Gen. Cartwright on Nuclear War Avoidance Strategy
August 25, 2012 • 3:01PM

General James Carwright, the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has put forward a concept called "entanglement" as an alternative to the old Cold War construct of mutual assured destruction. Cartwright's concept was cited in the report entitled Mutual Assured Stability released last week by the State Department's International Security Advisory Board, chaired by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. The report, itself, recognizes the danger of a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Russia and proposes a strategy, in the form of a series of recommendations, to avoid that conflict.

One of the components of that strategy is "beneficial interdependence." "Interdependence in humanitarian and economic as well as national security realms contributes to the benefits of mutual assured stability," the report says. It cites former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright as having suggested the concept of "entanglement" as having beneficial aspects. The reference to Cartwright is one of only two references in the report.

In a June 26, 2012 presentation in Washington, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Cartwright reported that during the Cold War, "entanglement" was put forward as an alternative to Mutual Assured Destruction. "If our economies were hooked together, if our defenses were hooked together, that the likelihood of going to conflict would be reduced..."

Looking at the world as it is today, Cartwright said that the question that has to be asked, is, what will give us the adaptability, the comprehensive look at what's going on in the world, the leverage of friends and allies, in order to reduce conflict. "The question is, how do you start to do this?" And the answer doesn't include nuclear weapons, as Cartwright made clear, and has been making clear by his involvement with other retired flag officers and diplomats in a group called "Global Zero," which is campaigning to reduce nuclear arsenals to nothing.

The problem that Cartwright highlighted in his June 26 presentation is that decisions (which are 50-year decisions, he said) about modernizing the U.S nuclear arsenal are being made without much discussion about strategy. The problem that the Russians have with the Obama Administration's European missile defense plan is that they're afraid that it would make possible a U.S. decapitation strike that would eliminate Russia's counterforce capability, but, "That's the sort of problem that can be solved with a treaty," he said.

Cartwright had made the same point, earlier in May, during a presentation at the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., not only with respect to Russia but to China as well. He said the Pentagon's Air Sea Battle concept is "demonizing China. That's not in anybody's best interests." Then, in response to a question from EIR on Russia and missile defense, he described the same problem as in his June 26 presentation, and said, "We're going to have to think our way out of this. We're going to have to figure out how we're going to do this."

Cartwright, who retired in September of 2011, has the distinction of being the only Marine general to have commanded U.S. Strategic Command. He presided over it at a time, during the G.W. Bush Administration, when Strategic Command was being transformed from being chiefly the custodian of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal into more of a warfighting command, and the expeditionary mindset that he brought in as a Marine was thought to be useful in that regard. The irony, however, is that, as the nuclear mission remains a core mission of Stratcom, the Marine Corps is the one service branch that never had a nuclear mission, that having been the province of the Air Force and the Navy (the Army once had tactical nuclear missiles but got out of the nuclear game decades ago).