A few questions, asked in my best tone of calm reasonableness

Is the Bush Administration actually talking about using tactical nuclear weapons to dig out buried Iraqi arsenals?

Are we really ready to set, or even talk about setting, a precedent for the unprovoked first use of nukes? (Notice that even the talking isn’t free. Now if the Russians decide to use nukes against the Chechens, or the Pakistanis against the Indians, they can point to our expressed willingness to do so as evidence that their doing so didn’t break any strong taboo. It’s very much in our national interest to keep the use of nuclear weapons in the “unthinkable” category.)

Has anyone done the calculation about the fallout from ground bursts, which tend to be exceptionally “dirty” in radiological terms? [“Bunker busters” cannot be “enhanced radiation” (“neutron”) weapons. They have to move the dirt, and there’s no way of moving dirt without getting it “hot” and scattering it into the air.]

And isn’t it time for some ^$*#& adult supervision at 1600 Pennsylvania?

As someone on the fence, but leaning pro-war, I’d like to hear about this from my favorite warbloggers. Does their enthusiasm for war with Iraq extend to the situation where it would involve us in making a first use of nuclear weapons? Mine doesn’t. And the fact that we would be going to war under what seems to me such criminally reckless leadership is the biggest single factor keeping my support for a war tentative.

UPDATE: A reader notes that the above fails to distinguish between ground bursts, which inevitably generate lots of fallout, and underground explosions, which generate a lot of radioactivity but don’t vent it to the atmosphere. Fair point.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com