Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ways of Counting: Is "more" really more and "less" really less?

Ultimately we all know what we want - the hard part is determining how much we must have.

In the arena of credible minimum deterrence we can count in the ways described below, but before we begin counting it is always good to reiterate that we are still adhering to No First Use. After that we also repeat that we subscribe to the idea of a guarenteed second strike.

What deters the enemy i.e. what does the enemy hold dear?

If it is the loss of even one major city that is sufficient to deter a potential nuclear aggressor, then we need to identify the number of major cities in the enemy's lands and examine the significance of each city to the enemy's mind. In a small country, where there are few cities, this is relatively easy to determine.

If the adversary is a larger country, then the loss of only one city may or may not have a great significance - it depends on the mindset of the leadership. A more robust approach under these circumstances is to seek a minimum number of human casualties that will have a significant impact on the adversary leadership.

An upper bound to the numbers can be reached by considering the minimum human impact needed to cause a severe civilizational crisis in the enemy country. I am not talking about about a small transient fit of madness but a complete civilizational break. A realistic number in this regard suggested by some people (e.g. Chairman Mao) was approximately 20% of a country's population - that roughly corresponds to the most professional and economically active segment.
In the case of a country of 1 billion people, this number is about 200 million.

A lower bound to the numbers can be inferred when one only considers a minimum number of significant targets (eg. one city) that we have to guarentee hitting so as to project the idea of unacceptable damage in the mind of the adversary.

Bear in mind these are only deterrence numbers. I am not talking about what will happen once we approach the threshold of use, or for that matter what will occur after a weapon has been released. No one in their right mind talks about that stuff.

Once you think about the implications that each of these numbers has, you quickly find yourself asking the question, is "more" really more or is "less" really less?

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