Rattle and Dissuade

Diversity remains key in the US nuclear deterrent and the Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers and ICBMs will be just as important, if not more so, in the future, said Ronald Lehman, director of the Center for Global Security Research at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. “I have never believed that the triad should be viewed as a holy trinity, but I have never ever seen any analysis that said we were better off with less diversity,” said Lehman, US chief negotiator for START I, during last week’s extended deterrence panel at AFA’s Air & Space Conference outside of Washington, D.C. He added, “In many ways . . . the Air Force systems are the ones that are most appropriate [in] the most likely scenarios for the future at the lower levels of the escalatory ladder.” Lehman said USAF’s nuclear-capable bombers, when placed on alert, are “the rattle” that warns would be aggressors to back down. The ICBM force’s real value is in “saying to the other side that whatever your strategy is, it won’t work,” he said. The ICBMs’ role “ought to be even more important, not less, than it’s been in the past,” he noted. (See also The European Model and When Less is Not Just Less for more Daily Report coverage of the extended deterrence panel.)