Miniter gives us a reasonably well done explanation for why it was not a "suitcase nuke". Essentially his argument is that there never were suitcase nukes. His conclusion:
For now, suitcase-sized nuclear bombs remain in the realm of James Bond movies. Given the limitations of physics and engineering, no nation seems to have invested the time and money to make them. Both U.S. and the USSR built nuclear mines (as well as artillery shells), which were small but hardly portable—and all were dismantled by treaty by 2000. Alexander Lebed’s claims and those of defector Stanislev Lunev were not based on direct observation. The one U.S. official who saw a small nuclear device said it was the size of three footlockers—hardly a suitcase. For now, the desire to obliterate cities is portable—inside the heads of believers— while, thankfully, the nuclear devices to bring that about are not.That's fine, I'll take his word for it.
Batchelor tells us that the Iranians bought and paid for both the recent Nork missile test and the nuke test and that both were technical and strategic successes. His conclusion:
That's fine, I'll take his word for it.
The U.N. Security Council warned the North Koreans not to fire the nuke or else. The U.N. Security Council warned the Iranians that it must cease enrichment of uranium or else.
The else clock is running. The six-party talks in East Asia to contain Pyongyang are a sham. The European Union talks in Geneva to contain Tehran are a sham. The U.N. Security Council talks in New York to contain the nuclear weapons proliferators are a sham. The only confab to wait out is the Congressional elections. After that, and regardless of how much noise the appeasers make in the House of Representatives, the fleet sails to defend America and enforce civilization.
Over the past two days I've read twice through Wikipedia's entry about Nuclear Artillery. I am reluctant to give too much weight to Wikipedia. There's no good reason, however, to doubt the accuracy of this particular entry. This stuff about nuclear artillery kept bothering me and what eventually came to mind was the old joke about the two buddies who were camping together. They exited their tent one morning to find a grizzly bear rumaging around. One of them calmly sat down and laced up his sneakers upon which the other commented,
"You don't think you can outrun that bear, do you?"
The answer was, "Of course not. But I don't have to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you."
On one level nothing more than a little joke about paying attention to the problem one needs to solve and focusing on that rather than what might seem the more obvious problem.
When thinking about nuclear weapons and explosions we tend to see the grizzly bear; mutually assured destruction, entire cities wiped out by ICBMs. Nuclear winters. The end of days. Military thinkers, on the other hand, think about their potential enemies, terrain, logistics, strategy, and tactics. There were reasons, and probably quite good ones, that they developed nuclear artillery shells. And other reasons, again probably quite good ones, that they eventually removed them from inventory.
When reading the Wikipedia article one can see the rather boring and seemingly uninteresting development of various forms of nuclear artillery rounds from 280mm (11 inch diameter), nearly 5 ft. long, 1,000 lb. monsters with yields of several kiltotons of TNT down through smaller sizes, just a few hundred lbs, sub-100 ton yields and ultimately weapons that weighed less than a hundred pounds and yielded as little as 10 tons. I suppose it should be noted that was not limited to "artillery". There were also "mines" known as SADMs (Special Atomic Demolition Munition). The Soviets also engaged in developing these sorts of nukes. And, IIRC, both sides almost certainly developed nuclear torpedos and such.
The point is that these were all tactical weapons. Miniter would seem to have us believe that something which can't be fit into a suitcase and thunked down onto the scale at the airline counter is not "portable". We needn't worry, I suppose, about a terrorist hopping aboard a commercial airliner with a suitcase nuke. OK. But....
Things that weigh 100 - 1,000 pounds might not be suitable for packaging up as luggage but they can be quite portable. There's nary a landscaper alive who can't haul 1,000 lbs a reasonable distance. All you need is lift and a half-ton pickemup. Get yerself a forklift and a small flatbed or dumper and heck, they're small, take two. Something weighing 200 lbs can be manhandled into all but the tiniest autos by two men and a little boy. I don't find the idea that it twarn't no suitcase nuke the Norks fired up all that comforting.
Batchelor tells us that the Persians, via the Norks, have amply demonstrated both the missile technology and sufficiently small warhead to have created a strategic deterent. Perhaps.
But still.... this idea of nuclear artillery and mines and torpedos - tactical weapons - keeps bothering me. It started when I finally read, instead of scanning, the following:
Other developments also continued. In 1958 a fusion warhead was developed and tested, the UCRL Swift. It was 622 mm long, 127 mm diameter, and weighed 43.5 kg. At its test it yielded only 190 tons; it failed to achieve fusion and only the initial fission explosion worked correctly.The UCRL Swift was a dud. It fizzled. It was supposed to use a fission explosion to achieve the desired fusion explosion. No fusion, just fission. A fizzling dud.
Next I noticed this:
The Mk-54 Davy Crockett... [w]eighing only 23 kg, the warhead in its casing was 400 mm by 273 mm... yielded 10 tons, but later developments increased that to 1 kt... The warhead was also adapted for the Mk-54 SADM (Special Atomic Demolition Munition), a cylinder 40 cm by 60 cm and weighing 68 kg. Fired by a mechanical timer, it had a variable yield from 10 tons up to 1 kt. (emphasis mine)That was the late 50's and early 60's. Mechanical timers... variable yield...
I am not a Jimmah-like nukular engineer, I don't play one on TV, and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn last night. I am a self-admitted knucklehead. Sometimes I'm downright stupid. But... ummm... this variable yield business, from nearly 50 years ago, sounds like dialing up from fizzling dud to "let's plug the Fulda Gap" to me. OK, OK, 1kt isn't going to plug the Fulda Gap. But....
In 1991 the US unilaterally withdrew its nuclear artillery shells from service, and Russia responded in kind in 1992. The US removed around 1,300 nuclear shells from Europe...Thirteen-hundred tactical nukes in Europe. Why? By then we had hundreds (thousands?) of strategic nukes. MAD had no use for tactical nukes. But MAD was never "assured". Would we really have responded to a dozen Soviet armored divisions pouring into the Fulda Gap by initiating nuclear annihilation? On the one hand it is enough that the Soviets believed we might. On the other hand it might have been a whole lot more sane to plug the gap with really large craters and piles of rubble and a couple wiped out Soviet armored divisions to delay the remainder long enough to try and avert MAD. No cities lost, just some tanks and bridges and roads and a few farms and other sorts of collateral damage. Let's all just calm down, no need to go gettin' all disproportionate.
The Persions and Norks allegedly have only limited supplies of weapons grade material. Would they really be viewing a handful of small nukes atop a handful of rockets as a true strategic deterent? Or would they figure that one man's tactics are another man's strategy and taking out an aircraft carrier and a big chunk of the battle group, an airbase or two, and a couple Stryker brigades might serve their strategic purposes quite well.
Like I said, sometimes I'm just flat out stupid. And I'm always a knucklehead. But unlike Mr. Miniter I don't really give a hoot about nukes the size of suitcases. I have a more expansive idea of what is "portable" and, therefore, useful for terrorism. And unlike Mr. Batchelor I don't think the Persians or Norks would view a handful of small nuclear-armed missiles as adequate for strategic deterence. If I were them I'd be thinking smaller than that.