Questioning “mutual assured destruction,” Charles Kupperman called nuclear conflict “in large part a physics problem.”
Incoming National Security Advisor, Charles Kupperman, made the claim Nuclear War With USSR Was Winnable.
He made those statements in the 1980s. I do not know his views today, but let’s review what he said then.
President Donald Trump’s acting national security adviser, former Reagan administration official Charles Kupperman, made an extraordinary and controversial claim in the early 1980s: nuclear conflict with the USSR was winnable and that “nuclear war is a destructive thing but still in large part a physics problem.”
Kupperman, appointed to his new post on Tuesday after Trump fired his John Bolton from the job, argued it was possible to win a nuclear war “in the classical sense,” and that the notion of total destruction stemming from such a superpower conflict was inaccurate. He said that in a scenario in which 20 million people died in the U.S. as opposed to 150 million, the nation could then emerge as the stronger side and prevail in its objectives.
His argument was that with enough planning and civil defense measures, such as “a certain layer of dirt and some reinforced construction materials,” the effects of a nuclear war could be limited and that U.S. would be able to fairly quickly rebuild itself after an all-out conflict with the then-Soviet Union.
At the time, Kupperman was executive director of President Ronald Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. He made the comments during an interview with Robert Scheer for the journalist’s 1982 book, “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War.”
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to questions on whether Kupperman, 68, still holds the same views of nuclear conflict as he did in the early 1980s. Kupperman’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward the potential death of millions of people was criticized at the time both by Democratic politicians and arms control experts.
The article posts excerpts so let’s look at a couple of precise statements.
- If the objective in a war is to try to destroy as many Soviet civilians and as many American civilians as is feasible, and the casualty levels approached 150 million on each side, then it’s going to be tough to say you have a surviving nation after that. But depending on how the nuclear war is fought, it could mean the difference between 150 casualties and 20 million casualties. I think that is a significant difference, and if the country loses 20 million people, you may have a chance of surviving after that.
- I think it is possible to win, in the classical sense. It means that it is clear after the war that one side is stronger than the other side, the weaker side is going to accede to the demands of the stronger side.
Winning in the Classical Sense
We lost 20 million, they lost 150 million.
Let’s call that “winning in the “classical sense”.
It’s precisely how one “wins” trade wars, but on a much larger scale.
Sign Up to Our Newsletter
Get notified about exclusive offers every week!