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The impact of Defenses on Offensive Reduction Regimes Spu rgeon M. Keeny, A r. The Reykjavik Summit demon- strated clearly, if there was any doubt, that strategic defenses have a critical impact on the attempt to achieve substantial reductions in offensive strategic systems. Although there were some remarkable discussions and considerable agreement at Reykjavik, when President Reagan was faced with a choice between a strategic defense and (leep reductions, he chose strategic defense. in the same sense, you might say that, when faced with strategic defenses as a price for deep reductions, General Secretary Gorbachev chose not to make a deal. It is true, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Fred Ikle and Dr. Wolfgang Panofsky have said cluring the seminar, that Reykjavik recorded an agreement in principle to the concept of 50 percent reductions in strategic weapons. Yet both sides actually had these positions on the table before Reykjavik. It was therefore more significant that they made notable progress in resolving some of the many difficult problems that result from the fact that the forces of the two sides are very asymmetric. There were a number of additional issues, as Dr. Panofsky's Figure ~ indicates, that remained to be resolved. But in the final 19
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20 REYKJA VIK AND BEYOND analysis, the U. S. position at Reykjavik was that in order to consent to these deep reductions, the ABM treaty shouic! be amended in a manner that would allow unlimited development and testing of strategic defenses in the immediate future and that wouIc! convert a treaty of unlimited duration to one that terminates! at a fixes! date 10 years in the future. These were the points that the Soviet Union would not accept. What was the reason for the Soviet position? Was it simply an effort to interfere with our development efforts for strategic defense, or were there rational, legitimate military concerns? Trying to analyze this problem is extremely difficult because of the confusion that exists at present as to what the SDI is all about. As you may recall, in March 1983 when President Reagan initiated the program, he held out the vision of an essentially impregnable shield that would make nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." This vision remains the official objective of the program and is certainly ascribed to by President Reagan and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. But beyond that, there is a vast range of views, even within the government. For example, General Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, and other officials closely related to the SDI program emphasize the concept of partial defense, either as an end in itself or possibly as a stepping stone to an essentially impregnable or highly effective defense in some distant future. On the other hand, during the seminar, Secretary Ikle suggested a more modest objective: a system effective against the rather small threat that could exist when there were no ballistic missiles but only the residual problem of clandestine missiles or possibly a breakout from a treaty regime. There are also more pragmatic approaches. The Attorney General has recently called for an early deployment with the purpose of "getting something up there," in his words, so as to lock in future administrations to a strategic defense program, whatever its objec- tives might be. Anti there is another school of thought in and out of the government that has no goal in mind but looks on the program as a bargaining chip. This school emphasizes that, to the extent we can expect any progress in arms control, it wit} clepend on the Soviet reaction to the uncertain threat of a defense system.
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21 IMPACT OF DEFENSES ON OFFENSIVE REDUCTION I think you will finch there is yet another school that looks on the SDI as part of an economic warfare against the Soviet Union with the objective of engaging the Soviet Union in a high-technology military competition. This school believes the United States has a substantial long-term advantage in this competition that will absorb Soviet capabilities in high technology ant! prevent the Soviet Union from becoming a greater threat to us in a broader economic sense by holding down any changes in their society that might make it a more effective competitor. These different approaches demand! very different technologies, which I am not going to discuss today. The prospects of these technologies have been addressee! by others. There is an excellent paper by Harold Brown in Foreign Affairs (Vol. 64, No. 3, pp. 435- 454, 1986) that discusses the current status and overall timetable of various technical approaches. The most recent input to this analysis is the American Physical Society report that was released on April 23, 1987. The report explores in great detail the status of the exotic technologies that were at one time to have been the focus of the SD} program. There are obviously tremendous differences between a system that is 100 percent effective, 99 percent effective, 50 percent effective, or 10 percent effective. But it is precisely these differences and the resulting uncertainties that produce the tension between strategic defenses and real or perceived military requirements for offensive forces. One can, for example, imagine a system that might be 50 percent effective, but one cannot assess it as being the same as a 50 percent reduction in offensive forces. The difference arises from the fact that a military planner must consider worst-case scenarios and wants to have reasonably high condolence in his war plans. If there are no strategic defenses on both sides, the military planner knows how to execute a first strike, or preemptive attack, and can make some reasonable estimates of his ability to retaliate with his secure, surviving forces after a first strike by his adversary. But in the absence of any hard facts on the capabilities of future defense systems, a military planner will credit his opponent's future high-technology systems with potentially high capabilities. This wild be true even if the military planner really suspects, or thinks he
