Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nuclear Deterrence:"Calling the Bluff"

Whenever people talk about deterrence, they come away with the idea that this is a game of bluff. This is easy for people to grasp, because most children play a card game with a similar name and the key to winning the game involves calling the other player's bluff.. and some people think somehow the two things - the game of cards and the game of nuclear deterrence are related.

They are not.

In the game of nuclear deterrence, people cannot call your "bluff". Once you have overtly demostrated nuclear capability of any kind - even a test of a small nuclear bomb - no nation on earth can call your bluff.

Once this threshold is crossed, any additional testing only serves to nuance the language of your choice of deterrence regime. For example, You demonstrate a warhead with a higher yeild. This proves to a percieved adversary that you can make a bigger bang. If you deterrence regime involves scaring your enemy with that kind of ability, then there is a chance your tests will give you more linguistic flexibility in your deterrence regime.

So what is the gain in demonstrating you ability to make a bigger bang?

This question needs to be answered before one attempts such an enterprise.

In 1974, India conducted a nuclear test which demonstrated the ability to build and detonate a simple fission device. The yeild was 8-15 kT per the government's estimates. This was a first test - an announcement of India's nuclear status.

In 1998, India conducted 5 more tests which demonstrated the ability to build more complicated devices and achieve a yeild of 5-50 kT.

A very logical line of questioning which emerged from various sections of the Indian polity - was - Is it necessary to demonstrate a higher yeild. A number of people that thought that there was no need to demonstrate a higher yeild, opposed the tests and questioned the yeilds calculated by the Department of Atomic Energy.

Though the data available to the Department supported the conclusion that the device had achieved a higher yeild, the debate over the yeild being of a more political nature - dissociated itself from the experimental evidence obtained from close in measurements at the test site.

A valid criticism of the "bigger is better" argument with respect to yeild in India, was that it would encourage Pakistan to more aggressively pursue options that would enhance the ability of its Army to survive a nuclear strike. The aggressive pursuit of these options in Pakistan would force India to pursue similar options and this would lead to a local arms race which would increase the burden on India's poor.

This criticism is partially valid, post 1998 both India and Pakistan have aggressively pursued military modernisation and while the Pakistanis are still behind India when it comes to survivability of conventional assets in a nuclear environement, both nations have spent quite a bit of money on this capability. However the burden to India's poor has been mitigated by a growth in the economy and despite suffering staggering natural disaster and a near war with Pakistan, India has not suffered anything like the crippling shortages and famines that are routinely seen in places like North Korea. It appears that whatever resouce reallocation has occured inside India to facilitate this enhancement of conventional military potential, it does not appear to have significantly disrupted the economy. The same cannot be said of Pakistan.

So on a more general note, if the economic costs of an enhanced yeild can be kept contained, there can be no disruptive influences to the rest of the economy.

Alternatively understanding that "bigger is better" does not necessarily work is important, and frankly ... very very honestly... only "better" is "better".

If India is expected to cap the size of fissile material for military purposes, then it is natural to expect India to pursue all options to achieve the highest impact with the reserves it has available. This implies investigation of *all* possible avenues of optimisation including higher yeilds and more advanced designs.

Going forward from here, the Left will dominate the discussion on all these issues and it is important to understand all the details of the Left's position on these issues.


At 4:17 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Consider this, too

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might be interested in the current tone of the Nukkad Thread at the Disreputable No-Account Forum run by No-Account People :) .
The "SciComm" is being vilified and held directly responsible for the "weakening of our detergent", padlocking the brave BJP who wanted to do a sahasra test and a Rajasuya and short-changing the Strategic Analysts and Defense Services (who are the main stakeholders).
What is this coming too.... is it partisanship or are the usual suspects there being fed false information or is it something worse.?

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vilification is essentially due to the DF admin Arun_S and his constant attacks against the Scicom. He's acting as a mouthpiece for the BK brigades.

Its a classic situation of an "useful idiot" doing someone elses work for them. As an admin he sets the tone. His meetings with a few of the loudest folk (BK for example was one I think, seems to have overwhelmed his ability to think for himself.)

The other admin relevant here is Ramana's whose attitude is also helping set this tone and of course the long time member Acharyas usual bizarro conspiracy theories don't help - especially when he receives support from ramana.

I note that admin Shiv is attempting to valiantly attempt a corrction, but it appears that the rot on the forum is simply to deep now.

Pity. It was a useful place once.

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! so the counter to the "useful idiot"'s logic there is to come here and throw up a resounding argument that goes ~drumroll~ "useful idiot"!

I mean what a way to make a point.
On a roll, if I may say so.

M, valid points and make a lot of sense.

At 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is indeed the case. The DF has banned voices that kept the idiotic views in check. Notice that Shiv's post hardly got a response from the idiots in charge.

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The party line in DF changed after RaviCV called the POK-II yields into question.

A fizzle of the secondary implied that the tertiary is out of the equation. This, in turn, implies that boosting the primary is the only variable in India's arsenal.

That is not so bad because the primary is the only device that is mated to delivery missiles. Somehow, all this sense eludes the idiot brigade on DF.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous cyclone nation said...


What do you think of this sudden BB love in New Delhi?


At 11:44 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Alex,

What do you want me to see there?


I wish to dissociate myself in every way from the deplorable behaviour on the disreputable forum. Attacks on the Sci Comm, on KSub and value free advice to Sri. Raman are not activities I wish to be connected with.

I think the people on the disreputable forum have become too effectively convinced by the NPA propaganda. I think that perhaps the NPA themselves are unaware of the effectiveness and the irreparable damage their propaganda causes to India-US ties.

To what extent does the Left endorse the attack on the Sci Comm?

Is the attack on the Sci Comm motivated solely by the NPA?

These questions remain unanswered at the present time.


I missed the entire RaviCV episode, when I was later informed of the details by others, I came away with the impression that he was a provocation.

This is my impression I cannot make substantial statements about the matter as I did not interact with him.

In general, there public debate over the yeilds is driven by political concerns and not by scientific evidence obtain by close in measurements.

I was only once asked by some persons what I thought about the whole yeild debate and I suggested pursuing a course in the future where the effectiveness of the weapon would not be up for debate. At the time I implied a military effects test of a fully weaponised configuration.

Ofcourse I was younger then, I was excessively focussed on the deployment of the weapons and other issues. I realise now that my opinion was not a mature viewpoint and since then I have dropped the issue altogether and never brought it up in subsequent discussions with people.

Younger audiences in India are addicted to talking big. This kind of hostile talk is becoming an exceptable part of India's national culture. The serenity and calm that accompanies Gandhian thinking has given to more aggressive displays of national sentiments.

In the long run (~ 10-15 years) this kind of thinking is going to harm the country greatly. Young people everywhere in India are likely through go through the same cycle of euphoria, fear and disillusionment that Sikh and Kashmir youth that took to the gun went through. And it will be just as painful.

Hi Cyclone Nation,

I don't know what is doing that.

However on Eid, the bakri is dressed up with a garland of flowers and currency notes and taken with great pomp and pagentry to the place where it will slaughtered in a halal fashion.

One can only imagine what the Bakri feels under those circumstances.

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous cyclone nation said...

hi m,

Are you aware of the following blog?


At 12:29 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi CN,

Yes I am aware of the blog.



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