctrine of pre-emptive strikes. It talks about the use of nuclear weapons to pre-empt a possible attack by a country, terrorist or criminal group with “weapons of mass destruction”.

But there’s more. Someone ‘accidently’ allowed a Commented version Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations out into the world, jampacked with comments from US military commanders. And now we can all read it!
The Guardian »
As the US lowers the nuclear threshold, debate is stifled

The circumstances in which the most powerful country in the world and its closest ally would use nuclear weapons is clearly of vital importance – not only to the potential targets, but also to the people whose leaders would take the decision. Now, just at the time when the use of such weapons appears more, not less, likely, both the Bush administration and the [British] Labour government seem determined to stifle all debate.

Some interesting quotes:
“To maximise deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.”
And this little nugget:
“Executing a nuclear option, or even a portion of an option, should send a clear signal of United States’ resolve. Hence, options must be selected very carefully and deliberately so that the attack can help ensure the adversary recognizes the “signal” and should therefore not assume the United States has escalated to general nuclear war, although that perception cannot be guaranteed.”
Right – so if the US uses nukes it’s conventional war… but if anyone else uses nuclear weapons, it’s nuclear war. Eh?
Greenpeace: The truth is out: Bush’s new nuclear stance »
Download the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations » – an unclassified draft of a US nuclear doctrine review that spells out conditions under which US commanders might seek approval to use nuclear weapons.
Download the Comment matrix on Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations » – Comments from the US military branches to the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, which outlines how and under what circumstances nuclear weapons might be deployed by the US military.
Download Understanding the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations »
This document aims to help people understand these internal military documents by:

  • Providing background context
  • Explaining acronyms
  • Summarising The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations
  • Highlighting key sections of the Editing Log of the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

Read the Arms Control Association story – The Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons: New Doctrine Falls Short of Bush Pledge
“Instead of reducing the role of nuclear weapons, the new doctrine reaffirms an aggressive nuclear posture of modernized nuclear weapons maintained on high alert. Conventional forces and missile defenses merely complement instead of replace nuclear weapons.”
Nuclear Information Project: Pentagon Top Rejects Criticism Of Doctrine »
Spacewar: Pentagon Pulls Draft That Discusses Pre-Emptive Use Of Nukes From Website »
Washington Post: Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.