Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons
dropping a bomb

In the recent American military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, some American tacticians were frustrated by the military’s limited ability to destroy heavily fortified targets.  Conventional explosives did not have the ability to penetrate meters of earth, concrete, and steel fortification.  In response, some American policymakers have suggested that the United States begin to develop a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons.  These weapons would be able to destroy targets which are impervious to conventional weapons, yet would not have the wholesale destructive power of traditional nuclear weapons.  Opponents argue that low-yield weapons would be far more likely to be used than existing weapons.  Were the United States to use a low-yield weapon against, say, a command-and-control bunker, it would end the 60-year prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons and encourage other nations to do the same in their own conflicts.  Other critics are concerned that the mere development and manufacture of such weapons would undermine the United States’ effort to stop nuclear proliferation.

In your report, you should address the specific issue of low-yield nuclear weapons.  This is not a paper about nuclear weapons in general, nor is it about American foreign policy.  You may address these issues as they relate to low-yield nuclear weapons.  Consider and try to answer the following questions:  Are low-yield weapons necessary to American national security?  Will American commanders need such weapons in our next major military engagement?  Would they hurt or strengthen America’s standing in the international community?  What would be the consequences of using a low-yield nuclear device?  I have given you a list of potential websites with which to begin your research.  Keep in mind that many of them are not entirely objective.

 Reaction of former Air Force general

 Article from the Journal of the Federation of American Scientists

 Account of legislative action regarding low-yield weapons.

 Article by anti-nuclear activist group

 Account of congressional debate about low-yield weapons.

 Article about a new proposed earth-penetrating weapon, with links.

 Article about collateral damage caused by earth-penetrating weapons.

 Article from National Review

 Article from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists