Monday, May 24, 2010

An Arsenal We Can All Live With? NOT!

Gary Schaub Jr. and James Wood Forsyth Jr. miss the target: using ‘Nukes’.

“The Pentagon has now told the public, for the first time, precisely how many nuclear weapons the United States has in its arsenal: 5,113. That is exactly
4,802 more than we need.”
Maybe. Maybe not. But you sure couldn’t rationally arrive at such a conclusion based upon their OpEd (see link in header) or the original scholarship the OpEd is based upon. The OpEd is a necessarily light on facts due to column space. There is no excuse for the same of its source document, and to my thinking, it damns the OpEd's assertions on the face of it. I find much of the original paper... ahh.., let's just say 'problematic'. What follows are the most serious faults I find with the authors’ writings.

First problem: they carefully cherry-picked their sources. They cite some former military authorities without providing evidence that these source’s opinions are common much less in the majority. They cite “Alian [sic] Enthoven” of all people on this subject. Alain Enthoven played a critical role in the rise of modeling and simulation in defense policy development and is also a once-renowned economist, DoD budgeteer and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Unfortunately for Dr. Enthoven, he is also a man who had his “Analytical A**” handed to him at least once on nuclear force structure issues by Glenn A Kent. One cannot discern with certainty if our subject scholars were aware of this, but one would think that if they were, they would also have known that the reason the Nuclear Triad survived to present day is based upon sound logic. Hint: It has nothing to do with their simplistic discounting of the Triad which was expressed as follows in the source paper:
“ The second criticism has to do with the future of the triad, which was the fulcrum of deterrence throughout the Cold War. Some might argue that the triad was effective and its redundancy and flexibility shored up international stability and helped keep the Cold War cold. It is, however, important to recall that the Soviets had no such operational concept. They relied heavily, almost exclusively, on missiles and still managed to deter the United States. If one accepts the basic idea that it is the political value of nuclear weapons that matters, the method of delivery is immaterial.”
Ahhh,,,the infamous 'some' who 'say'. It was on the very issue of a determining whether future defense would be based upon a Triad or a Diad (doing away with the manned bomber), that Kent’s analyses washed away Enthoven’s:
“In preference to Dr. Enthoven’s highly simplified approach, which was built entirely around [our] cost, I proposed a more-sophisticated approach. I proposed that we analyze how many targets of the 1,200 would be destroyed under different strategies on both sides, still assuming that SRAMs were 1.5 times as expensive as RVs and further assuming that the Soviets would have to pay the same cost in defenses to defend a target either against an RV or a SRAM.
However, the Soviet Union would have to decide whether to deploy interceptors designed to defeat RVs or interceptors to defeat SRAMs; the same interceptor could not do both jobs.
This more-sophisticated approach turned the tables on the analysis by Dr. Enthoven. He had introduced the concept of a nationwide Soviet defense, thinking it would make his argument more persuasive. But he had not reflected that the Soviets would have to build very different systems to defend against ballistic missiles (RVs) as opposed to rockets (SRAMs) delivered by bombers. Neither had he considered the effects of different strategic choices on both sides. In other words, he had opened the issue of Soviet defenses without thinking it through.”

-text in brackets[] mine.
In the same manner as Dr. Enthoven, the authors of the paper and OpEd have opened an issue ‘without thinking it through’.
The above anecdote is also an excellent vehicle for illustrating my next point: Nowhere in the paper do the authors deal with the ‘and then the enemy does what?‘ question. They talk superficially of force, counter-force, etc in economic terms. But I see no evidence they have addressed the possible overt and clandestine moves potential adversaries could make to defeat a piddling 300 or so warheads. As Gen. Kent described Dr Enthoven’s analysis:
"While, in general, I preach that simplicity in analysis is preferred over complexity, in this case, my more-complex approach won. The lesson here is that one must not pursue simple approaches to the point that violence is done to the phenomena under examination. In particular, it is important not to treat the adversary as static. In military affairs, as in most fields of human endeavor, opponents react to each other’s moves. Although this seems obvious, it is surprisingly common for advocates of certain policies or programs to assume that the adversary does not react to our initiative. In the case of Dr. Enthoven’s comparison of Polaris and SRAM, this assumption was a fatal flaw."
I see no cold calculations in the author’s analysis where a country with a lot of empty space could attempt to shepherd, grow and move their forces or defenses ‘out of sight and out of mind’. I get no indication of estimations as to how opponents (or allies) will calculate how social constructs might survive or how fast they could be reconstituted, or how such a calculation might encourage a foe to believe they could ride out a ‘minimal’ nuclear exchange. There is no allusion to any analysis as how future potential enemies forming nuclear alliances might have to be be dealt with. So it appears the authors also have rather naively committed Dr. Enthoven’s fatal flaw.
Finally, I really take issue with this most happily-conveyed conclusion of the authors’:
"So long as war remains a finite possibility, we have to be concerned with outcomes, and while some would be bad, others would be worse. In the age of minimum deterrence, the world will have to stand for a few more nuclear states; the majority of them will not pursue nuclear weapons."
IMHO, there are many serious problems with this worldview. It strikes me that in their willingness to live in a world with more nuclear powers they are in reality more willing to live with the idea that nuclear strikes or exchanges will become more likely. They would probably be ‘little’ exchanges on the “Acme Armageddon Scale”, but how do you prepare and account for the effect of even one ‘little’ exchange? How do you contain them? Think of nuclear weapons like ‘secrets’: the fewer entities that have them the less likely they will ‘get out’.
The conclusion clearly demonstrates the authors have a skewed view of risk, the definition of which is: probability times the consequences. If we reduce the nuclear arsenals with so little care as that which has been used in the author’s analyses, we potentially increase the as yet unknown probability of a nuclear exchange to result in a nuclear war of some indeterminable (but hopefully less than “world-killer”) scope. How do the authors know that they are not increasing the net risk in their approach? Answer: We can’t find it in the writings so we don’t know. I am particularly wondering if the authors have considered the results if after a 'small' exchange, some not-yet-post-modern society's 'leaders' conclude: "Hey, that wasn't so bad".

It is because of thinking such as that expressed by Doctors Schaub and Forsyth that I say the following prayer almost every day:

"Lord, please protect us from Academics and all other ‘Hybris’-ridden 'Annointed', Amen."

I kid you not.

Note: In the original paper there was another co-author. One presumes that as an Air Force Officer and an honest-to-gosh Strategic Planner (vs, a schoolyard one), he had the good sense and experience to distance himself from the political ho-hah in the OpEd. People shouldn’t read too much into the authors’ teaching at AF institutions. You will find broader ranges of viewpoints and backgrounds in the halls of the Air University than you will ever find in so-called ‘name’ universities.

Updated 5/25 to clarify points and improve readability.

1 comment:

TinkersDam said...

Did this person seriously suggest that the Soviets never fully went for the strategic triad concept? Call me crazy but I could have sworn those Bears and Blackjacks were used for something.