“Prompt Global Strike” sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t want an incredibly fast and powerful and accurate non-nuclear weapon? But did President Obama just negotiate this advantage away?

A lead story in Friday’s New York Times:

U.S. Faces Choice on New Weapons for Fast Strikes
By DAVID E. SANGER and THOM SHANKER
Published: April 22, 2010
WASHINGTON — In coming years, President Obama will decide whether to deploy a new class of weapons capable of reaching any corner of the earth from the United States in under an hour and with such accuracy and force that they would greatly diminish America’s reliance on its nuclear arsenal.

Yet even now, concerns about the technology are so strong that the Obama administration has acceded to a demand by Russia that the United States decommission one nuclear missile for every one of these conventional weapons fielded by the Pentagon. That provision, the White House said, is buried deep inside the New Start treaty that Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev signed in Prague two weeks ago.

Called Prompt Global Strike, the new weapon is designed to carry out tasks like picking off Osama bin Laden in a cave, if the right one could be found; taking out a North Korean missile while it is being rolled to the launch pad; or destroying an Iranian nuclear site — all without crossing the nuclear threshold. In theory, the weapon will hurl a conventional warhead of enormous weight at high speed and with pinpoint accuracy, generating the localized destructive power of a nuclear warhead.

President Obama just negotiated this away? Wonderful! How about protecting the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic?

One comment (from the same town where I live):

Steve
Round Rock, TX
April 22nd, 2010
9:37 pm
Jeff in LA (#7) is missing the point… these are pinpoint-accuracy, low-yield weapons. To devastate a city would require thousands of them. This is the game-changer, people… the first step from swords to plowshares. Plus, you don’t have to worry about our (seriously) aging arsenal… these weapons can be tested often, on real (and small) targets.

Most of the Times readers were horrified that the United States has military superiority over the rest of the world. If we were bankrupt AND militarily weak, the world would be a better place.

The Wikipedia page on PGS perhaps needs some updating:

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is an initiative of the United States military to develop a system capable of a conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world as quickly as a nuclear attack can currently be carried with intercontinental ballistic missiles. As stated by General James Cartwright, “Today, unless you want to go nuclear, it’s measured in days, maybe weeks” until the military can launch an attack with regular forces. The aim of the system is to provide rapid precision strike capability from the United States mainland to any region in the world in case of a conflict or emergency. The PGS system will be designed to complement Forward Deployed Forces, Air Expeditionary Forces (which can deploy within 48 hours) and Carrier battle groups (which can respond within 96 hours) with a system that can deliver a strike anywhere in the world within 1 to 2 hours of the emergency or conflict beginning.

The weapon is seen by some, including the Obama administration, to be a way to reduce the nuclear arsenal while maintaining deterrent and quick strike capabilities. Potential scenarios that would require a fast response currently only available in nuclear weapons include an impending North Korean missile launch or an opportunity to strike Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. However a major problem with an ICBM-launched weapon is that it may trigger the nuclear warning system of Russia or even China. It is currently unclear what designs or precautions would be certain to assure these countries that launched missile is not nuclear-tipped. Potential measures include a low-trajectory missile design or allowing Russian and Chinese inspection of missile sites.

On 11 April 2010, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated that the United States may already have a Prompt Global Strike capability. Another recent development is the new START disarmament treaty signed on 8 April 2010, which sets new, lower limits on ballistic missiles and their warheads. The treaty does not distinguish between conventional and nuclear versions of weapons, meaning any PGS missiles and warheads would count toward the new limit. However, the U.S. State Department has stated that this does not constrain plans for PGS deployment since current plans do not come near the limits.

An interesting discussion of “New START” is here at A Good Treaty:

Why ‘New START’ is Lose-Lose for Neocons
Posted on April 21, 2010 by A Good Treaty
(…)
There are plenty more complaints and objections conservatives have raised, and you can read a comprehensive list (and a series of excellent rebuttals) here, at the Center for Arms Control.

Reading over the many explanations of how badly the U.S. loses with New START, I turned to Alexander Golts, one of Russia’s most prominent military affairs commentators, expecting to hear about what a great win this was for the Motherland. As it turns out, he thinks the treaty represents a complete defeat of Russian interests. Here’s a quick summary of what he describes as the Kremlin’s negotiations failures (pulled from here, here, and here):

Here’s a post from earlier in the month on CharlieDigital:

Obama Increases Funding for Prompt Global Strike
Friday, April 09, 2010 4:20:11 PM UTC
(…)
The problem with a nuclear arsenal as a deterrent is that it has no effect in an asymmetrical war against a stateless, nationless, enemy; the enemy already knows that we can’t and won’t use them due to the collateral damage to civilian populations and nuclear fallout that would result. Prompt Global Strike gives us the ability to deliver munitions with the same expediency as ICBMs do without all of the nasty side effects. Effectively, it becomes a weapon that we can actually deploy and use rather than a stockpile of nuclear arms that I simply cannot foresee us ever using.
(…)
Many have decried the START treaty as “weakening” the US. However, this fails to consider that the US and Russia today hold over 90% of the worlds nuclear armaments and the new START treaty reduces this from 2200 to only 1550 – still plenty to flatten most of the world’s major cities. Ultimately, as Air Force General Kevin Chilton says, the Prompt Global Response missile system gives “an additional weapon in the quiver of the president to give him options in time of crisis today, in which he maybe only has a nuclear option for a timely response.”

So what’s really going on here? Has Obama signed away a missile defense shield for Europe AND Prompt Global Strike? Could he be that stupid?

Prompt Global Strike is the perfect weapon to use right now against Iran.

If Obama ever does use Prompt Global Strike, I get the feeling that he’d direct it toward Israel.