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22 REYKJA VIK AND BEYOND knows, that in practice the adversary's defense system would have little effectiveness and would probably collapse totally under a massive attack. A military planner concerned with ensuring his ability to retaliate after absorbing a major counterforce first strike would understandably emphasize a worst-case assessment. A na- tionwicle defense system, whatever its effectiveness, would clearly operate best against a so-called ragged retaliatory strike, in which the retaliatory force had been reduced in its size by a counterforce attack and also reduced in its effectiveness by disorganization in timing, tactics, and possibly its target coverage. Looking back in history, when the Pentagon planners were first reacting to the Moscow ABM system in the mid-1960s, there were estimates that if such a system were deployer! by the Soviet Union on a nationwide basis, the U.S. ability to retaliate in the mid- to late 1970s might essentially shrink to zero. At the same time, ~ think most of the technical community assessing the Moscow system at the time had a very low opinion of the emerging Soviet defense system's capabilities, but it was impossible to quantify the system's effectiveness. Consequently, there was a tendency to assume for purposes of calculations that it just might work. This uncertain future threat had a major impact on military procurement. In particular, it was an important, perhaps the main, driving factor in the decision to go to multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) to expand the firepower of our existing missile forces. As evident from lohn Steinbruner's description of the CISAC study and some of our calculations, the present concept of deterrence involves a very large number of targets. Nevertheless, as he pointed out, the size of our present stockpile is so large that given mutual reductions, one could reduce 50 percent or even 75 percent of our existing strategic forces and still maintain essentially the same target coverage. Moreover, such a reduction would maintain the same extended deterrent directed not only at deterrence in the normally accepted sense but also in the sense of preventing the Soviets from sustaining their war effort in the field on the assumption that the Soviets could do this even in the face of the loss of their society. Some sample calculations indicated that a defense of 50 percent effectiveness would certainly not defeat an attack with the current stockpile employing the current targeting philosophy. It also could
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23 IMPACT OF DEFENSES ON OFFENSIVE REDUCTION not defeat such an attack if there had been mutual 50 percent reductions in strategic offensive forces. But the problem is any system that you can credit as being 50 percent effective would be such an elaborate, nationwide system that it would probably be perceived by nervous military planners on the other side as possibly having a 90 percent capability, in the right circumstances, or even a 99 percent effectiveness, particularly against an uncertain worst-case retaliation. At these higher levels of defense, the military would not have high confidence in carrying out their retaliatory strike, given the present concepts of extended deterrent war plans. The CISAC analysis discussed by Dr. Steinbruner essentially assumes this broader deterrent concept that, among other things, comprises attacks on a large number of military and command and control targets and on assets necessary to continue the Soviet war effort. ~ personally believe that a much smaller target set directed solely at economic targets would have the same deterrent significance. Such targets are essentially population targets, but as Dr. Steinbruner pointed out, the much more extended deterrent war plan also covers and has the same impact on population. In the late 1940s and early 1950s I was involved to some extent in war-plan development in the Air Force. In those days, when initially there were on the order of only 100 Nagasaki/Hiroshima-yield weapons, we thought we had not only a very powerful deterrent but that we could also very effectively impede the ability of the Soviet Union to conduct its war effort because of the high confidence that these weapons could be delivered on their targets. With the vast expansion of the number and yields of weapons, the categories of targets that could be targeted has grown and grown and grown. Our study concluded that ~ 00 so-called equivalent megatons would certainly be enough to inflict devastating damage on Soviet society. This is not surprising because 100 equivalent megatons means 100 one-megaton weapons or the number of weapons that would have the equivalent destructive power of 100 one-megaton weapons. Such an attack would cause some 20 million- 40 million Soviet prompt fatalities, and I am sure at least twice that many delayed fatalities from untreated casualties and secondary effects. As Dr. Panofsky pointed out, a single Trident 2 submarine with D-5 missiles would have more than this amount of equivalent megatonnage on board.
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24 REYKJA VIK AND BEYOND This same level of damage might be achieved with the present stockpile 10,000-15,000 strategic weapons against even a 98-99 percent effective defense. But this would involve quite a different targeting strategy in which extremely heavy firepower might be concentrated against the defended side's highest value economic/ societal targets. For example, with present stockpiles, as many as 100 warheads could be directed against each major target. This would certainly accomplish the destructive objective. Such a change in target strategy, however, would be disconcerting to the military and, again, would be subject to great uncertainties; for example, what does 99 percent really mean? Of course, the probable outcome of such a targeting doctrine would be absolutely disastrous to both countries because under that level of attack the defense systems would, in all likelihood, collapse, and there would not even be any rubble left to bounce for any of the urban areas in the two countries. These comments illustrate the fact that a defense-oriented strategy requires not only an incredibly effective ABM system (as well as an effective air-defense system, which we have not as yet mentioned) but also radical reductions in offensive weapons as well. As ~ have pointed out, however, these reductions cannot take place without the perceived loss of deterrence long before achieving a known level of defense. This is the problem of a transition point from an offensive to a defensive strategy. To my knowledge, no one has even come up with a concrete proposal as to how you walk the offensive forces down to this point while developing this highly uncertain, unpredictable defense on the other hancI. This includes the President's proposal at Reykjavik, to which Secretary Ikle referred, to reduce ballistic missiles to zero. Let me pursue this a bit further and emphasize that in approaching this transition point in which you move from deterrence to no possibility of nuclear attack, there is going to be a wide band of situations in which a preemptive strike may appear to one side, or possibly both sides, as an acceptable gamble. This would be partic- ularly true in a situation of high tension in a severe crisis, a situation in which there appeared to be a high probability that nuclear war would occur. It might be considered an acceptable gamble if one side felt that its defense was sufficiently effective to have a reasonable chance of actually defending against the degraded offense of the . . .
