Searching for wisdom in mini-nukes controversy

Regarding "Mini-nukes vs. bio-bombs" (March 14, editorial): The idea of preemptively attacking nations which may own or try to acquire weapons of mass destruction raises the question: Will other countries have the same right, or is this just a right for the United States?

Afghan warlords have sometimes successfully outwitted the best US intelligence operations by providing false information to set up the massacre of rival factions. What will keep two rival nations like Iran and Iraq from using a similar set up to draw the wrath of United States nuclear forces upon their enemy?

Given all that could go wrong, wouldn't it be better, morally and realistically, to use the force of law instead of the law of force to solve disputes? Prevention rather than preemption is far safer, cheaper, and wiser.

True justice can prevent conflict. Preemption, however, could spark it. A unilateral preemptive policy using nuclear weapons is likely to cost the US more than innocent lives: its vital but tenuous antiterrorism coalition would be lost, as would its moral standing in the world.
Sean Patrick Murphy
Dracut, Mass.

The willingness to use nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances is essential to the credibility of America's global security policy. For decades, the United States defense policy against the Warsaw Pact rested upon the threat of nuclear retaliation in the event of a massive conventional attack against NATO. During the Persian Gulf War, the US did not exclude the use of nuclear weapons if Iraq deployed chemical or biological weapons against US troops.

Maintaining a nuclear arsenal without planning for the use – however unwelcome – of such weapons defies logic. US flexibility in considering nuclear options is a bitter but critical tool in credibly defending our national and allied interests in this new age of catastrophic terrorism.
John Sitilides
Executive Director

The Western Policy Center

We can't look at the possibility of mini-nuclear strikes on other nations from a technical point of view without considering its moral implications. First-strike attacks are the tactics of terrorists and outlaw states. If the US employs these tactics, we descend to the level of Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein. We will become the enemy we so strongly condemn. Killing isn't justified simply because the US employs it. I will deeply mourn for my country if our leaders try to rationalize criminal behavior as being needed for the "war on terrorism." It is essential that America provides the world with an example of success within the rule of law. First strikes are the actions of outlaws, no matter who commits them.
Jan L. Kuniholm
Easthampton, Mass.

Don't overstate the population decline

"Busting the Baby Boom" (March 12, editorial) implies that population control programs were conceived as the repressive tools of dictators. This will come as a big surprise to public-health professionals working at family-planning clinics. Encouraging governments to drop their population control programs is a huge step backwards. Should we return to a time in which the majority of the world's women had no control over reproduction? Even today, the fight to give women this fundamental right is far from complete.

The world's population is increasing exponentially. It is true that the rate has dropped slightly, but the increase is still exponential. Huge population growth continues in many highly impoverished nations, and it continues to feed a cycle of environmental destruction and increasing impoverishment.
Mark Minto
San Diego

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