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Blue-ribbon panelists of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended Friday that American submarines have a few conventional arrows in their nuclear weapons quiver for special circumstances.
Presently, for example, the only immediate military response, for taking out a missile about to fire a nuclear weapon at the United States or one of its allies, is with a delivery system carrying a nuclear weapon.
That may not always be the best choice, the committee decided, depending on the situation.
In a longstanding policy disagreement, three former Secretaries of Defense, including Donald Rumsfeld, have supported the concept of a “prompt global strike” that offered a non-nuclear option for attacking high-value targets anywhere in the world within an hour.
The House Senate Armed Services last year wanted assurance that a conventional weapon fired from a nuclear-delivery system would not be interpreted ambiguously and accidentally unleash a nuclear war.
A two-day conference early last year in Washington D.C., hosted by Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories wrestled with the so-called “misinterpretation” problem as a part of a “Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century (SW21)” theme, subtitled “Rethinking nuclear and non-nuclear elements of deterrence.”
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