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25 IMPACT OF DEFENSES ON OFFENSIVE REDUCTION other side. The force of this logic would increase if the levels of the other side's offense had been radically reduced from present levels. ~ think the closest thing to any proposal that has come up has been the President's, I suppose rather offhand, idea that the United States should share its strategic defense technology with the Soviet Union. But ~ do not think anybody, including Secretary Weinberger, has felt that this was a credible proposal, given the present adversarial relationship of the two sides. ~ think the best way to describe this whole problem was put forward by the President's arms control advisor Paul Nitze, who, when pressed on this issue, said the transition problem from an offense- to a defense-oriented strategy would be "very sticky." In this business, there is considerable experimental evidence to consider. In the late 1960s, when the United States became concerned that the Soviet Union might be contemplating a nationwide ABM defense, we did not abandon our ballistic missiles. On the contrary: we made a decision, largely driven by the potential Soviet deploy- ment, to MIRV all of our ballistic missiles and to take other relatively simple measures, such as putting chaff on ballistic missiles to confuse Soviet radars. With those responses the military felt confident they could penetrate the Soviet ABM system. Today, there is a fundamental contradiction in the view of our leadership on the issue of strategic defense. While pursuing the concept of strategic defense as the answer to the threat of nuclear weapons, they are extremely concerned with the possibility of what would happen if the Soviets had a strategic defense. There are yards and yards of quotations, but ~ think one that gets to the heart of the matter is found in the January 1985 White House white paper on the SDT that described what would happen if the Soviet Union deployed a nationwide ABM defense: "Were they (the Soviets) to do so, as they could, deterrence would collapse and we wouIc3 have no choice between surrender and suicide." A little later, Secretary Weinberger, in his famous letter to the President on the eve of the 1985 Geneva Summit, in the context of the Krasnoyarsk radar, made the statement that "even a probable Soviet territorial defense would require us to increase the number of our offensive forces and their ability to penetrate Soviet defenses to assure that our operational plans could be executed." Now, in this whole debate the Joint Chiefs of Staff have remained
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26 REYKJA VIK AND BEYOND remarkably quiet. One cannot help but wonder what the Joint Chiefs would say if the Soviets either had made the original SDI proposals or were to accept the U.S. proposal. If the Soviets were to say, "Let's have deep reductions and open the gates for an all-out strategic defense race," I would be most interested in how the joint Chiefs would respond. The uncertainty of these exchange ratios of offensive weapons in the face of an uncertain defense contrasts sharply with the rather straightforward and relatively cost-effective things that the offense can do in response to a strategic defense to maintain high condolence in its ability to cleter uncler the broadest possible range of circum- stances. I will not go into these in any detail because you are all probably familiar with them, but I will just identify the general approaches. The best way to defeat defenses is by using your existing resources to attack the extreme vuInerabilities ofthe defensive system. The vulnerability of prime radars was one of the reasons we abandoned the Safeguard/Sentinel approach in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Space-based defense components present the ultimate attractive targets that could cause the defensive system dependent on them to collapse, even in advance of hostilities. Another approach is to increase firepower by buiTcling more missiles, more MIRVs, more decoys to simply overwhelm the defensive system. Another approach is just technological innovation, which can anticipate and defeat the operation of a defense system. This path leads us to such ideas as fast-burn boosters and other devices that could completely defeat, at much less cost, a very long lead-time, finely tuned defense system. Finally, there is the whole area of circumvention. If one were concerned about the ability of one's ballistic missiles to penetrate a ballistic missile defense system, one would put greater emphasis on air-launchec3 ant! sea-launched cruise missiles, or possibly on other types of attack. In conclusion, let me say that ~ believe that efforts to achieve a nationwide strategic defense are not compatible either in theory or in practice with a program of deep reductions in strategic offensive forces. In fact, I believe that the SD} program will, if pursued, result in an increase in the quantity and quality of strategic offensive forces.
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