Could This Unleash an Unintended Nuclear War?

Ann Tyson reports in the Washington Post yesterday that the Pentagon wants $500 million to convert 24 Trident missiles currently armed with nuclear warheads into rockets carrying conventional warheads.

But there is a serious problem with this plan. Defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, "acknowledge a major risk is that other nations could conceivably misinterpret a conventional missile attack as a nuclear strike."

Nuclear experts concur that "the possibility for confusion would be high because U.S. submarines capable of launching the missiles could be armed with conventional and nuclear varieties."

Further, a threatened nation would have to make such a determination under the most dire circumstances, with an average flight time of 12-24 minutes to hit targets 5,000-6,000 miles away.

Victoria Samson, Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information commented, "Shifting these ICBMs into conventional weapons involves too much trust. How will unfriendly nations know these are conventional? Will they trust us enough to believe us? Would we trust them? With nuclear weapons, we can't afford any misconceptions."

And all of this is twenty years after Gorbachev and Reagan nearly worked out a deal at the Reykjavik Summit to abolish nuclear weapons. This is much more than a step backwards... it is a step towards unleashing an unintended nuclear war.

Testing has already begun, and one of the two warheads has been developed. We would be wise to contact our representatives immediately and let them know we want no part of this madness.

From the author's Nation blog, The Notion.