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Nuclear Bunker Busters

Ethical Questions

1. You are an advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for Nuclear Matters. The Secretary relies heavily on your opinion about nuclear weapons proliferation, which you are generally against.

Scenario: Recent intelligence reports have indicated that China has been pouring heavy funds into its nuclear program with the hope of gaining nuclear superiority in order to have more sway in the international arena. The only recourse there seems to be for the United States to remain superior is to increase spending exponentially on development and testing of nuclear weapons. This may solve the problem of Chinese superiority, but you believe that such action may lead to a new nuclear arms race among all nuclear powers, a scenario that you have feared for quite some time. Secretary Rumsfeld wants your opinion on what the USA should do to handle this situation.

Should the USA boost its nuclear development spending, or should it remain as it is? Your job is to inform Rumsfeld of the pros and cons of this decision, so that he can best articulate this appeal to Congress for the funding necessary to push nuclear development forward. Knowing the possible repercussions from both inaction and action, how would you advise Rumsfeld in this matter to best maintain international stability?

2. You are a nuclear non-proliferation activist in the USA who lobbies against the creation of nuclear weapons, particularly bunker busters. You do believe that the United States should have nuclear weapons, but only as a deterrent, and that development of such weapons is not necessary for international stability. Through your work, you have gained an appreciation regarding the horror that nuclear weapons can actually bring to the world through their use.

Scenario: Russia, to the great surprise of the world, has used a tactical nuclear weapon in Chechnya to stop a recent uprising in the population. The USA does not approve of this action, and threatens military action against the Federation if they do not cease their attack. However, two days later, a second nuclear weapon is detonated near Grozny, Chechnya, where Russian officials claim leaders of the military uprising in Chechnya are based.

It has become clear that Russia is no longer allowing itself to be intimidated by the USA over matters that its government deems "internal". The Russian government believes that since the USA has pulled out of international treaties, there is no reason they cannot do the same.

Clearly, the United States cannot let these recent actions go without a response, but the overall feeling in the US Administration is that the most efficient way to deal with this situation is unilaterally, since they believe that a UN Security Council meeting would take too long. The people of Chechnya are suffering, with the possibility of genocide looming overhead from this new aggressive stance the Russian government has taken in this matter. Action must be taken soon.

The United States government wants to retaliate with the use of a small tactical nuclear weapon of their own (a "mini-nuke"). They want the loss of life in the attack to be minimal; however, they need authorization from Congress to create the necessary weapon for the task, for which a Congressional hearing is being held two days from now to determine whether or not the United States government can create a mini-nuke to use against Russia. Since this meeting had been scheduled weeks before the attacks on Chechnya, you have already been arranging a large protest in Washington DC, with the hope of stopping the creation of such a weapon. However, as a result of these recent events, you have doubts about your position. If you continue with the massive protest you have planned, you may sway Congress from approving the creation of mini-nukes. However, if a weapon is not created the United States will have to explore other means of stopping Russian aggression, such as sending armed forces, which will cost lives of American soldiers, or even using a nuclear weapon currently in the US arsenal, which will leave a great deal more destruction than originally planned.

Do you proceed with your planned protest to stop further development of nuclear weapons, or choose the mini-nuke as the lesser of two evils and hope this will bring about a quick decisive end to Russian aggression in Chechnya?

3. The United States is at war with North Korea because of the development of their own nuclear program. As a US military official in North Korea, recent intelligence has been brought to your attention regarding the presence of a heavily fortified bunker located just outside of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. There is also a strong belief that both chemical and biological weapons are stored in this bunker, ready for immediate use.

Estimates have come to you stating that conventional weapons would most likely not penetrate the bunker and cause any worthwhile damage to the facility. If American ground forces were to be sent, it is believed they would eventually be able to take the bunker, but not before suffering heavy casualties. A nuclear bunker buster would be able to successfully penetrate the facility and generate a large enough explosion to render it inoperable, as well as neutralizing the chemical and biological weapons. However, there is a high threat to the local population of radioactive fallout if such a weapon were to be used (possible civilian death toll estimates are still arriving). If no action is taken against the base, intelligence believes it will be a key staging area for the launch of biological and chemical weapons.

As a member of the military, the decision you make in regard to this issue would have no real political ramification (mainly since you do not need to be reelected into your rank). What action do you believe would be the best to take in this scenario? If you were a political actor as opposed to military, what kind of repercussions could you expect from such a decision?