Nuclear warfare planning was long dubbed "thinking about the unthinkable." Now it's become "un-thinking about the unthinkable."
A new nuclear flap erupted last weekend. The Pentagon leaked that the U.S. would possibly use nuclear weapons against "axis of evil" states — Iran, Iraq and North Korea — and two wretched henchmen of theirs, Syria and Libya.
Most nuclear flaps, like the weapons themselves, generate enormous heat. This flap is also badly damaging as the leak is poorly timed and the plan is poorly conceived.
First, the timing. As the Middle East turns so combustible, as the urgency of eliminating Saddam Hussein turns so evident and as Arab propaganda turns so potent and vile, out pops the notion that we're considering nuking Islamic states. (North Korea is flung in the Pentagon mix to avoid an international case of "ethnic profiling.")
And just as Vice President Cheney begins consulting in England, and throughout the Middle East, comes reinforcement for the bogus rap that President Bush's foreign policy is unilateralist and bent on hegemony.
Nuclear weapons are dangerous — but not so much in Pentagon plans as in vile hands. Saddam Hussein's extensive government laboratories, for example, are working feverishly to make a nuclear bomb. He must be removed before he succeeds. Yet this flap — about our nukes, not his — turns time and attention away from the truly contentious matter of when to liberate Iraq. Granted, many foes will think the worst of us anyway. But why should we reinforce it? I'd really prefer their griping about actions we must take, not those we must not take.
Furthermore, American diplomacy should be consumed with stopping Saudi and Egyptian governments — the latter given $2 billion yearly in taxpayer money — with spreading hatred towards America.
For example, just recently an Egyptian named Dr. Rif'at Sayyid Ahmad published an article in the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa entitled "Guantanamo, the Auschwitz of the American era: J'accuse!!"
You get the drift of the article from the title. It's totally irresponsible and infuriating. Had Dr. Ahmad published anything so raw, critical and hateful towards his own government as he does towards ours, he'd be tossed in jail with the key flung into the Nile. But Egyptians writing garbage against America is permitted, if not encouraged, in the government-controlled press and government-funded universities and mosques.
Dr. Ahmad's piece describes "the 'American Auschwitz' detention camp ... excuse me, I meant the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay!! This is one of the worst deeds of the American era in which we live, and one of the most infamous of its crimes, and will go down in history if [history] is written by men of honor, not by traitors."
Cheney should object vehemently to an Egyptian spewing such hatred when he meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. (Cheney might be further prodded by that Egyptian "thinker" Ahmad mentioning him as Bush's "deputy, Dick Cheney" and calling him "that super-racist Jew.") And he should raise the roof about the longtime Saudi funding of hatred when he meets with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
On substance, the leaked Pentagon plans make scant sense. As bad as the "Axis-plus-two" are, conventional U.S. might can ruin their day. The accuracy and lethality of new-fangled conventional arms give them the potency once unique of nuclear weapons, without the emotional baggage.
Besides, nuking those states might inadvertently slaughter their people, who have been but the poor victims of their vile rulers. Instead of killing those suffering under repressive regimes, we should be liberating them.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.