The Department of Defense recently removed a document from its website that outlined its doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons. This is despite publishing the document just over a week ago.
On Wednesday, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) — a national security think tank founded in 1945 — noted that the Pentagon published and deleted the document on nuclear weapons. The document is no longer available to the public on the Pentagon’s website, and can only be seen via the Joint Electronic Library. However, FAS maintains a copy on its own website (PDF link).
The 60-page document is fairly typical in its description of nuclear weapons both in how the United States is equipped to use them (typically known as the Nuclear Triad) and as a historical deterrent to prevent other military powers from provoking the United States into an armed conflict. However, one section on page 25 of the document appears to justify the use of nuclear weapons in a war for the “restoration of strategic stability.”
“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the document read. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”
Bizarrely, page 16 of the document specifically names “nuclear forces” as a means in which the president can “achieve military objectives and strategic goals with the minimum use of force.”
The publication and deletion of the report comes amid turmoil at the top of the Pentagon, with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan suddenly resigning from the post to be replaced by Army Secretary Mark Esper. As Grit Post reported this week, there hasn’t been a permanent Secretary of Defense since the end of 2018. In the meantime, tensions with Iran are escalating, and National Security Adviser John Bolton — a notable Iran hawk — appears to most have the president’s ear in foreign policy matters while the transition in leadership at the Pentagon is underway.
Many nations around the world that have developed nuclear weapons. However, the United States remains the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in a war, when two atomic bombs were dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing approximately 200,000 people. The Japanese Empire soon surrendered to the United States following those two attacks, ending World War II.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.