Today, National Interest asked me how I’d rebuild our strategic deterrent from scratch. Echoing the “Evil” character from Time Bandits, I said: missiles, day one. Bombers were a result of the limitations of technology in the 1950s, and we’ve been re-inventing reasons for them ever since:
I would start with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles buried in silos in North America.
This might seem an odd choice. Why choose such destabilizing weapons? After all, ICBMs are ill-suited for very much besides killing millions of people. They only have an offensive role; they cannot be meaningfully defended; they cannot be recalled once launched; their existence cannot be hidden; their flight times are terrifyingly short. Why not start with something with a little more flexibility?
History and the state of technology in the 1950s did in fact lead to a different conclusion at the time. Before the invention of long-range missiles, the United States and the Soviet Union created huge bomber forces over six decades ago. All of the vices of missiles are reflected – supposedly – in the virtues of bombers: they’re slow, they can be recalled, they have human beings in them who can make real-time decisions, and they can be used for a broad array of missions. They are a prefect nuclear Swiss Army knife, suited for all kinds of missions.
If you want to read why that’s not a good idea anyway, the rest of it can be found at The National Interest here.