Jean-Pol Poncelet
Minister of Defense
Belgian Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 32-2-550-29-19

Dear Defense Minister Poncelet,

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s suggestion that NATO revise its nuclear doctrine is most welcome. As you discuss these matters with your colleagues it may be that my own experience in thinking through this question as the Director of Strategic Plans and Policy for the U. S. armed forces during the Gulf war might be helpful. I was equally engaged in the matter of prospective nuclear response to attack by WMD during my tenure as Commander-in-Chief of U. S. Strategic Command during the period 1991 to 1994.

As you are keenly aware, the Gulf War presented us with the very real possibility of confronting such an attack by the forces of Iraq. We went through the exercise of imagining how it might unfold and examining a variety of response options. My personal conclusion was that under any likely attack scenario, a nuclear reply by the United States and its allies was simply out of the question.

First, from a purely military perspective, the coalition forces had the conventional capability to impose any desired war termination objectives on Iraq, to include unconditional surrender and occupation. For a variety of reasons, we elected not to go to that extreme but it was clearly an option in the face of a WMD attack.

Second, given our conventional superiority, and the nature of the war zone, the use of nuclear weapons simply made no tactical nor strategic sense. General Powell noted in his memoirs that several weapons would have been required to mount any sort of effective campaign against military targets, an option that Secretary Cheney immediately rejected – and understandably so. Further, whatever the immediate battlefield effects, the problems of radioactive fall-out carrying over into friendly forces or surrounding countries were unfathomable.

Third, the larger political issues were insurmountable. What could possibly justify our resort to the very means we properly abhor and condemn? How could we hold an entire society accountable for the decision of a single demented leader who holds his own country hostage? Moreover, the consequences for the nonproliferation regime would have been severe. By joining our enemy in shattering the tradition of non-use that had held for 45 years, we would have destroyed U.S. credibility as leader of the campaign against nuclear proliferation; indeed, we would likely have emboldened a whole now array of nuclear aspirants.

In short, in a singular act we would have martyred our principal foe, alienated our friends, destroyed the coalition so painstakingly constructed, given comfort to the non-declared nuclear states and impetus to states who seek such weapons covertly.

In the end, we tried to have it both ways, privately ruling out a nuclear reply while maintaining an ambiguous declaratory policy. The infamous and widely misre-presented letter from Secretary Baker to Baghdad was ill-advised; in fact, Iraq violated with impunity one of its cardinal prohibitions by torching Kuwait’s oil fields.

When I left my J-5 post in Washington and took up this issue as CINCSTRAT, I found all of the foregoing cautions to be relevant across a wide spectrum of prospective targets in a variety of so-called rogue nations. I ultimately concluded that whatever the utility of a First Use policy during the Cold War, it is entirely inappropriate to the new global security environment; worse, it is counterproductive to the goal of nonproliferation and antithetical to the values of democratic societies.

Please forgive this rather abrupt intrusion into your deliberations. Obviously, I would not take such a liberty if I did not believe it was warranted by the import and the urgency of the issue.

Warm regards,

Lee Butler
General, USAF (Retired)
11122 Williams Plaza
Omaha, NE 68144

The letter was sent to the following official:.

Jean-Pol Poncelet
Minister of Defense
Belgian Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 32-2-550-29-19

Art Eggleton
Minister of Defense
Canadian Department of National Defense
Via Fax: 613-995-8189

Hans Haekkerup
Minister of Defense
Royal Danish Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 45-33-32-0655

Akis Tsohatzpoulos
Minister of Defense
Greek Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 301-644-3832

Eduardo Serra Rexach
Minister of Defense
Spanish Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 34-91-55-63958

Joris Voorhoeve
Minister of Defense
Dutch Ministry of Defense
The Netherlands
Via Fax: 31-70-345-9189

Ismet Sezgin
Minister of Defense
Turkish Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 90-312-418-3384

Jose Veiga Simao
Minister of Defense
Portugese Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 351-1-301-95-55

Beniamino Andreatta
Minister of Defense
Italian Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 39-06-488-5756

Rudolf Scharping
Minister of Defense
German Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 49-228-12-5255

Dag Jostein Fjaevoll
Minister of Defense
Norwegian Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 47-23-09-2323

George Roberston
Minster of Defence
UK Ministry of Defence
United Kingdom
Via Fax: 44-171-218-7140

Alain Richard
Minister of Defense
French Ministry of Defense
Via Fax: 33-1-47-05-40-91
Hallder Asgrimsson
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Via Fax: 354-562-2373

Alex Bodry
Foreign Minister
Ministere de la Force Publique
Via Fax: 352-46-26-82