Det danske Fredsakademi
Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 1. maj 2009
/ Time Line May 1, 2009
April 2009, 2. Maj 2009
National Security Archive Update, May 1, 2009
"How Much is Enough?": The U.S. Navy and "Finite
A Moment in Cold War History when the Fundamentals of the U.S.
Nuclear Posture Were at Stake
Washington, DC, May 1, 2009 - President Barack Obama's recent call
for a "world without nuclear
weapons" immediately raised questions of how do you get there,
what does deterrence actually require before you get there, and how
many nuclear weapons would that involve at each step. Exactly these
questions of "how much is enough" were fifty years ago in secret
debate within the U.S. government, when Chief of Naval Operations
Admiral Arleigh Burke argued that a small force of mainly nuclear
missile-launching Polaris submarines was enough for deterrence.
Burke and Navy leaders developed a concept of "finite" or "minimum"
deterrence--highly relevant to today's debate--that they believed
would make the United States safer because it would dissuade
nuclear attacks while removing pressures for a dangerous
In early 1960, when President Eisenhower's budget director Maurice
Stans was told that the U.S. Navy's Polaris missile-launching
submarines could "destroy 232 targets, which was sufficient to
destroy all of Russia," he asked defense officials, "If POLARIS
could do this job, why did we need other... ICBMs, SAC aircraft,
and overseas bases?" According to Stans, the answer "he had
received... [was] that was someone else's problem." An electronic
briefing book of declassified documents obtained through archival
research and published for the first time by the National Security
Archive shows how the U.S. Navy, tried to take responsibility for
this "problem" by supporting a minimum deterrent force that would
threaten a "finite" list of major urban-industrial and command
centers in the heart of the Soviet Union.
With their capability to destroy key Soviet targets, Burke
believed, the virtually undetectable and invulnerable Polaris
submarines could "inflict terrible punishment" and deter Moscow
from launching a surprise attack on the United States or its
allies. By contrast, Burke saw land-based missile and bombers as
vulnerable to attack, which made the U.S.-Soviet nuclear
relationship dangerously unstable. While he did not propose
eliminating all strategic bombers and ICBMs, he believed that a
force of about 40 Polaris submarines (16 missiles each) was a
reasonable answer to the question "how much is enough?" Although
the Kennedy administration rejected Burke's concept, years later
former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara revived it by arguing
that 400 nuclear weapons were "enough" to deter a Soviet
The Archive's briefing book includes:
* A report by Admiral Roy Johnson arguing that the proper basis of
deterrence lay in the "assured delivery of rather few weapons"
which was "sufficient to inflict terrible punishment." Even "10
delivered weapons would produce a major disaster with fully a
quarter as many casualties as the first hundred."
* A speech by Arleigh Burke where he argued that Polaris submarines
would mitigate the vulnerabilities of strategic forces, but would
also "provide time to think in periods of tension" making possible
gradual retaliation as well as opportunities for "political
coercion, if we like, to gain national objectives more advantageous
than simple revenge."
* The record of Burke's conversation with the Secretary of the
Navy, where, having lost a major bureaucratic conflict over the
direction of nuclear targeting, he declared that Air Force leaders
were "smart and ruthless ... it's the same way as the Communists;
it's exactly the same techniques."
* Burke's inside "Dope" newsletter to top Navy commanders where he
declared that hair-trigger nuclear response capabilities and
preemptive nuclear strategies were "dangerous for any nation"
because they could initiate a "a war which would not otherwise
This is the first in a series of electronic briefing books that
will document moments during the Cold War when top officials
considered radical changes in the U.S. nuclear posture, involving
significantly smaller strategic forces. More powerful forces and
conflicting policy imperatives defeated these proposals, but they
are nonetheless worth revisiting because their proponents raised
searching questions about nuclear strategy that were never properly
addressed during the Cold War.
A "Secret" Database of Israeli Settlements
Last January 30, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz disclosed a secret
Israeli government database on settlements in the occupied West
Bank, and posted the Hebrew text (pdf) of the database on their
website. Last month, the ODNI Open Source Center completed an
English translation of the 200-page document. Secrecy News obtained
a copy of the translation (pdf) which we are publishing today.
The database provides a concise description of each of the dozens
of settlements, including their location, legal status, population,
and even the origins of their names, which are often
Biblically-inspired. Crucially, the database makes clear that
unauthorized and illegal construction activity has taken place in
most of the settlements.
"An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the
settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large
scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or
contrary to the permits that were issued," according to the Haaretz
account. "The database also shows that, in more than 30
settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure
(roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has
been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West
A copy of the database had been requested by Israeli citizens
groups under that country's freedom of information law, but release
was denied by the Defense Ministry. Haaretz obtained a copy
independently and, notwithstanding Israel's military censorship
apparatus, proceeded to publish it. See "Secret Israeli Database
Reveals Full Extent of Illegal Settlement" by Uri Blau, Haaretz,
February 1, 2009.
The English translation of the settlement database prepared by the
ODNI Open Source Center is now available here.
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