The Bush Administration is beginning to build a new arsenal of "tactical" nuclear weapons -- small Bombs, used in discreet areas, like underground biochem labs. So it's helpful to look at another time when such weapons were also being considered. This month's Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has such a view.
As the Vietnam War escalated in spring 1966, a high-ranking Pentagon official with access to President Lyndon Johnson was heard by scientist Freeman Dyson to say, "It might be a good idea to toss in a nuke from time to time, just to keep the other side guessing."So Dyson and a handful of other scientists conducted a study to see just how effective tactical nukes would be. Their conclusion:
It would take 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) per year to interdict supply routes like the Ho Chi Minh trail. More problematically, U.S. forces might become vulnerable to a Soviet-orchestrated counterattack; and the first use of tactical nuclear weapons against guerrillas might set a precedent that would lead to use of similar weapons by guerrillas against U.S. targets.Read the rest of the story here. (There's also a funny wrap-up of reactions to my February excursion to Los Alamos. I'll link to the article once it comes on-line.)THERE'S MORE: One Defense Tech reader isn't buying the study. "If there was one thing the Johnson Administration was good at, it was throwing out wild numbers to justify a point of view," he writes. "Dyson's numbers are inflated."