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In a recent interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano for Judging Freedom, former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter provided a stark and sobering analysis of America’s nuclear war strategy. Reflecting on the historical and current state of U.S. nuclear policy, Ritter’s remarks serve as a critical wake-up call about the catastrophic potential of nuclear conflict and the urgent need for responsible leadership.

Ritter began by recalling his late friend William Polk, a key advisor during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Polk’s insights into President John F. Kennedy’s decision-making during that tense period highlighted Kennedy’s crucial role in averting nuclear war. Ritter noted Kennedy’s shock upon being briefed on the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), which outlined America’s strategy for nuclear war.

According to Ritter, Kennedy was appalled by the plan’s underlying premise: to ensure America’s survival by annihilating the rest of the world. Kennedy’s response was a firm rejection of this strategy, insisting on the need for alternative options. This pivotal moment underscored Kennedy’s maturity and humanity, setting a precedent for subsequent presidents who also sought alternatives to total nuclear annihilation.

Ritter explained that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a concerted effort to downplay nuclear war plans. Missiles were detargeted, and the trajectory seemed to be moving towards reducing nuclear arsenals. However, this direction changed dramatically under President George W. Bush in the post-9/11 era. Bush reintroduced nuclear war planning into military doctrine, asserting that nuclear weapons would be used to prevent another 9/11-type attack.

This shift marked a significant regression, reintegrating a mindset that Ritter described as dangerously simplistic and lacking the caution and foresight of Kennedy’s era. Ritter emphasized that today’s nuclear strategy remains rooted in the same catastrophic logic that Kennedy had condemned as “insane.”

Ritter’s most alarming assertion was that the U.S. nuclear strategy is effectively on “full automatic.” He criticized contemporary leaders for underestimating the severity of the nuclear war plan, often dismissing it as a mere contingency that would never be enacted. However, Ritter warned that this complacency is perilous. Should any significant conflict arise, the pre-existing nuclear plan would be activated, leading to a scenario of mutual destruction.

He stressed that the plan involves not just targeting immediate adversaries but ensuring that no other civilization, such as India, could emerge dominant in a post-nuclear world. This plan, Ritter argued, remains as destructive and irrational as ever, poised to devastate the entire planet to maintain a strategic upper hand.

Ritter concluded his remarks with a call to action for the American people. He urged them to recognize the gravity of the nuclear strategy in place and to demand greater accountability and responsibility from their leaders. The automatic nature of the current plan, coupled with a lack of mature leadership, poses an existential threat that requires immediate attention and rectification.