Keith Payne

Keith Payne

In Desert Storm, Coalition aircraft carried out almost 1,500 strikes against Scud-related targets over a six-week period, but few, if any, mobile launchers were destroyed, and Iraq succeeded in launching almost 90 missiles. If the locations of dispersed mobile launchers cannot be determined with enough precision to permit pinpoint strikes, suspected deployment areas might be subjected to multiple nuclear strikes, driving up U.S. requirements.

Keith Payne, in Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control

Sixty Generals and Admirals from around the world recently endorsed a nuclear disarmament statement organized by senior retired military leaders and former Senator Alan Cranston. Having had an opportunity to review the statement, I would like to offer a few comments. At first glance it seems reasonable, even pleasing to the soul. It reflects an obviously sincere yearning for the world to be a safer place, free of the terrible threat posed by the potential for nuclear war. Yet, the statement, and the thinking behind it, is like cotton candy, sweet but without substance and probably unhealthy.

Keith Payne, The Truth About Nuclear Disarmament (13 December 1996)

If American nuclear power is to support U.S. foreign policy objectives, the United States must possess the ability to wage nuclear war rationally.

Keith Payne, Victory is Possible

In the news

Fred Kaplan: Rumsfeld's Dr. Strangelove: Keith Payne says 7,000 warheads aren't enough. (Slate, 12 May 2003) Rich Lowry: The Nukes We Need Adapting our arsenal to today. (National Review, 11 March 2002)

This means that the only conventional force to which some targets will be vulnerable is an invasion or special-forces raid. But not all future conflicts will resemble Afghanistan or the Persian Gulf War, when the U.S. had total control of the skies and could operate almost at will. The ground-force option, in addition to risking American lives, would almost always fail what Keith Payne, head of the influential National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP), says should be a three-pronged test for taking out a dangerous WMD site in a crisis: It should be prompt, predictable (for our leaders, not the enemy), and definitive. A conventional raid might well be none of the above.

Which leaves nuclear weapons. "From the public record, I don't know of any non-nuclear way of dealing with this underground threat promptly and conclusively," says Payne, whose work has been the basis of the Bush administration's recent reevaluation of U.S. nuclear strategy. A nuke would have several advantages. It passes the prompt-predictable-definitive test. It also might not require intelligence as precise as that necessary for a conventional weapon -- the explosive force provides room for error.

And it would destroy the targeted WMD agents rather than spread them as a conventional blast might. As a report from NIPP recently put it, chemical and biological agents "are extremely difficult to destroy (or sterilize) definitely, as opposed merely to disperse, except by means of the extraordinary heat and neutron flux generated by nuclear explosives." A nuke, of course, would create another hazard -- radioactive fallout -- but a low-yield weapon could be designed to minimize it.

PBS Online NewsHour interview with Peter Almond, the producer of "Thirteen Days"; Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and Keith Payne, he's director of a new study on US nuclear forces and arms control Savitri Hensman: What Motivates the Drive Towards War?

Writings and talks

Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control (January 2001) Nuclear Weapons: Theirs and Ours (7 May 1999) Victory is Possible (Foreign Policy, Summer 1980) Testimony before the Senate hearing on National Missile Defense and Prospects for U.S -Russia ABM Treaty Accommodation (13 March, 1997) The Truth About Nuclear Disarmament (13 December 1996) Other writings by Keith Payne

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Last modified: Wed Oct 6 20:52:37 CDT 2004