By Manuel Cereijo

Broadly speaking, nuclear weapons fall into two categories. Strategic weapons have explosive yields in the range of several hundred kilotons up to several megatons. Tactical weapons have much lower yields, down to a few kilotons. Strategic weapons are meant to destroy an entire city. Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use at closer range.

What tactical weapons can do

Even a small nuclear tactical weapon- 5 kilotons,say- is about two thousand times more destructive than the largest conventional bomb. A military planner sees that kind of destructive power as the only realistic way to achieve certain specific missions, such as destroying an extensive network of caves or bunkers cut into the rock of a large mountain.

A B-52 bomber can carry an armament payload of about 32 tons. If that entire payload were conventional explosives, the total yield would of course be about 32 tons. Yet the damage those conventional bombs could inflict would be less than 1 percent of what could be done with a single, 5-kiloton nuclear bomb.

The ultimate germicide

The destruction of a germ warfare Center or depot by a nuclear tactical weapon is likely to be safer than its elimination by a conventional explosive. Heat from the nuclear explosive would atomize the germs, while the shock wave from the detonation of a conventional explosive would most likely disperse the germs and infect the downwind population or our own army personnel.

Cold War is over

We have to recognized that the Cold War is over. The change in thinking is prompted by an unsettling reality: the old, strangely reassuring verities of the Cold War-symmetry, accountability, and transparency- no longer apply. First and foremost, the extremist terrorist groups and governments would certainly not hesitate to use a nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapon against the United States. To continue fighting by the unique and obsolete rules of the Cold War would be a mistake. One that we would pay for with the lives of soldiers and perhaps noncombatants. Contrary to popular belief, there are circumstances under which nuclear weapons could be useful against terrorists or hardened military targets. However, of course, it is imperative that the United States continue to develop better non-nuclear technologies and military methodologies for destroying cave redoubts, underground bunkers, and biological warfare installations.


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