Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons
Beyoghlow, K. A., Naval War College Review
Lavoy, Peter, Scott Sagan, and James Wirtz, eds. Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 2000.270pp. $45
The title says it all. This book is a compilation of empirical and analytical data on the strategic evolution of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) agents and weapons in the twenty-first century. A central theme of the book is how new regional players (states and nonstate actors) are likely to convert prevalent conventional military doctrine and training into nonconventional means of warfare. The book is very ambitious in its scope; it attempts-overall, successfully-to address systematically conceptual problems in the integration of such weapons into the military infrastructure, delivery systems, command and control procedures, and war plans. More importantly, the editors and the authors of the various case studies utilize a theoretical framework to explain and predict future trends of behaviors, intentions, and capabilities among very diverse players. Realism and neorealism, organizational theory, and culture are used to flesh out these unique differences in approach as well as in the implementation of NBC programs and doctrines.
Except for the conclusion and the chapter on terrorism, the chapters are case studies, focusing on Iraq, Iran, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. The authors are specialists who devote a great deal of effort to describing the relationship between strategy and policy, on one hand, and between national security and national military strategy, on the other. The result is a complex web of relationships, behavioral manifestations, and decisionmaking processes involving an amalgam of scientific, bureaucratic, and military institutions and forces. In the chapter on Iran, for example, Gregory Giles eloquently argues that Iran was reluctant on moral and religious grounds to use chemical weapons during the first few years of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-87) but that its policy changed abruptly as a result of rising Iranian casualties and fear of Iraqi chemical-warfare preponderance. Hence, realism became key to explaining the Iranian NBC doctrinal shift after 1987. Although Iran ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention within a few months of its coming into force, Iran has opted to pursue a clandestine NBC program. Such weapons are the subject of intense debate within the increasingly factionalized, institutionalized, and secularized Iranian political elite today. This has given rise to "multiple actors playing roles in a key strategic program[,] ... [ensuring] that there will be continued bureaucratic competition for resources, missions, and influence." More significantly, such competition has far-reaching political, economic, and military implications, associated primarily with command and control mechanisms. …